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The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World [Hardcover]

Carl Safina
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 4 2011

An exhilarating journey of natural renewal through a year with MacArthur fellow Carl Safina

Beginning in his kayak in his home waters of eastern Long Island, Carl Safina's The View from Lazy Point takes us through the four seasons to the four points of the compass, from the high Arctic south to Antarctica, across the warm belly of the tropics from the Caribbean to the west Pacific, then home again. We meet Eskimos whose way of life is melting away, explore a secret global seed vault hidden above the Arctic Circle, investigate dilemmas facing foraging bears and breeding penguins, and sail to formerly devastated reefs that are resurrecting as fish graze the corals algae-free.

"Each time science tightens a coil in the slack of our understanding," Safina writes, "it elaborates its fundamental discovery: connection."

He shows how problems of the environment drive very real matters of human justice, well-being, and our prospects for peace.

In Safina's hands, nature's continuous renewal points toward our future. His lively stories grant new insights into how our world is changing, and what our response ought to be.


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Review

Winner of the 2012 Orion Book Award

"Safina’s book soars, adding his voice to a small chorus that includes the poet Mary Oliver and the environmentalist David W. Orr.... I had to—and wanted to—read The View from Lazy Point very slowly, allowing myself to digest its wealth of information, to revel in the beauty of Safina’s writing and to absorb fully the implications of his musings.... What a pleasure it is to be asked to stop rushing about and take time to think, to grapple with fundamental questions, and to find such an enlightening, provocative companion for walking and talking—and reading. We can ask no more from those who warn about dark days ahead than that they also awaken us to the miracle of everyday life as they try to illuminate a better path forward."—Dominique Browning, The New York Times Book Review

"With the spiral of a year as his structure and with what Einstein termed the 'circle of compassion' as his moral compass, MacArthur and Guggenheim fellow Safina illuminates the wondrous intricacy and interconnectedness of life in a book of beautifully modulated patterns and gracefully stated imperatives. Safina's exacting descriptions of coral reefs and polar bears, the acidification of the oceans, and melting glaciers are matched by bold observations regarding the consequences of our failure to incorporate knowledge of how nature, the original network, actually works into our now dangerously inadequate economic systems and social institutions.... Safina argues that we must renew the social contract, free ourselves from the politics of greed, and embrace the facts about the still thriving yet endangered, immeasurably precious living world."—Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)

"Not so much a polemic against anthropogenic climate change as an impression of a world in flux, a lament about the damage caused by overexploitation, pollution and flawed economics, and a call to arms in the cause of hope.... Mr. Safina's writing moves easily from revelatory observation sparked by a flash of bird or splash of fish to passionate, lyrical philosophy. He rails against the concept of growth-based development. He tears into Adam Smith’s thoughts on the benefits of selfishness and argues that defending dirty energy is as morally bankrupt as defending slavery. Mr. Safina rubs away at the chalk circle that 19th-century thinkers drew around humanity to separate it from the natural world."—The Economist

"Captivating.... Each chapter roils with informed, impassioned descriptions of Lazy Point’s abundant wildlife: Loons and terns and red-winged blackbirds, salamanders and harbor seals, frogs and flounders, purple-blossomed beach peas and wax myrtle blooms are just a few of the stars in this ever-changing 'coast of characters.' But Safina’s descriptions are not restricted to Long Island. During the course of the year he journeys to Alaska and Svalbard, Palau and Antarctica, and his reflections at home and abroad range from the sand at his feet to the planet as a whole. Wherever he is, Safina conveys an accumulation of scientific data and analysis in poetic prose."—National Geographic Traveler

"Literate wanderings in a tormented world full of wounds, led by accomplished traveler, writer and Blue Ocean Institute founder Safina ... [Lazy Point] enfolds two contradictory impulses: the one to stay home and tend to one’s garden, and the other to travel the planet and chronicle all the damage we’re doing to it. Safina manages to strike a balance.... [He] combines solid science and excellent storytelling. A superb work of environmental reportage and reflection."—Kirkus (Starred Review)

"The environment's glass is half-full for lyrical conservationist Safina.... An optimism suffuses this sensible and sensitive book."—PW

"As the ecologist Carl Safina points out in his forthcoming book The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, the global economic growth that we've witnessed since the Industrial Revolution has come on the back of ecological destruction. Humans are richer, longer-lived and healthier, but rainforests have been destroyed, species have been driven to extinction and the oceans have been spoiled. The planet is not infinite, and it’s reasonable to wonder just how much we can take from it, just how many people Earth can support."—Bryan Walsh, Time.com
 
"You could call Safina a Thoreau for the 21st century."—Billy Heller, The New York Post
 

"With his grand sense of adventure, eye for beauty, heart for mercy and high hopes to shake us from our complacency, Safina seems a godsend among modern-day prophets. His is a voice worth listening to, and I hope his song hits the top of the charts. People, animals and ways of life are dying all over the world, and some of us really do care."—Alice Evans, The Portland Oregonian

 

"Safina has a natural ebullience. . . . He relies on beauty for his faith and finds that there is plenty of it."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Newsday

 

"[A] passionate, thoughtful portrait of the 'natural' world.... Its deliberate, steady pace acts like a slow-moving camera capturing the area as animal and ocean life changes month to month, full circle from one January to the next.... Safina’s familiarity and interest in [birds] while walking or fishing on the nearby sound can’t be missed."—Christine Thomas, The Miami Herald
 
"Few have done more for the world’s oceans than Carl Safina. Now he's back with what might be his best book yet.... No mere naturalist's journal, The View from Lazy Point uses wildlife encounters to build a passionate case against market-driven measurements of success."—Bruce Barcott, Outside.com

"Carl Safina’s qualifications as a naturalist, marine biologist, and part-time resident make him the ideal interpreter of The View from Lazy Point, which includes broad prospects of Cartwright Shoals, Gardiner’s Island, and Napeague Bay and also the great variety of wildlife in these coastal and marine habitats; another qualification, of course, is the high quality of his prose, which makes all this fascinating information such a great pleasure to read."—Peter Matthiessen, author of Shadow Country

“What a marvelously large-handed, energetic, omnivorous book! One can swim at so many levels in its comprehensive inventiveness.”—Ted Hoagland, author of Early in the Season

“Carl has written a true masterpiece. The writing is both powerful and poetic, the observations so keen and telling as to shed new light on so many subjects: conservation, ethics, politics, economics, and, well, life. Lazy Point just might become the 21st century's Walden Pond.”—Gary Soucie, former editor of Audubon Magazine

“For Carl Safina—and for us—Lazy Point, a resuscitated shack on a lonely beach at the eastern end of Long Island, is the center of the natural world, and the point from which he travels, literally and figuratively, to the ends of the earth. With Safina as our articulate and sensitive guide, we visit the coral reefs of Belize, the brown bears of Southeast Alaska and the white bears of Svalbard, the fisheries of Micronesia, and the penguin colonies of King George Island, Antarctica. Written by a brilliant stylist and deeply concerned conservationist, this book brings into sharp (and often painful) focus the plight of wildlife in a world largely indifferent to the fate of our fellow travelers on Spaceship Earth. Alive with fresh ideas to help bring our species in sync with the natural world.”—Richard Ellis, author of The Empty Ocean and Tuna: A Love Story

About the Author

Carl Safina, author of The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur, Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival, Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters Along the World's Coasts and Beneath the Seas, and founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, was named by the Audubon Society one of the leading conservationists of the twentieth century. He's been profiled by The New York Times, and PBS's Bill Moyers. His books and articles have won him a Pew Fellowship, Guggenheim Award, Lannan Literary Award, John Burroughs Medal, and a MacArthur Prize. He lives in Amagansett, New York.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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5.0 out of 5 stars A touching book! Aug. 15 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think everyone should read this book. It's more than just a nature read, it combines interesting perspectives from all over the globe and ties them together with political insights and a philosophical peek into the human existence. And of course, Safina writes beautifully and poetically with subtle humour. Another complete win from one of the best authors of the decade. This should be a mandatory high school read :)
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5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing piece of natural history writing March 22 2012
By xoa
Format:Paperback
This book has to be one of the best books that I've read in the last few years - every page is well written and powerful, full of amazing facts and beautiful observations. I highly recommended this book, an absolute pleasure to read despite some of the more sombre facts regarding our changing world. I am now ordering more books written by Mr. Safina.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for all to read Feb. 3 2011
By Robert Murray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If I could urge the reading of just one book by political, economic, industrial, religious and judicial leaders of the world, it would be Carl Safina's "The View from Lazy Point." I am a scientist, with experience in both the lab and the field; the author spoke to me in a way that few writers have ever done. I read a lot of books; never have I repeatedly stopped in mid-reading to write my son, a social scientist, brief passages with my own comments appended. As I told him, Safin has seen many things that I have seen but has related his experiences in ways that simply made me jump up and say "Yes! Just what I wish I could have said." One of the beauties of this work is that all readers -- scientist, weekend naturalist or lovers of plain good reading, will find much of value.

The picture painted by Safin is grim, but not bleak. He stresses the evolutionary interconnectedness of all life, combining excellent science with beautiful stories of pain and joy. He clearly knows his world history, and uses ideas and personages from the past to illustrate where we are in the present and where we need (no, must) go in the future. Do not plan to sit and read this work in a day or two; you will be doing a great disservice to yourself. This is a work that needs to be slowy savored.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two, two, two books in one! May 6 2011
By David J. Robertson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
By the time your reach 59 years, if you've been reading natural history for any length of time, the "trip through the year" conceit gets a little old. Safina freshens it up a bit by reporting on the effects of global warming in exotic locales both hot and cold. And, though he draws tight parallels between the local Long Island phenology of his residence and the coral reefs and the Arctic and Antarctic islands he visits, the two don't mesh perfectly--hence, two books in one. Safina makes sure that his book isn't a complete "downer" by showcasing positive developments in natural ecosystems, but the overall message certainly is (and rightly so) extraordinarily discouraging; the sugar coat is mighty thin.

Nevertheless, Safina is a gifted writer and keen observer. His prose is lyrical and heartfelt. As a result, the book is a reading pleasure. It's worth noting, however, that Safina devotes a considerable number of pages to his fishing exploits; if you're not a fisher, these sections wear thin pretty quickly. In addition, Safina's political leanings and philosophy come through loud and clear, sometimes to the point of being shrill, but they clearly are honest and grow from his utter exasperation with the status quo and humans' inclination to bury their heads in the sand in the face of overwhelmingly difficult challenges.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living in a World Divided Feb. 22 2011
By jd103 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It took me a little while to adjust to the style of this book, which is aptly defined in the subtitle. Descriptions of events in the natural world alternate with reflections about the unnatural world of human society. Once I made the adjustment, I loved the book.

The author lives near the end of New York's Long Island, and the nature writing aspect of the book covers events there, and in what are described in the Table of Contents as Travels Polar and Travels Solar ranging from coral reefs to the Arctic and Antarctica. His major interest is the ocean so there is a lot about fish and seabirds. There is also a lot of fishing as a warning for those reluctant to read about that.

A couple highlights for me were a few pages about his experience with peregrine falcons because of my own experience with them, and a confrontation with a man filling his pickup truck with nesting horseshoe crabs as Safina's companion frantically heaves others from the beach back into the ocean. "It's legal," comes the justification, and that is really the deeper point of the book--how our laws and economics and ethics are hopelessly outdated for our too large population and what we now know about the ecological reality of the world, such as economics ignoring costs such as pollution as "externalities"--effectively defined as someone else's problem. I don't know if the phrase "privatizing gain and socializing pain" is original to the book, but I love it.

Many books like this don't even have an index. This book has a much appreciated great one with entries for civilization, common good, community, compassion, consumerism, and corporations. There are other letters as well.

A fine book--thanks to the author and Kenzie.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master Class Jan. 21 2011
By John Petralia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Remember The Silent Spring? Rachel Carson set a pretty high bar. Those that followed may have stood on her shoulders, but few have seen farther--- until now. Let me put it this way: Everyone should read this book. The prose is so beautiful, the thoughts so original that I got tired of underlining. I literally could not read more than a page without wanting to reread what I had just read. To be clear, I did not drink the Kool Aid. Indeed, I strongly disagree with some of the author's comments---corporations are evil; deregulation is bad; we should be satisfied with less. Let's just say, those are opinions unsupported by his Main Argument: Everything is connected; these connections have evolved over millions of years; we are part of that interconnected system; our actions have consequences; it's time to stop destroying ourselves. It's a strong case, well presented. Maybe, this time, we'll listen.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth That is Hard to Avoid March 6 2011
By David B Richman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Carl Safina is an excellent writer. His earlier book "Voyage of the Turtle" was a wonderful tribute to these creatures and I picked up "The View From Lazy Point" at the local library expecting a similar literary and scientific feast. I was not disappointed! His Prelude catches exactly the dilemma that many people, perhaps especially field biologists like me, find themselves in at the present time. Do you stop caring because you see the planet going to hell or do you try to both enjoy the natural world and work for saving it against the pressures of population and greed? As he says on p. 6 to feel better one would have to abandon the appreciation of nature and that would in reality make things much more dismal. I have struggled with this very problem lately and have come to the same conclusion, but Safina says it much more eloquently than I could. He then goes on to describe his experiences at Lazy Point on Long Island and his experiences in his travels around the world, chronicling the beauty of the natural world and the huge insults to nature produced by humans. Some of this is pretty hard to take and especially so since a goodly number of politicians, corporate leaders, and the general public are in total denial. Even so he ends on a upbeat note. It is up to us to try and make the future brighter, although we certainly cannot save everything and we will also quite certainly loose a lot. How much we will loose really depends on the commitment that the public, the business interests and the government are willing to make.

I have seldom read a book that was more on target, based on what I have personally experienced in my nearly 70 years. Most of the thoughts expressed by Safina are ones that I have had at one time or another and I get the strong impression that he is speaking not from a need to write polemics, but from his very being. This is a must read for anybody interested in conservation of the natural world.
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