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New books for green looks

Published in the Sunday Times

From food and architecture to décor and city living, you’ll find all the inspiration you need right here, writes Roberta Thatcher.

Jane's Delicious A-Z of VegetablesJane’s Delicious A-Z of Vegetables
By Jane Griffiths, Jonathan Ball, R280

Whether you have an established veggie garden or are thinking of testing out your green thumb, this book is an invaluable resource. Jane Griffiths has been growing herbs and vegetables in her Joburg garden for over two decades, and has written several books on the subject, all of which are relevant to our local climate. Her latest is a guide to the vegetables most commonly grown in SA gardens and to the many unusual heirloom varieties that are available. It provides a wealth of information on how to sow, plant, feed, water, protect, harvest and eat the plants, as well as advice on how to save seed for future generations. Written in her quirky, practical style and illustrated with full-colour photos for easy reference, this is a one-stop guide to growing organic vegetables.

HabitatHabitat: Vernacular Architecture for a Changing Planet
Edited by Sandra Piesik, Thames & Hudson, R2700

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet, and when it comes to architecture, we need to start understanding how to produce buildings that do not rely on stripping the environment or transporting materials across the globe. This beautiful large-format book is the perfect guide to doing so. The result of years of research, the book brought together an international team of more than 100 experts who reveal how people and cultures have adapted to their environment to make the best use of indigenous materials and construction techniques. Notably, it also stresses the importance of preserving craftsmanship and local knowledge.

The Green HomeThe Green Home
By Susanna Vento, Cozy Publishers, R400

With a tagline “inspiring book of plants”, this beautiful tome is just what it sets out to be – and more. Written and styled by Helsinki-based interior stylist Susanna Vento, it features more than 30 Finnish homes, which are not only beautiful in their signature Scandi simplicity, but are filled with stylish indoor plants. While the book is a drool-worthy guide on interiors and home décor solutions, it also focuses on plants and how to care for them. It’s only available online from the publishers, so if you can’t get your hands on a physical copy, you can get inspiration from their Instagram page @greenhomebook.

Garden CityGarden City: Supergreen Buildings, Urban Skyscapes and the New Planted Space
By Anna Yudina, Thames & Hudson, R1250

Urban gardens are transforming our cities, and this spectacular book captures the growing global movement. Showcasing more than 100 projects, the book shows how plants can be used to improve both city landscapes and our quality of life. It’s packed with ideas that can be applied to new buildings and old alike. Think office buildings that incorporate urban farms and exchange the CO² produced by humans for food and oxygen produced by plants, lightweight systems for growing vertical gardens or “tree houses“ the size of city blocks. This book proves that the future of our urban architecture can be self-sustaining and alive.

Book details

Watter plante is die vreemdste, grootste, kleinste, seldsaamste en lelikste op aarde? Botanicum beantwoord dié vrae en meer...

Botanicum is ’n pragtige volkleur boek wat ’n hele klomp raaisels om plante onthul.

Hoe het die eerste plante gelyk? Wanneer het die eerste woude gevorm? Wanneer het plante begin blomme dra? Watter plante is die grootste, kleinste, vreemdste, seldsaamste, lelikste en stinkste op aarde?

In Botanicum kan jy die mees eksotiese en veemdste plante bymekaar sien. Leer hoe plante al miljoene jare langer as ons bestaan en fassinerede dinge soos hoekom party plante groen is en ander nie en hoe party plante in water leef en ander in die lug hang sonder enige kontak met die grond.

Kom ontdek binne Botanicum die wonderlike planteryk in sy kleurryke, verrassende glorie.

 
 
Boekbesonderhede

The signs of invertebrates' day-to-day activities are all around us. Lee Gutteridge shows us where to look...

The Invertrebrates of Southern Africa

This book intensively covers a never-before-explored aspect of Southern African nature and is an essential new addition to the library of every nature lover.

It was researched and written over the last four and a half years to open a door to a little known micro-world that exists all around us. Invertebrates – which include commonly seen creatures such as butterflies, spiders, beetles, worms and scorpions – are everywhere.

The signs of their day-to-day activities are all around us if we know where to look.

The life cycles and behaviours of many animals are discussed, with a special focus on interactions between mammals and invertebrates – a fascinating subject in itself.

While working on this book, Lee Gutteridge spent many hours in the field with expert entomologists and arachnologists, many of whom commented that; even though they had spent a lifetime in the field, this experience, of invertebrate tracking, had changed the way that they see the invertebrate world.

With funding received from the Oppenheimer family, 250 copies will be donated to indigenous trackers, whose knowledge Lee appreciates and respects.
 
 
Lee Gutteridge is an experienced, enthusiastic and well-known wild life author, nature guide and trainer. With 25 years of experience in the bush, he has come to realise that guiding is not just about knowledge, but more importantly about how we share it with our guests from around the world. He personally trains for many well-known and highly experienced guide and tracker teams at some of the southern and central African region’s top lodges, with programmes focusing on a wide range of subjects including track identification skills.

Book details

Read an interview with Larry Swatuk, author of Water in Southern Africa

The University of Waterloo’s Water Institute conducted an interview with Larry Swatuk who recently published his ninth book, Water in Southern Africa.

Here, Swatuk discusses the book, how water professionals and policy makers can be better educated on matters related to water, and the socio-political and socio-economic limitations which challenge water preservation:

Water Institute member and professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, Larry Swatuk, is the author of a new book titled Water in Southern Africa.

Larry lived for 14 years in Africa, primarily in Botswana, where he was a lecturer at the University of Botswana and associate professor of Resource Governance at the Okavango Research Institute. He has published extensively on issues pertaining to the ‘wise use’ of the resources of the Okavango River basin.

Partly due to his training in political science and international relations, Larry specializes not only in decision-making around the use of water resources, but in the training of decision makers for dispute resolution and negotiation on these same resources.

His current research interests focus on the unintended negative consequences of climate change adaptation and mitigation interventions, a concept he labels ‘the boomerang effect.’

In his new book – the first volume in the Off-Centre series which focuses on the social, political and cultural life of South Africa and the southern African region – he argues that we must learn to see water and the region differently if we are to meet present challenges and better prepare for an uncertain, climate-changing future.

We had the opportunity to ask Larry questions about his new book, challenges facing the world water resources, and why interdisciplinary collaboration is important when it comes to tackling complex water problems.

In your publication, “Seeing Invisible Water Challenges,” you talk about a ‘blue water bias’ that exists that makes a “majority of water professionals and policy makers blind to the significant amounts of green water available for human needs.” How can we better educate water professionals and policy makers on the concepts and applications of green water and virtual water?

There is a great deal of path dependence in science – and in life. We are all creatures of habit who grow comfortable trodding along the same path. Every once in a while there is a break from the routine, an idea or an insight emerges to shake us up. It is interesting to note that virtual water – a concept first articulated by Tony Allan for which he was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize some years back – has had greater purchase across the water world than has the idea of green water. Irrigation engineers, however, are well-versed in green water analysis, and rightly so, for most of the world’s food production depends on rainfall or, in Malin Falkenmark’s and Johan Rockstrom’s words: where the rain drop hits the soil. But policy makers and the private sector remain enamored of blue water perhaps because there is more immediate political and economic pay-off to damming, diverting and draining available blue water. Perhaps also, the systems in place have been designed by powerful actors interested in capturing the available resource which, historically, was the water we could see. Beyond the well-watered parts of the world, ‘developing’ states aimed to mimic their ‘developed’ counterparts by capturing water.

Water, in this context, is power: political, economic and social. In my view, powerful actors will continue to be blind to the benefits of green water, and to the potential hazards of living beyond their own water barriers because of current capabilities to import cheap food (i.e. virtual water). But their blindness need not lead us down the same dark path.It also reveals to us the fallacy of many claims pertaining to the state of the world’s water resources: that we are running out, that we are facing a water war, and so on.

In your new book, Water in Southern Africa, you do not shy away from the fact that the challenges for sustainable water management are immense. Drawing on the southern African experience, you argue that we must learn to “see water and the region differently if we are to meet present challenges and better prepare for an uncertain, climate-changing future.” Can you expand on this thought?

It is fitting that a pool of water acts as a mirror. For, in my view, the state of the world’s water resources reflects very accurately the state of our societies. How water is accessed, used and managed clearly shows us the problems and possibilities not only for resource sustainability, but for social inclusion, social justice, and sustainable development broadly defined.

Too much water use research commences from an ahistorical, asocial largely technical and economic perspective. Put differently, whoever has the money and the power gets the water. So, ‘shortages’ are not biophysical, but socio-economic and socio-political. Let me give you an example from Southern Africa, though it is hardly unique in this regard: the region is often portrayed as a ‘success story’ of inter-state cooperation on transboundary waters. At the same time, all countries in the region ‘struggle’ to provide adequate water for the needs of all of their citizens. Are these two separate phenomena? No, they are not, though they are often presented as such. In the case of the former, there is said to be ‘progress’ deriving from human resource capability, adequate finance and so on. In the case of the latter, there is said to be ‘limited or uneven progress’ deriving from the absence of the same. But, in my view, if we see where the water flows, how, to whom and for what purpose, we can clearly see that these conditions are two sides of the same coin. As the saying goes, the first law of hydrology is that water flows toward money. Without doubt, many water challenges may be met with the application of good science supported by adequate finance and appropriate forms of governance and management. But, as a cursory view of the water world shows us, too few people are served by our current approaches and practices.

Continue reading the interview here.
 
About the book:

When it comes to water, we are fed a daily diet of doom and gloom, of a looming crisis: wars of the future will be over water; nearly one-billion people lack access to clean water; river basins are closed so there is no more water to be allocated despite ever-growing demand; aquifers are overdrawn to such an extent that a global food crisis is just around the corner and major cities, such as Bangkok and Mexico, are sinking. And let us not forget about pollution or vector-borne diseases.

The challenges for sustainable water management are massive. Yet, as shown in this book, there are many positives to be drawn from the southern African experience. Despite abiding conditions of economic underdevelopment and social inequality, people rise to the challenge, oftentimes out of necessity and through self-help, but sometimes through creative coalitions operating at different scales – from the local to the global – and across issue areas – from transboundary governance to urban water supply. This first volume in the Off-Centre series argues that we must learn to see water and the region differently if we are to meet present challenges and better prepare for an uncertain, climate-changing future.

Water in Southern Africa

Book details

Lee Berger's Almost Human "fascinating and dramatically paced," writes Rachel Newcomb for The Washington Post

Almost Human is the personal story of a charismatic and visionary palaeontologist, a rich and readable narrative about science, exploration, and what it means to be human.

In 2013, Lee Berger caught wind of a cache of bones in a hard-to-reach underground cave near Johannesburg. He put out a call around the world for collaborators – men and women small and adventurous enough to be able to squeeze through 8-inch tunnels to reach a sunless cave 40 feet underground. With this team of ‘underground astronauts’, Berger made the discovery of a lifetime: hundreds of prehistoric bones, including entire skeletons of at least 15 individuals, all perhaps two million years old.

Their features combined those of known pre-hominids with those more human than anything ever before seen in prehistoric remains. Berger’s team had discovered an all new species: Homo naledi.

The cave proved to be the richest pre-hominid site ever discovered, full of implications that challenge how we define ourselves as human. Did these ancestors of ours bury their dead? If so, they must have had an awareness of death, a level of self-knowledge: the very characteristic we used to define ourselves as human.

Did an equally advanced species inhabit Earth with us, or before us?

Addressing these questions, Berger counters the arguments of those colleagues who have questioned his controversial interpretations and astounding finds.

Anthropologist and the Diane and Michael Maher Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning at Rollins College, Rachel Newcomb, recently reviewed Berger’s book for the Washing Post. Read an excerpt here:

A 9-year-old boy stumbles upon a 2 million-year-old hominin clavicle while exploring in a field in South Africa. A paleoanthropologist, kayaking with his family on the Pacific island of Palau, finds a burial chamber full of ancient remains that he suspects might be a previously undocumented race of tiny people.

A swashbuckling former diamond hunter discovers a treasure trove of humanlike fossils in a network of caves accessible only to people small enough to slither through an 18-centimeter opening.

In Almost Human, the search for hominin fossils reads like an extreme sport. Written by Lee Berger with fellow paleoanthropologist John Hawks, the book documents with riveting intensity Berger’s lifelong fascination with fossil hunting and the contributions he has made to our understanding of human origins.

In contemporary paleoanthropological circles, Berger, who grew up in the United States and is based in South Africa, is considered something of a maverick.

He invites National Geographic to document his expeditions for social media, puts out calls on Facebook to invite scientists to join his teams and, rather than hoarding his finds so he alone can analyze them, makes replicas and photos of fossils available for other scientists to study.

Traditionally, the journey from fossil discovery to publication has been a slow and laborious one, but Berger is known for speeding everything up.

Critical of establishment paleoanthropologists, he views them as “an exclusive club” that refuses to share with others. “I represented a generation that didn’t just want the keys to the club,” Berger writes, “we wanted to open the doors to everyone. We were impatient for a faster pace of discovery and science, and sought collaborations with larger and larger groups of experts outside the traditional schools of thought.”

Other scientists have sharply criticized Berger for being a relentless self-promoter, too quick to announce to the world that his fossils are rewriting human history.

Paleoanthropologist Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley has accused Berger of engaging in “selfie science” and suggested that he is more interested in telling a good story than in sharing scientifically validated facts.

Criticisms of Berger aside, Almost Human is a fascinating and dramatically paced book that translates for a lay audience the excitement of paleoanthropology, its debates and its scandals.

Continue reading Newcomb’s review here.
 
 

Book details

Wildlife at War in Angola examines the post-colonial tragedy of one of Africa's most biologically diverse countries

Wildlife at War in Angola: The Rise and Fall of an African Eden describes in fascinating detail the wildlife, wild places and wild personalities that occupied Angola’s conservation landscape through four decades of war and a decade of peace.

Intrigues, assassinations, corruption, greed and incompetence ‒ during the colonial era, through the horrific war and most especially throughout the crony-capitalist kleptocracy of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos ‒ have resulted in the extinction of most of its formerly abundant wildlife populations and the decay and erosion of a once endless Eden.

This is the first book to integrate the political, economic and environmental threads that account for the post-colonial tragedy of one of Africa’s most biologically diverse countries. A corrupt government has robbed the country of its vast oil and diamond wealth, of its environmental health, of its morality and of its soul. It was not always so.

Brian J. Huntley was appointed ecologist to Angola’s National Parks in 1971. But the vast open spaces, peaceful stillness and tropical luxuriance that he found during the four years they spent exploring and developing the country’s wildlife reserves was not to last. The powder keg of anger against centuries of colonial exploitation ‒ of slavery, of forced labour and of an abusive system of penal settlement ‒ could not be contained. Bloody nationalist uprisings led to the abandonment of Angola by Portugal and the transition from random guerrilla skirmishes with a colonial army into a brutal civil war that cost over one million lives. Despite its scarred history, the author believes the country can still rebuild its national parks and save much of its wildlife and wilderness. But this can only happen if the current ageing autocracy makes space for a new generation of Angolan conservationists.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian J. Huntley is an internationally respected conservationist with over 50 years of field research and management experience in many African countries and sub-Antarctic islands. He has initiated and led to successful conclusion several major inter-disciplinary cooperative research and institutional development projects from the Cape to the Congo. Following retirement in 2009 as CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, he is currently engaged as an independent consultant on conservation research and implementation projects in many African countries and for various United Nations agencies.
 
 

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