59, August 2007
What's so special about drylands?
Growing better cities: Urban agriculture for
sustainable development. By Luc J. A. Mougeot. 2006. Ottawa:
IDRC. ISBN 1-55250-226-0 (pb + CD-ROM) Can$ 20.00. Online version: http://www.idrc.ca/booktique/ev-95297-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html
This book reviews the research experience of Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and its partners, including local governments, into urban agriculture issues. It focuses on how that research has influenced government policies. Examples from Africa and Latin America describe how city networks have developed to promote urban agriculture and help improve urban food producers' situations. Specific recommendations for maximizing urban agriculture's potential are offered for policymakers at all levels of government. Finally, the book offers a vision of how such policies might transform cities in the near future. French and Spanish-language versions of this book are also available.
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Research for development in the dry Arab region:
The cactus flower.
By Shadi Hamadeh, Mona Haider and Rami Zurayk. Penang, Malaysia: Southbound
and Ottawa: IDRC. 2006. ISBN 1-55250-220-1 (pb). Online version: http://www.idrc.ca/booktique/ev-93511-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html
This book describes the interactions of a rural Lebanese community and a development research project during their common efforts to develop sustainable resource use. Drawing on 10 years of experience by a team researching sustainable rural livelihoods in Arsaal, Lebanon, it describes the research project, evaluating its innovative approaches, successes, failures, and the many lessons learned during the experience. With accessible writing, it focuses on obstacles to sustainable development within the Middle East/North Africa region and proposes new directions for tackling such obstacles.
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The following two books are available from:
The ribbon of green: Change in riparian vegetation in the southwestern United States. By Robert H. Webb, Stanley A. Leake, and Raymond M. Turner. 2007. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press. ISBN: 0-8165-2588-9 (hb). US$ 75.00.
Although riparian ecosystems make up a very small percentage of land in the US Southwest, their ecological impact and biological importance are huge. They sustain more than 1/3 of the vascular plants of the region, provide homes to myriad migratory species, and support a large variety of wildlife. This book documents 140 years of information on the status of riparian vegetation in the Southwest, considering major river valleys in parts of Utah, southern Nevada, and southeastern California as well as all of Arizona below an elevation of about 5,000 feet. Concentrating on long-term change, the authors conclude that riparian vegetation is not vanishing throughout the region, as is commonly thought. Instead, they show that riparian vegetation has actually increased in many areas, as a result of such factors as flood control, favorable climate conditions, and large winter floods that have promoted seed generation and provided new spaces in which plants can take root.
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Unnatural landscapes: Tracking invasive species. By Ceiridwen Terrill. 2007. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press. ISBN: 0-8165-2523-4 (pb). US $17.95.
Central to this book is the author's belief that invasive species are rapidly becoming one of the largest threats to the survival of native wildlife. By combining first-person stories with factual scientific writing, Terrill provides a highly readable introduction to invasion ecology and restoration management. Drawing on field observations, research, and interviews, she acts as a "tour guide" to her readers, taking them to actual islands and self-contained habitat communities in the US Southwest and Mexico and providing them with an in-depth look at the damage invasive species can cause. In doing so, she is not advocating a return to some mythical "pristine" past, but rather focusing on the dynamics of change and the complex human responses to it. Ultimately, her hope is that the book will make "regular people...want to learn about mistakes that may have been made in our own regions and help to repair damage and avoide invasive-species introductions in the future."
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