Early maps marked uncharted seas as dragon territory; later explorers treated ocean depths as lifeless wastelands. As Casey shows in her vivid account of human forays into the deep, the first estimations were closer to the truth—the colorful monsters detailed on Olaus Magnus’s 16th century Cartus Marina, for instance, while imaginary, heralded the actual bioluminescent creatures, bat-like sponges, “crystal-white anemones,” and startling snail fish to come when technology at last gave us access to the deepest, abyssal, or hadal (yes, from hades) layer of ocean with its absolute darkness and crushing weight of “eleven hundred atmospheres.” Casey makes the machines—Beebe’s bathysphere, OceanX robotic subs--as much part of her adventure as the trenches, ocean volcanoes, hydrothermal vents, and “undulating carpet of fine gold sediment” they reveal (along with the mountains of plastic, dumped munitions, drift nets, and other human waste). Her awe-inspiring book is at once rigorous science and a “psilocybin vision.”
Lawson’s beautiful tour presents the garden from the perspectives of the birds, animals, and insects that live in and visit it. From what monarchs need in addition to milkweed to how mowing the lawn drives away fireflies, Lawson illuminates what people mostly miss, showing how human agendas—uniform, smooth turf grass; monocultures of lilies or hostas; tidy, leaf-blown beds—run counter to the needs of wild creatures, often dangerously so, even when we intend to help, as with keeping honeybees. But once we become aware of the yard as a complex ecosystem and start paying attention to what the creatures themselves tell us, we can alter our role by filling the space with native plants, lowering the lights, leaving the leaves—and begin to live in true harmony with the denizens of the garden.
Of the eight extant species of bears, six are seriously endangered, but without ongoing protections even the success stories of North American black and brown bears could still have a dire ending. If this hard truth makes for difficult reading (as do the stories of “dancing” sloth bears and the sun bears farmed for their bile), it also makes Dickie’s detailed profiles of these creatures all the more essential. Through her fascinating cultural and natural histories we get a glimpse of the elusive spectacled bear (the model for Paddington) and the rare, tiny moon bear, some smaller than dogs. We also learn that pandas in captivity need to be taught how to breed; that given climate change and human food many bears have stopped hibernating; that grizzlies are replacing polar bears in the Arctic; and that, faced with a smart, determined bruin “almost nothing”—no lock, door, or barrier--is truly “bear proof.”