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An ecologist takes the uniquely positive--yet realistic--position that we can adapt and persist despite the inevitable effects of climate change.
While much of the global warming conversation rightly focuses on reducing our carbon footprint, the reality is that even if we were to immediately cease emissions, we would still face climate change into the next millennium. In Finding Higher Ground, Amy Seidl takes the uniquely positive—yet realistic—position that humans and animals can adapt and persist despite these changes.
Drawing on an emerging body of scientific research, Seidl brings us stories of adaptation from the natural world and from human communities. She offers examples of how plants, insects, birds, and mammals are already adapting both behaviorally and genetically. Within ten years, one plant species in a drought-stricken area has evolved to fit its life cycle into the shorter growing season. Red squirrels are breeding earlier to take advantage of the food supplied by an earlier spring. And some birds are migrating shorter distances, or not at all, as their northern habitats become milder.
While some species will be unable to adapt to new conditions quickly enough to survive, Seidl argues that those that do can show us how to increase our own capacity for resilience. She tells of a young farmer experimenting with adaptive strategies for local crops, architects using biomimicry to design buildings that actually contribute to their surrounding ecosystems, and the establishment of decentralized and renewable energy banks. While Seidl admits that these efforts alone won’t change the world, she hopes that taken together they can form the basis for a new, revolutionary set of ideas to live by, much like the efforts that brought about abolition, women’s suffrage, and the eight-hour workday.
In looking at climate change as an opportunity to establish new cultural norms, Seidl’s perspective inspires readers to move beyond loss and offers a refreshing call to evolve.
Praise for Finding Higher Ground:
“Here’s the playbook for the years ahead: loving but savvy, with open eyes and with open heart, Amy Seidl talks us through the possibilities we have on the planet we’ve created. A landmark book.”—Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
“This is a wonderful and necessary book. If you’ve been avoiding the climate change story out of fear that it would catapult you into helplessness and depression, biologist Amy Seidl has just taken away your last defense. Passionate, knowledgeable, and full of unflinching courage, Finding Higher Ground exhorts us to open our eyes to ‘the agitation of change.’ We can’t adapt with them shut.”—Sandra Steingraber, author of Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis
“As an ecologist, a gardener, and a mother of two, Amy Seidl understands all too well the urgent challenges of climate change. But in Finding Higher Ground, her focus is finally on persistence and hope. For Seidl, that means combining a scientifically informed and spiritually charged appreciation for how living systems are already evolving with a determination to forge a more responsible and sustainable way of life for her own family. I feel grateful for this tough, timely, and encouraging book.”—John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home
“Not since Helen and Scott Nearing penned their testaments to the ‘Good Life’ has a Vermont author given us such a thoughtful, hopeful, and pragmatic guide to living lightly—and well—on this long-suffering planet. Amy Seidl draws on solid science, interesting characters (both human and otherwise), and a rich trove of personal experience to pave a sane way forward for us in this, the Age of Warming. A well-researched, thoroughly enjoyable introduction to local adaptation in the face of global change.”—Curt Stager, author of Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth
“Seidl’s glass-half-full optimism is a welcome change from the many fatalistic prognostications of the future.”—Kirkus Reviews