Tim Flannery’s next book, Europe: A Natural History, will be published in February. 
(December 2018)

IN THE REVIEW

Hive Mentalities

A sweat bee (Halictus ligatus) coated with pollen, 2013; digital composite photograph from the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab’s catalog of native bees. It appears in the book Animal: Exploring the Zoological World, just published by Phaidon.

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

by Thor Hanson

Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology

by Lisa Margonelli
Bees evolved from wasp ancestors around 100 million years ago. Most wasps are sleek carnivores, but bees are flower-loving, long-haired, and often social vegetarians (the branched hairs that cover their bodies trap pollen, which, along with nectar, is their principal source of food). Their shift to a vegetarian diet had a profound effect on the evolution of flowering plants. If we want to know what a world without bees looks like, Thor Hanson writes in his book Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees, we should visit the bee-less island of Juan Fernández off the coast of Chile, where, despite varied vegetation, almost all flowers are small, white, and inconspicuous. But it is not just gloriously colored flowers that we owe to bees, for many of our crops rely on them for pollination. Both our world and our brains, it seems, have been profoundly shaped by bees.

The Big Melt

Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North

by Mark C. Serreze

Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edges of the World

by Joel Berger
Sometimes, it seems, threats to our future become so great that we opt to ignore them. Yet if we fail to act with the utmost urgency to slow climate change, we will invite catastrophe on all humanity.

The Tree Whisperers

Carlos Magdalena at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2014

The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species

by Carlos Magdalena

Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm

by Isabella Tree
During the excavation of Herod’s palace at Masada between 1963 and 1965, a pottery jar was unearthed that contained a great many seeds of the Judean date palm, which had been extinct for some eight hundred years. The jar had been buried sometime between 155 BC and 64 AD. In …

NYR DAILY

The Paris Catastrophe

New Orleans, 2005

If the Paris agreement falters and we are forced to wait another decade for a new one, we would have no way of avoiding a dangerous and increasingly unstable future. Far from damaging the US economy as President Trump argues, the Paris agreement offered it a lifeline. Sadly, it’s a lifeline that Trump has just thrown away.

Lilliput Under the Sea

Pacific Giant Octopus, Enteroctopus dofleini, 0.6 inches long without arms, 2014

Susan Middleton’s Spineless reveals a world where hermit crabs resemble wizards carrying their own magic mountains on their backs, and where worms are transformed into exquisite, pearly necklaces. Marine invertebrates—from octopuses to hermit crabs and creatures like the bizarre holothurians—are the focus of this photography book.

Copenhagen, and After

On April 5, 2009, Denmark got a new Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen. He was the third Danish Prime Minister in a row to bear that surname, replacing Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who had been named the new Secretary-General of NATO. A capable local politician in his forties, Lars Rasmussen had, in contrast to his predecessor, almost no experience in international politics. His appointment received little media coverage outside Denmark. But just eight months later, with Denmark the host of the Copenhagen climate summit (officially the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP-15), Lars Rasmussen’s—and Denmark’s—lack of experience in international politics would have a global impact.

Copenhagen Crisis: Why the US Needs Cap and Trade

It is often argued that cap and trade legislation requires too many compromises with—and give-aways to—polluting corporations to pass the House and Senate, and that consequently it is ineffective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While environmentalists are failing to support cap and trade, those opposing action on climate change are fiercely attacking it. Yet such a system is essential when it comes to getting global action on climate change—not least at the increasingly imperilled climate summit in Copenhagen in December—for it delivers a transparent benchmark by which nations can judge each other’s commitment.