Essential Reads

Top 100 Birding Sites of the World
Dominic Couzens
University of California Press, 2009, $45

Here’s a dream of a book, gorgeous to look at, with quick vivid descriptions of incredible places, and not so much detail that the reader bogs down in lists of species or particulars on how to get there. I’ve been opening it at random just before sleep, taking in one short chapter
a night about someplace I’d never heard of: Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve, in Kazakhstan. The Bangweulu Swamps of Zambia. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range in the world, in Colombia. Descriptions and photos address each location
as a whole, intimating its natural and cultural significance, while also spotlighting particular avian amazements. The chosen sites ring the globe, and even though endangerment to species and habitats is noted repeatedly, the vision remains of a world of wonders.

I presume the title is deliberately provocative, sure to stir controversy among the ranks of serious birders over sites not included. And that may be so. But soon after receiving the book I had a chance visit from just such a birder, someone who’d actually gone to the Dzalanyama forest of Malawi expressly to see the pennant-winged nightjar. Bob fastened on the book like a
northern hawk owl on a vole (or if you’d rather, a pallid harrier on a steppe lemming). “They got this just right,” he exclaimed over various birding hotspots in Asia and South America. And, “Oh—I want to go here, and here.” I had to pry the book from his fingers.
—Gina Covina

Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur
Scott Cooney
McGraw Hill, 2009, $19.95

Green is red-hot, and sustainability consultant Scott Cooney has done an enormous amount of legwork to help you start up your own successful green business in his first book, Build a Green Small Business. This is a book for the solo entrepreneur looking to break into the green market, or for the established company looking to transition to more environmentally friendly practices.

Following a forward by former Sierra Club president Adam Werbach, the user-friendly book starts out with information about how to select the green biz that’s right for you, and how to market to the best niche once you’ve made your choice. Cooney has researched networking ops, Web sites, and niche markets already attracting green clientele for you to tap into, and there’s
even a set of ecopreneur rules to follow.

The second part will help with the first: Cooney offers a very comprehensive list of business ideas from ecotourism to health to food service to publishing. Discover how to find customers, what to charge, and exactly how you’ll green your business. There are many levels of
green for businesses big and small, and Cooney covers a sampling: making your business energy-efficient, using environmentally friendly building materials and products, incorporating sustainable decisions, and supplying green products and services. Short bios of “Ecopreneurs
in Action” inspire and demonstrate how others are blazing the green business trail. The appendix has green franchise ideas and government resources for small businesses. Learn how LOHAS and LEED certification can be profitable for you.

Cooney has done his homework, and his engaging style keeps the reader motivated and interested. This is a must-read for any business owner, new or established.
—Mary Vance

Hijacking Sustainability
Adrian Parr
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009, $24.95

In Hijacking Sustainability, Adrian Parr marries brilliant deductions and surprising conclusions to convoluted academic writing. Reading this book saddens me at the progress we might have made if this generation of academics, rather than parading for each other behind an opaque curtain, had been taught to value clarity.

At least Parr writes with authority as she critiques the co-opting of the concept of sustainability by Wal-Mart, Hollywood, eco-villages, the White House (before the vegetable garden!), and the US military, in “Green Boots on the Ground.” This last is a treat to read; she discusses the folly of the Clinton-era initiative to turn environmental concerns into national security issues:
“Pollution, stratospheric ozone depletion, clean water, and climate change are a collective problem affecting all forms of life on earth. They are not a selective problem of security, exclusive to any one particular nation.” Parr is no fan of US democracy-building in pursuit of
capitalist aggrandizement across the globe. In the second section, she writes about challenges to sustainable life, such as systemic poverty and e-waste “recycled” to developing countries that do not have the capability to retrieve useful material.

Courageous Parr does not hesitate to delve into the enormous problems of public life. The book will broaden your thinking about everything from shopping to crime to the cultural snafus of disaster relief.—Linnea Due

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