In this vivid gathering of words and images, scientist/environmentalist David Suzuki and documentary filmmaker Amanda McConnell pay homage to earth, water, air, and fire and their manifold interplay. Virtually all the planet's human cultures agree that the world is made up of discrete elements. Some traditions count four, others fewer, others more. But virtually all of those cultures hold, too, that these elements are the primal stuff of the nature that we humans "emerged from, remain embedded in, and are utterly dependent on." Water's metamorphoses, they write, "keep the world alive at every level, from the planetary to the cellular"; from water came life, and in water life was sustained. At some unimaginably distant point in the past, they continue, some ancestral cyanobacterium split molecules of water apart, "adding its hydrogen atoms to carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make sugar" and producing free oxygen: the air that allowed life to diversify and expand. Add the energy wrought by sunlight, and photosynthesis enters into play; bring dead plants to the stony earth, and you have soil; with those foundations, life diversifies even further; and so on to the present, when much of the work of creation is being undone. Poetic but grounded in good science, the authors' narrative--illustrated by superb, oversized photographs--makes for a lovely creation story. --Gregory McNamee
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From Publishers Weekly
This impressive coffee-table book invites readers, through word and image, to experience and reflect on the interconnectedness of all life. It opens with a somewhat overwritten and florid explanation of the evolution of life and then settles into a personal essay by Suzuki, a scientist and environmentalist. In this piece, the highlight of the written text, he describes his own transformation from a young researcher who believed that science could answer every problem to an environmental activist who came to realize that science often created as many problems as it solved. (In one fascinating vignette, he explores nave enthusiasm for science by describing the universal praise in the 1950s for DEET, which his mother used to spray directly on the family's dinner just before serving it.) The book then devotes chapters to seven "elements" that are necessary to sustain life: water, air, fire, earth, biodiversity, love and spirit. "Spirit is beyond science," the authors say in the last chapter; it involves understanding the interdependence of life. The seven chapters are mostly taken up with DeCambra's stunning photographs, interspersed with quotations from various thinkers and excerpts from the sacred texts of the world's religions. Each chapter begins with a few introductory pages about its theme. Although these preambles contain some interesting tidbits ("there are 200 million insects for every human being on Earth") and a few insights into spirituality, the book's most original and memorable contribution is its photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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