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Testimony of a natural upheaval
By Sushant Sharma

Amy Seidl's book is a perfect blend of remarkable personal observation, scientific facts and motherly concern for the land and children.


Informative and hopeful!

This is how a reviewer has described the book Early Spring by Amy Seidl. 'Informative' is a word that is often allied with books. But it's the first time that I personally have heard the word 'hopeful' being linked with a book. And that was the reason that made me pick this book off the shelf.

Early Spring talks about our rapidly changing environment and climate owing to global warming. Published in 2009, this book seems to be just another brick in the huge wall of published material on global warming. But there is something that makes this brick stand out from rest of the bricks in the wall.

The 171 pages of this book enlighten you much more convincingly than 171 scientific papers can do. But don't let its size daunt you. It's often said: All good things come in small packages!

So in this small package, Amy Seidl, a concerned mother and an even concerned ecologist, records her observations of life in the wooded Vermont, New England where she lives. Her background as environmental scientist and teacher at Middlebury College and University of Vermont vouches for the accuracy of the facts and the observations she has penned down.

Seidl takes the discussion of global warming and its effects to a totally new aspect. Her frank observation backed by proven few scientific facts makes the readers more aware to the debacle we may face in near future.

Vermont nestled in beautiful country side and woods of New England is one of the few places where one can imagine seeing global warming take its toll. But New England, a region whose culture is rooted in its four distinct seasons is changing along with its climate. As Seidl narrates - At Christmas, people are canoeing rather than skating, daffodils blooming in January and subsequent outbreaks of tent caterpillars. Even the ice-fishing derby is being cancelled more times than it is run because they can't depend on the thinning ice to hold up.

Seidl takes the discussion of global warming and its effects to a totally new aspect. Her frank observation backed by proven few scientific facts makes the readers more aware to the debacle we may face in near future.

Over the years seeing such changes take place right before your eyes forces us to take notice of the environment around us too. The sheer frankness of the Seidl's honest observations packs a hard punch, which a few pie charts and weather models can never do. Increasingly, the media report on melting ice caps and drowning polar bears, but Seidl brings the message of global warming much closer home by considering how climate change has altered her local experience and the tradition and lifestyle of her Vermont neighbours.

Seidl blends a well-researched environmental study with observations of her small-town, even as she reaches beyond New England by keeping her discussion of global warming artfully broadminded. Thus Mexico can easily figure into a chapter on butterflies and Japan fits nicely into a discussion of her backyard garden. But mostly Seidl remains firmly settled in Vermont. The inclusion of her children in the narrative makes clear Seidl's awareness and concern for the future generations who in the time to come are to unwillingly pay the price of their parent's and their grandparent's mistake.

Chapter after chapter, we find Seidl's thoughtful assimilation of data from scientific studies as well as her careful observations of the land she lives on. Seidl's passion for scientific detail is matched by her concern for her relationship to the land and for her children's experience of the natural world. She tells of looking through a microscope at pollen grains from successive periods of history and relates this to the effects of climate change on forests.

Early Spring is an apt name for a book on global warming. The chapter begins with a beautiful quote and the chapters themselves are so beautifully named that they firmly anchor the views of the author in the minds of the readers.

A perfect blend of remarkable personal observation, scientific facts and motherly concern for the land and children, Seidl's book makes you sit up and take notice. Her testimony, grounded in the science of ecology and evolutionary biology but written with beauty and emotion, helps us realize that a natural upheaval from climate change has already begun. And after reading the book, I agree with what the reviewer had mentioned: the book is obviously 'informative' and 'hopeful' indeed.

Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World
by Amy Seidl. Beacon Press, Boston. 171 pages, Rs. 549

Sushant Sharma  |  sushant91@gmail.com

Sushant Sharma is a college fresher and an avid reader.

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 Other Articles by Sushant Sharma in
Environment Development  > Risks and Hazards > Global Warming and Climate Change

Saving the planet
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chris Goodall's well researched book, 'How to live a low carbon life', provides a practical approach to low-carbon living and shows how easy it is to take responsibility by each one of us.
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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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