Notes From the Science & Nature Section: Eager Beavers
Notes From the Science & Nature Section
By Kelly Barth
Over the years, Castor canadensis, or the North American beaver, has gotten a bad rap because of its amazing ability to alter a landscape. Both engineers, humans, and beavers have had vastly different ideas about what their habitat should look like, and humans have insisted on their own version, to the detriment of these clever creatures. Not only have beavers been nearly extirpated from the land because of their determination to dam up running water, but also because their pelts once dominated the fur trade.
Thankfully though, humans have taken another look at Castor canadensis as a partner in ecological restoration and, some say, a crucial ally in our fight against climate change.
In Beaverland: How One Weird Rodent Made America, Leila Philip turned her lifelong obsession with beavers into a beautiful book about their history with humans across the continent. Describing herself as a self-taught naturalist, Philip makes the case that though we once thought we knew best about how to handle beavers as a nuisance, we now realize we cannot live without them.
Similarly, Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb makes a strong case that in an uncertain future of a planet altered by catastrophic droughts, allowing beavers to do what they do best could likely restore the North American West.
Another recent release, Wild New World: The Epic Story of Animals and People in America by Dan Flores, examines the pre-history of animals across the continent, including the Volkswagen-Beetle-sized proto-beaver. Again, later chapters of this book demand that all of us transform our contentious relationship with this amazing rodent. In doing so, Flores maintains, we will develop an invaluable partnership in sustainability.
An intimate and revelatory dive into the world of the beaver—the wonderfully weird rodent that has surprisingly shaped American history and may save its ecological future.From award-winning writer Leila Philip, Beaverland is a masterful work of narrative science writing, a book that highlights, though history and contemporary storytelling, how this weird rodent pl
WINNER of the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
Author of the New York Times 2023 "Notable Book" Crossings
Washington Post "50 Notable Works of Nonfiction"
Science News "Favorite Science Books of 2018"
Winner of the 2023 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award
Winner of the 2023 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature
Shortlisted for the 2023 Phi Beta Kappa Society Ralph Waldo Emerson Award
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2022