For Dave Brower, every day was Earth Day.

Brower 1

Frequently compared to John Muir, David Brower was the first executive director of the Sierra Club, founded Friends of the Earth, and helped secure passage of the Wilderness Act, among other key achievements. Tapping his passion for wilderness and for the mountains he scaled in his youth, he was a central figure in the creation of the Point Reyes National Seashore and of the North Cascades and Redwood national parks. In addition, Brower worked tirelessly in successful efforts to keep dams from being built in Dinosaur National Monument and the Grand Canyon.

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a dramatic blossoming of the environmental movement with the creation of Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Environmental Action, and the Environmental Defense Fund, among others.

Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin sensed the public’s growing concern for the environment and proposed a national environmental teach-in (borrowing language from Vietnam protests) that was soon dubbed Earth Day. Nelson recruited Denis Hayes, then an undergraduate at Stanford, to sign up supporters and organize rallies and demonstrations and other activities. The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, and was the largest such outpouring of concern to that date.

When Dave Brower heard of the plan for Earth Day, he got in touch with his old friend and collaborator Ian Ballantine of Ballantine Books, who is sometimes credited with pioneering inexpensive paperback books. Brower and Ballantine had cooperated on publishing projects when Brower was still at the Sierra Club, most notably producing a line of calendars illustrated with beautiful nature photographs that were an instant success. Brower suggested that Ballantine and Friends of the Earth collaborate on a book to complement and inform Earth Day. It would have to happen fast. Ballantine agreed. Brower recruited a Cal student named Garrett DeBell, who assembled previously published material and solicited original pieces from here and there.

The contents were an eclectic mix. One piece on “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” blamed Christianity for the problem. Paul Ehrlich decried the population explosion. Ken Brower, Dave’s eldest son, reminded readers of the importance of wilderness. Garrett Hardin of UC Santa Barbara explained his theory of “The Tragedy of the Commons.” There was a short piece titled “Ecopornography, or How to Spot an Ecological Phony,” criticizing misleading advertisements being run by oil companies and strip miners.

DeBell somehow put a manuscript together in around three weeks, and Ballantine produced bound books in another three or so weeks. It was titled The Environmental Handbook and it took off, selling more than a million copies in a few months.

Earth Day was off to a good start.

David Brower

About guest blogger and author of David Brower: The Making of the Environmental Movement, Tom Turner: Tom has worked at the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, and Earthjustice. He is the author of Wild by Law; Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature; Justice on Earth; Roadless Rules; and hundreds of articles and op-eds on the environment.

A Sea of Glass and the Blaschkas’ Fragile Legacy

What caught Drew Harvell’s eye first was a glass octopus. Inspired by the incredible glass marine sculptures of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, she soon set off to search for their living counterparts. In her new book A Sea of Glass, she tells the story of this journey of a lifetime while exploring unusual biology of these ancient animals and showing us that our ocean ecosystems—like the Blaschkas’ works of art—are as fragile as glass.

In honor of Earth Day, check out a slideshow of incredible Blaschka creations below, and learn more about Drew’s book here.

Additionally, click here to save 30% on new and bestselling science titles.

  • Common Octopus (Photo: Gary Hodges)
  • Sea Pansy (Photo: Gary Hodges)
  • From Left to Right: Siphonophores: Apolemia uvaria (Photo: Kent Loeffler) and Rosacea cymbiformis (Photo:Gray Hodges)
  • From Left to Right: mauve stinger (Photo: Drew Harvell), mauve stinger glass (Photo: Corning Museum of Glass), stinger watercolor (Photo: Corning Museum of Glass)
  • tentacle tubeworm (Photo: C. Smith)
  • From Left to Right: Doto Glass (Photo: C. Smith), Doto live (Photo: Reyn Yoshioka)
  • seadragon glass (Photo: Guido Mocafico), sea dragon watercolor (Photo: Corning Museum)
  • histioteuthis before (Photo: E. Brill), histioteuthis after (Photo: K. Loeffler)
  • common seastar in glass (Photo: Guido Mocafico)

Join Us at the 2016 American Society for Environmental History Conference in Seattle, WA!

University of California Press is exhibiting at the 2016 ASEH Annual Conference! The meeting convenes March 30 – April 3, 2016 in Seattle, WA. This year’s theme is Environmental History and Its Publics.

Please visit us in the exhibit hall at the Westin Seattle Hotel (Grand 3, Level 4) for the following offers:

  • 40% conference discount on all orders
  • Request exam copies to consider for course adoption
  • Enter for a chance to win $100 worth of books by subscribing to UC Press eNews

Please see our flyer at our booth for our latest releases. Acquisitions staff will be available for your publishing questions.

Follow ASEH’s Facebook, @ASEH_Resources, and hashtag #ASEH2016 for current meeting news. Catch up on our recent blog posts on Ecology, Evolution, and the Environment here.

Congratulations to 2016 PROSE Awards Winners Aldon D. Morris, David R. Schiel, and Michael S. Foster

University of California Press offers hearty congratulations to three of our authors that were the recipients of 2016 PROSE Awards from the Association of American Publishers last week in Washington D.C.

Scholar Denied

Aldon D. Morris was given the R.R. Hawkins Award, the ‘grand prize’ for all publications which are considered for an award, for The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology. Dr. Morris’s book also won the Award for Excellence in Social Sciences and the Sociology & Social Work subject category. View his eloquent acceptance speech from the awards luncheon on the AAP’s website.

Biology and Ecology of Giant Kelp Forests

In the Single Volume Reference/Science subject category, David R. Schiel and Michael S. Foster won the award for The Biology and Ecology of Giant Kelp Forests.

The entire UC Press team is honored to have published these two important works in their respective disciplinary fields, and offers hearty congratulations to Aldon D. Morris, David R. Schiel, and Michael S. Foster. Additionally, profuse thanks to the AAP for recognizing excellence in university press publishing over the past 40 years.


About the PROSE Awards:

The PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in 54 categories.

Judged by peer publishers, librarians, and medical professionals since 1976, the PROSE Awards are extraordinary for their breadth and depth.

The R. R. Hawkins Award has been presented to the most outstanding work among each year’s entries its inception in 1976. Hawkins winners have included Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) (John Wiley & Sons), Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Yale University Press), The Diffusion Handbook(McGraw-Hill) and Alan Turing: His Work and Impact (Elsevier). The 2016 R.R. Hawkins Award was presented to University of California Press for The Scholar Denied: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology by Aldon D. Morris.

Once Is Not Enough

Santa Margarita Lake-Explore #126 2/5/15” by Linda Tanner is licensed under CC BY 2.0

by David Carle, author of Introduction to Water in California, Second Edition

Water is the essence of life, the key to California’s history and its future. Today, water choices are complicated by ignorance about how water reaches faucets and farm fields and by our society’s unwillingness to step away from an historic attitude about water supply that might be characterized as: “Too much will never be enough.”

Must we choose massive twin tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta or expensive new dams that will yield only a small percentage of their constructed reservoir capacities? Does it make sense to build ultra-expensive ocean desalination plants? “Fish versus farmers?” Really? Must we go there? Why pump from groundwater basins at rates we know are unsustainable and irresponsible? Can’t we admit that returning water to the environment is not a new “water demand,” but belated recognition that far too much has been taken away?

Incredible progress is being made in this state, where cities and large water districts are weaning themselves from imported water. And much more is possible. Every Californian should know that:

  • Through conservation and highly-treated wastewater, the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (which used to import 80 percent of its supply for 4 million customers) aims for 100 percent reliance on stormwater and recycling in the near future.
  • The City of Santa Monica plans to eliminate use of imported water sources by 2020.
  • Los Angeles intends to cut its imported water purchases in half by 2025.
  • Agricultural efficiencies could save 4 to 6 million acre-feet of water a year in the state (according to several published studies; equivalent to what is diverted from the Delta each year).

Thirsts can be quenched by wiser use of water within cities and on farms. Let’s use local water again and again…and again. Once is not enough. New urban development should be designed to add nothing to the overall community “thirst.” The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act set implementation goals in the year 2040; can’t that plodding approach be accelerated? Let’s push for irrigation and crop choices that reduce agricultural thirsts, because wiser farm production benefits the entire society.

The future we choose for California will continue to be shaped by decisions about water.

David Carle is a former park ranger and the author of California Natural History Guides about water, fire, air, and soil (UC Press), as well as other books in water history and management, including Drowning the Dream: California’s Water Choices at the Millennium and Water and the California Dream. His most recent UC Press book is Traveling the 38th Parallel: A Water Line around the World (2013).

The new, updated edition of Introduction to Water in California is available for purchase now. Order your copy here.

Parrots of the Wild Explores the Lives of World’s Most Fascinating Birds

When Cathy Toft first sat down to begin writing Parrots of the Wild, she envisioned the book as an essential piece of literature that would give many people a newfound appreciation for parrots and their complex lives. As James Gilardi–a friend of Cathy’s as well as Executive Director of the World Parrot Trust–notes in the book’s forward, “there is a great deal more going on with parrots than first meets the eye.”

Parrots of the Wild goes under the colorful exteriors of parrots to examine everything from their cognitive abilities to foraging patterns and mating behaviors. Cathy Toft and co-author Tim Wright examine over 350 species of parrots through the lens of their own work and over 2,400 published academic studies. Additionally, a portion of the book’s proceeds go towards various parrot conservation efforts around the world.

Explore a selection of the beautiful parrot images showcased in this book:

Southern California’s Coast: Past and Future

by Keith Heyer Meldahl

California Coast” by Kārlis Dambrāns is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Walk on a Southern California beach, and a sense of permanence may come to mind. The sand scrunches predictably underfoot, the coastal bluffs loom seemingly unchanged, and the sea brushes the shore with its same ageless rhythm. Yet the scene can quickly change. Waves from a single storm may erase that beach. Portions of the bluff may collapse without warning. A large earthquake might elevate the coast several feet in an instant. And if we flip back through just the last few million years, the coastal scene, far from appearing stable, looks like frenetic animation. The sea bobs up and down, earthquakes crackle without letup, tsunamis wash ashore, and islands lurch up from the sea.

Does it matter to know these things? I think yes. Probing Southern California’s geologic past can inform decisions we make today. The past tells us that earthquakes and tsunamis will strike the coast again, and although we cannot predict when or where, we can prepare. It also tells us that Southern California’s beaches are in constant flux, with sand arriving and leaving in vast quantities every year. But river dams and seawalls have choked off sand arrivals to the beaches, so now more sand leaves than arrives. Shrunken beaches give coastal bluffs less protection from wave attack. Today, miles of rock and concrete armor much of Southern California’s coast, but these only postpone the sea’s advance. And what of the sea itself? Here too, the past is clear. In recent geologic time, the sea has risen and fallen hundreds of feet as polar ice sheets have come and gone. By happenstance, much of human history has unfolded during a time of unusually stable sea level. That is changing. We presently face a probable sea rise of two to six feet over the next century.

These developments—shrinking beaches and rising seas—point to a looming coastal erosion crisis for Southern California. How will we handle it? Perhaps through a combination of managed retreat and beach replenishment (importing sand to depleted beaches). But the scale of such replenishment will necessarily be enormous. We will need to import enough sand onto our beaches to make up for ongoing losses from dams and seawalls and to keep up with the rising sea. I’m reminded of Alice in Wonderland, where the Red Queen explains to Alice, “You see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.”

Keith Heyer Meldahl is Professor of Geology and Oceanography at Mira Costa College and the author of Surf, Sand, and Stone: How Waves, Earthquakes, and Other Forces Shape the Southern California Coast (UC Press, 2015).


Is Climate Change a Religious Issue?

by Evan Berry, author of Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism

Some Americans, especially among the most trenchant ranks of conservative Catholics, have expressed outrage about Pope Francis’ direct engagement with environmental issues. For example, in his open letter explaining his boycott of the Pope’s address to Congress, Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) decried the Vatican’s unfortunate departure from “standard Christian theology.” In a different line of attack, the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, claims to have identified the creeping influence of “paganism” in Laudato Si, the Pope’s encyclical on climate change. One the other side of the aisle, many political liberals, both inside and outside the American Catholic community, are thrilled about Pope Francis’ candid discussion of climate change and his message of justice and mercy. Setting aside for the moment the embittered and divisive tenor of American politics, this public scuffle reminds us that many people in the U.S. continue to disagree not just about what bearing religion might have on environmental issues, but about whether it should have any bearing at all.

Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 7), 1452
Scenes from the Life of St Francis (Scene 7), 1452

When climate skeptics suggest we “leave science to the scientists,” they are asserting a partition between the technocratic process of policy construction and various other forms of knowledge, including especially religiously grounded moral convictions. This is an old ideology about the place religion ought have in American public life, one that holds that religion is primarily about private beliefs and that it should not be publicly invoked in political discourse. A number of excellent books have described the way this paradigm held sway throughout the middle decades of the 20th century, but receded into the background along with the rise of the Christian Right as an internally coherent voting block (e.g. Christian Smith’s Christian America). Although it is ironic that this point of view should reappear among precisely the same constituency that once tore it down, the underappreciated story about conservative religious objections to religious environmentalism is that they are historically wrongheaded.

9780520285736The idea that Christianity is a radically anthropocentric religion drove a deep wedge between environmentalists and traditionalists, but as religiously inflected ecological movements continue to grow and mature, other stories about Christianity’s environmental legacy are resurfacing. Devoted to Nature tells such a story, arguing not that Christians have been central to the development of the American environmental movement, but that Christian theological ideas have had a profound impact on the particular shape the movement took, especially during the formative decades at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Questions about whether or not human beings should be understood as part of the natural order or as something apart from it are equally essential to both environmentalism and to Christian theology. Efforts to reconcile humanity to a broken and betrayed environment are deeply indebted to the Genesis account of human origins. As Pope Francis and other religious leaders continue to agitate for climate justice, we would do well not to ask whether their voices have a legitimate place in environmental politics, but instead to ask more probing questions about how our environmental politics themselves are generated by our religious histories.

Evan Berry is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at American University and Codirector of its Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs master’s program.

California: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead

by Erika Zavaleta

This guest post is published to coincide with the Ecological Society of America conference in Baltimore, MD. Come back for a new post every day through the end of the conference on Thursday, August 13th.

9780520278806 (1)Hal Mooney and I envisioned Ecosystems of California to tackle a simple question: what do we know about the trajectory of this globally significant region’s ecology, from the deep past into the next 100 years? To understand process and dynamism in what has long been a complex social-ecological system called for a close look at prehistory as well as scenarios for the future, and management and use as well as natural history. An ecology that includes society has roots in the peculiar way that science evolved in California from the late 19th century: rapidly, with strong integration across disciplines from geology to botany, and in the context of sweeping environmental changes that from the outset linked ecological science with conservation efforts here. A social take on ecology is not the same thing as a perspective that nature is dead. To the contrary, in the words of contributors Bernie Tershy and colleagues, it is an explicit look at the power we hold given California’s extraordinary intellectual, economic and cultural resources to “have both thriving human communities and thriving ecosystems with their full diversity of species.”

We live in exciting times. California, as the rest of the world, faces accelerating change on every front. The perspectives of many contributors to our book converged on climate change, invasive species, and continued land cover change as particularly acute challenges to the region. The happy news is that much of this ongoing change is also for good: leaving behind the long legacy of DDT and the nadir of our state’s air and water quality, discovering new restoration tools and conservation partnerships, innovating policy responses to climate change, recovering long-lost species, forging sustainable paths in forestry and fisheries management. With each passing year, any future possible becomes the one we have chosen. A crucial piece of choosing well, and realizing that vision, is to understand the dynamics and history of our ecological heritage and to embrace our roles in it.

Erika Zavaleta is Professor of Environmental Studies at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research bridges ecological theory with conservation and management practice. She received the 2008 Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America and has published in Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



Gardens of the Queen, a Bygone Era for Coral Reefs, or a Future that Benefits from Bygone Eras?

by Keryn B. Gedan

This guest post is published to coincide with the Ecological Society of America conference in Baltimore, MD. Come back for a new post every day through the end of the conference on Thursday, August 13th.

9780520276949 (1)Cuba’s Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) marine protected area, recently in the news due to the thawing of relations with the United States, is described as a time capsule of the Caribbean 50 to 100 years ago, before widespread degradation of coral reefs by disease, climate change, and overfishing. It teems with sharks and large fish, including the endangered goliath grouper (Pina-Amargós et al. 2014).

However, as marine biologist John Bruno underscores in an excellent blog piece, the reefs of the Gardens of the Queen are not immune to the regional decline in coral cover, given their low coral cover (18%) relative to a historical baseline for the region (50% coral cover), and low coral recruitment. Bruno’s finding that Cuba’s celebrated MPA is hardly “pristine” may shock many observers. However, his analysis will not surprise scientists with an appreciation of marine historical ecology, the study of past interactions between people and the marine environment. After all, scientists who value marine historical ecology are trained to look beyond discussions of how marine ecosystems “should look” at present to focus instead on how these ecosystems did look over past centuries or millennia. In that context, virtually no environment can be described as pristine.

Rather than merely describing past systems, today’s marine historical ecologists learn from the past to inform conservation efforts. Fishing bans led to the remarkable recovery of fish and shark populations over the past two decades in the Gardens of the Queen, demonstrating the resilience of some marine populations and the effectiveness of no-take MPAs for a diversity of fish species. But just how effective is protection over multiple generations of marine animals? A recent synthesis of population trajectories after the implementation of harvesting bans and other legislated protection shows that some species recover, while others do not; that species with more severe declines exhibit weaker recoveries; and that recoveries often take much longer than 20 years (Lotze 2015). There are countless useful historical examples of how human communities have managed marine environments. For instance, Kittinger et al. (2015) find that the native Hawaiians fished reefs sustainably for centuries prior to Western contact using customary management approaches that included time and area closures, gear restrictions, and social taboos on overharvest and waste.

These lessons, collected in a new release from UC Press, Marine Historical Ecology in Conservation by Kittinger and colleagues, are timely for Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen MPA, where the relationship between people and place is on the brink of change, and where the future is likely to hold more intensive tourism, sport fishing, and marine research. Nor is Cuba alone in facing conservation challenges and environmental change that demand time-tested best practices of conservation and management.

Keryn B. Gedan, PhD, is Lecturer in the Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology Graduate Program at the University of Maryland.


Kittinger, J.N., Cinner, J.E., Aswani, S., and A.T. White. 2015. Back to the future: Integrating customary practices and institutions into comanagement of small-scale fisheries. In Marine historical ecology in conservation: applying the past to manage for the future. Eds. Kittinger, J.N., McClenachan, L., Gedan, K.B., and Blight, L.K. UC Press.

Lotze, H. 2015. What recovery of exploited marine animals tells us about management and conservation. In Marine historical ecology in conservation: applying the past to manage for the future. Eds. Kittinger, J.N., McClenachan, L., Gedan, K.B., and L.K. Blight. UC Press.

Pina-Amargós, F., González-Sansón, G., Martín-Blanco, F., and A. Valdivia. 2014. Evidence for protection of targeted reef fish on the largest marine reserve in the Caribbean. PeerJ 2:e274.