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The Face of the Earth

The Face of the Earth: Natural Landscapes, Science, and Culture

SueEllen Campbell
Alex Hunt
Richard Kerridge
Tom Lynch
Ellen Wohl
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 334
  • Book Info
    The Face of the Earth
    Book Description:

    This lively book sweeps across dramatic and varied terrains-volcanoes and glaciers, billabongs and canyons, prairies and rain forests-to explore how humans have made sense of our planet's marvelous landscapes. In a rich weave of scientific, cultural, and personal stories,The Face of the Earthexamines mirages and satellite images, swamp-dwelling heroes and Tibetan nomads, cave paintings and popular movies, investigating how we live with the great shaping forces of nature-from fire to changing climates and the intricacies of adaptation. The book illuminates subjects as diverse as the literary life of hollow Earth theories, the links between the Little Ice Age and Frankenstein's monster, and the spiritual allure of deserts and their scarce waters. Including vivid, on-the-spot accounts by scientists and writers in Saudi Arabia, Australia, Alaska, England, the Rocky Mountains, Antarctica, and elsewhere,The Face of the Earthcharts the depth and complexity of our interdependence with the natural world.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95071-9
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    This book is about natural landscapes and some of the great agents that have shaped them. It is equally about how we humans have worked to understand the world around us, both through the sciences and through the stories we produce as cultural beings. We will look at how human lives and cultures are (and always have been) intertwined with such things as tectonic forces, changing climates, the presence and absence of water, adaptation, and complexity.

    Curiously, English does not have a good name for this subject or this attitude of inquiry, one that neither foregrounds nor ignores our own...

  4. 1 Landscapes of Internal Fire
    (pp. 1-56)
    SueEllen Campbell, Scott Denning, John Calderazzo, Charles Goodrich and Fred Swanson

    We park the cars where lava obliterates the road, then set out across the wavy, corrugated terrain of Kilauea’s lower edge. The view is sweeping, simple, and subtle: to our right the clean line of the Pacific, to our left the deceptively gentle slopes of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, the most massive mountain on earth, and underfoot a wondrous textured sheen of iridescent blacks.

    Despite the warm, muggy air, everyone in the group of volcanologists who have allowed me to tag along is booted, gloved, blue-jeaned, and hard-hatted, and so am I. Given all the warnings I’ve read, I feel...

  5. 2 Climate and Ice
    (pp. 57-119)
    Ellen Wohl, Gerald Delahunty, Mark Fiege and Ana Maria Spagna

    So much depends upon the heat within our planet. How much more must it matter that we are bathed in the warmth of that much larger fire, our sun? So big it could hold a million Earths, hotter than we can really imagine (almost 10,000° Fahrenheit at its surface), our sun sends us the energy that makes life possible—all earthly life, save for the few odd creatures who find their fuel instead at ocean-bottom volcanic vents. Plants mix the sun’s energy, its light and warmth, with soil, air, and water to create wood, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds—food, in...

  6. 3 Wet and Fluid
    (pp. 120-181)
    Kathleen Dean Moore, Ellen Wohl, Gerald Delahunty, Richard Kerridge and Deborah Bird Rose

    Watery creatures afloat on a watery planet, we are surrounded by oceans and seas, ponds and puddles, rivers and rivulets, melting snow, ice, rain, dew, fog, and humid air. Water keeps our eyes moist, our cells plumped up, and the blood running through our arteries and veins. It covers more than 70 percent of the globe and makes up well over half of an adult human body, some three-quarters of an infant’s. And, together with the earth beneath and the air around us, it moves all the time, in ocean currents and tides, shifting sea levels, vapor rising until it...

  7. 4 Desert Places, Desert Lives
    (pp. 182-240)
    SueEllen Campbell, Othman Llewellyn, Aishah Abdallah, Tom Lynch, Deborah Bird Rose and Ellen Wohl

    Life on Earth began in the watery realm of the seas, moved to the shallows and marshes, and then crept onto increasingly drier land. But no matter how far we have evolved from that primal ocean, all living things need at least some moisture to survive, traces of that brine from which we were born. Life in very arid conditions, then, poses special challenges. Indeed, a major task of evolution has been solving the problem of how organisms can cope in ever-drier places. But for those creatures that have successfully adapted to aridity, the plants and animals as well as...

  8. 5 The Complexities of the Real
    (pp. 241-292)
    Diana Wall, Richard Kerridge, Bruce Campbell, Julia Klein and Kate Rigby

    Mostly, so far, we’ve been looking at some of the largest forces that shape the earth. Plate tectonics, climate, water, sunshine—powers like these are the Himalaya among mountains, the blue whales and redwoods among living things, the bulldozers among tools. We’ve also been looking at change, fluidity, adaptation, curiosity, imagination, wonder: massive forces all, though of a different sort. Along the way, you will have noticed, we’ve frequently had to simplify and generalize, to qualify our statements with such words astypically,sometimes, orroughly—frequently, though not nearly as much so as we could have done. For if...

  9. Epilogue. In a High Flower Meadow
    (pp. 293-295)
    SueEllen Campbell

    Meadows are everywhere in the Rocky Mountains, and they’re at their best in the summertime. On sun-baked flats and sandy hillsides, silvery sagebrush shines over ivory buckwheat, pale pink evening primroses, and orange sunflowers. In forests of conifers or aspens, where the trees have been disturbed by fire, disease, or cutting, or where vanished ponds or lakes have left soils especially fine or impermeable, soft, green lawns offer air, light, and food for grazing wildlife. In valley bottoms alongside meandering creeks or chains of beaver ponds, or where water simply collects as the snow melts, palettes of saturated greens and...

  10. Sources
    (pp. 296-305)
  11. Contributor Biographies
    (pp. 306-308)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 309-310)
  13. Index
    (pp. 311-320)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-322)