Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn

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9781582344799: Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn

Who knew that an investigation into that patch of grass in our backyards could be so fruitful-and so funny?

More than 550 square miles of new lawns unfold each year in the U.S. alone. Although new research shows that these lawns aren't nearly as "unnatural" as ecologists once thought, no one has offered an accessible exploration of this novel habitat. Until now...

Equipped with a lawn chair and her infectious curiosity, science writer Hannah Holmes spends a year on her lawn hoping to discover exactly what's going on out there. Under her examination, the lawn teems with life, populated by a bewilderment of birds, a mess of mammals, and a range of plants that record the history of this little piece of ground. As the seasons progress, she guides us through this bustling community, inviting over biologists, ecologists, botanists, entomologists, and energy experts to further unveil the complexities of life in the 'burbs. Through this investigation, we encounter life-and-death dramas and mysteries that would make a rainforest blush-everything from the behavior of suburban crows and raccoons, to the way plants wage war, to the puzzle of baby pigeons (where are they?).

Funny, smart, and refreshing, Suburban Safari introduces us to a world so extraordinary it's hard to believe it's been right in front of us all along.

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Review:

When science writer Hannah Holmes decided to spend a year studying the inhabitants of her 0.2-acre patch of ground in suburban Portland, Maine, she went about the task with an ecologist's enthusiasm and a scientist's compulsive eye for detail. The result is an entertaining and effortlessly compelling examination of nature's stubborn (and successful) struggle to exist in the face of daunting manmade challenges. Holmes's lawn, unfertilized and rarely mowed, turns out to be a surprisingly diverse ecosystem of bird, mammal, and insect life--a self-perpetuating, constantly evolving community of chipmunks, ladybugs, spiders, slugs, and crows. These creatures, and the complex relationships between them, are the raw material for Holmes's incisive reflections on natural history, urban ecology, and the ignominious story of the over-irrigated, pesticide-laced American lawn--rolling out, Holmes notes, at a rate of one million acres per year. What drives Holmes is not just concern for the natural environment but a ravenous curiosity about every aspect of the world around her, from the sex lives of dragonflies and squirrels, to the murderous tendencies of the English sparrows that have colonized her land, to the survival strategies of the mosquitoes, sow bugs, and slugs that inhabit her yard by the hundreds. Holmes is an environmentalist to the core, but she never sermonizes. With Suburban Safari, an intimate, wry, and often challenging look at a world most of us never bother to notice, she ably demonstrates humanity's responsibility to a natural world that exists all around us--even in our own backyards. --Erica C. Barnett

About the Author:

Hannah Holmes is the author of The Secret Life of Dust. Her science and travel writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times Magazine, Outside, Sierra, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. She lives in South Portland, Maine.

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