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Book Review (Part 1): Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive by Stanley A. Rice

Front Cover

Author: Stanley A. Rice

Title of the Book: Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive

Publisher: Rutgers University Press

Pages: 314

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What if I say, we already know everything mentioned in this book? Being a biologist and having a keen interest in environment, the topic covered in this book is not new to me but what fascinates me is the detailed explanation of the topics with figures, data and numbers.

It is not likely a type of book to be read by a person who has interest in fiction as it is a nonfiction, pure botany. If you have some interest in the environment and the plants that surround us, this book is for you. I would recommend this book to each one of us so that we can understand how important plants are to us and our planet.

Stanley A. Rice has done a wonderful job by writing a book wholly and solely dedicated to plants. He talks about forests, agriculture, green house gases, green house effects, global warming, ecological footprints, carbon emission, soil erosion, etc. He explains everything in detail, and you will enjoy as you move from one chapter to another.

What topics are covered in this book?

The book includes almost everything that relates to plants and the benefits they do to us. The book is divided into 12 chapters and consists of 314 pages. All the 12 chapters talk about how plants are important to sustain life on the Earth. As I mentioned earlier, the chapters are dedicated to plants as to how plants produce oxygen, how plants remove carbon dioxide, how plants prevent soil erosion, how plants provide shade, how plants prevent floods and droughts, how plants restore the destroyed habitats and most importantly how plants provide food to all other living organisms.

I can easily do a one post review about this book, but that will not be the justice to the book and the author. The topics are covered in detail and it’s important for everyone of us to know some important things that are mentioned in this book. So, I thought of dividing my book review in 3 parts. In this part I would review the first 3 chapters from the book. I hope you wouldn’t mind me being so elaborate.

How Agriculture Destroyed Forests?

The first thing that the author tries to put forward is “an injured paradise”. He explains how the greed of humans in different civilizations ruthlessly cut the trees, cleared forests and made lands for agriculture practices. Destruction of forests for agricultural lands and lumber often led to droughts.

Agriculture is hard work – the biblical story calls it “the sweat of your brow” – compared with hunting and gathering is relatively easy work.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 15)

Had agricultural practices not destroyed the fields and forests, these civilizations might have been able to survive the droughts that ended up destroying them.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 17)

He further explains how the Europeans exploited the North American forests through extensive deforestation for lumber and agricultural land and simultaneously also brought few diseases with them.

The author then talks about the destruction of deciduous forests followed by the fall in the tropical forests due to farming and human infiltration into the jungles.

Not only are the modern forests and fields a pale reflection of what they once were, but they shattered. What was once a vast uninterrupted natural world is now fragmented. Even the largest state and the national parks are small parcels compared with the primeval forest.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 23)

So, the author wants to convey the message that once a forest is destroyed it cannot be recreated by human means. Then he raises a question, how can the forests be saved? This question is not only for the biologists, botanists or environmentalists. This question is for each of us. Each one of us need to think about this.

We need to do something before its too late. We need to minimize our needs and wants. We need to be more reasonable and accountable for the actions that we do on the daily basis. We need to be sensible and wise while using the natural resources.

Its not that we are ignorant of these facts. The problem is we try to ignore and unhear them and thus do not act.

Our head acknowledge the crisis; our hearts do not, and thus we hesitate.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 25)

To anyone who loves the forests and fields, it is sad to see what many centuries, and especially the past century, of human activity have done to the green world of plants. But it is not just a loss to those who feel inspired by a poetic spirit in the woods. It is a loss that threatens everyone who breathes, eats, and drinks – that is, everyone.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 25)

How Plants Produce Oxygen?

Have you ever wondered from where does so much oxygen comes that all of us are able to breathe? What will happen if our planet loses the oxygen we breathe? On the planet Earth, the life exists due to two things: oxygen and water. Who produces oxygen? None other than plants, the primary producers in our ecosystem.

Picture Curtsey: Wikimedia Commons

The next thing that the author talks about is how plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis. We all know photosynthesis is the process responsible for converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. He gives a detailed picture of this process, explaining the process on the molecular level.

In order to feel gratitude for the silent, clean, tireless work that plants perform, it is necessary to do no more than to take a deep breath.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 28)

The author explains how life originated on the Earth, how photosynthetic organisms made the Earth’s atmosphere rich in oxygen and how our planet differs from other planets in the solar system.

Photosynthetic organisms – the land plants and the plankton in the oceans – are the lungs of the world.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 32)

No matter what humans do to the earth, and probably no matter what happens to it from other causes, except for the final explosion of the Sun several billion years from now, the earth will recover.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 38)

The author also explains how atmospheric oxygen and ozone layer protects us from UV radiation. He talks about this in detail. So, there are many things that you can learn from this book. If you are an undergraduate student in science or biology, this book is a must for you. This book will give you a detailed idea of everything related to plants and environment in totality.

How Plants Remove the Greenhouse gases and Prevent the Earth from Overheating?

The second thing after photosynthesis that the author talks about in detail is the greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases. The author gives an overall idea about the greenhouse gases and relates them to the increase in the rising temperature of the Earth. The rise in temperature is leading to global warming. He also gives a detailed explanation of how global warming leads to rise in the water level in the sea and how the glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland are responsible for this rise.

Picture Curtsey: Wikimedia Commons

The sea level appears to be rising at a faster rate than in the past, as a result of global warming.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 55)

He further explains the effect of global warming on plants and animals. He explains how global warming is affecting the growth in some plants. There are numerous examples listed in the book as to how plants and animals are responding to global warming. I am including few examples from the book here.

Global warming is already having measurable effects on plants. Plant species are growing closer to the poles and further up to the mountains as a result of global warming.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 57)

Animals are also responding to climate changes. Armadillos have been expanding from their native habitats in the South, as far north as Illinois. Several bird species have moved their breeding ranges northward.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 58)

Which gas is responsible for global warming? None other than atmospheric carbon dioxide. The author explains the importance of greenhouse gases as to why these gases are important for the existence of life on the earth and how these gases maintain the temperature of the earth.

The greenhouse effect is, to certain extent, a good thing. Without it, the earth would be about as cold as Mars now is.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 66)

Too much carbon dioxide can cause earth to become too warm for the life forms that are now living on it.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 66)

The author goes on further to explain global warming and its effect on the ecosystem and about ecological footprints. Its beyond the scope of this blog-post to review what the author explained in his book. It would be wise to read the book itself. I think his way of explaining the topics are un-matchable.

For a new science ventures this book is an awesome read. Students who want to understand the concepts of plant physiology and its relationship with environment in detail, this book is a must. I connected to this book very easily as my PhD was on plants and air pollution. My connection is genuine and relatable due to liking of the subject.    

This was my review for the first three chapters of the book “Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive”. I hope you will like the review. May be its too much of science but we are already familiar with most of the terms mentioned in the post. Stay connected for the second part of this book review.

Please comment what do you think about the plants and environments? How can we protect our Green Planet? Thank you for stopping by and reading.