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Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World Hardcover – March 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this intimate reflection, Seidl, an ecologist, records her observations of life and ecology in the wooded Vermont hollow where she lives, depicting how human, animal and plant life is changing as the weather becomes warmer and less predictable. At Christmas, people are canoeing rather than skating; daffodils push through the ground in January; outbreaks of tent caterpillars, historically limited by winter deep freezes, stress the sugar bush. An ice-fishing derby is cancelled more times than it is run. They can't depend on the ice... to hold up. Seidl's tender descriptions of her young daughters' encounters with the natural world—skipping rocks, choosing Halloween pumpkins from the garden and gorging on the abundance of cherries picked off the tree—add personal poignancy to a subject few can stand to talk about at any length. Walking the woods with her husband and children on a Sunday morning, Seidl muses on the scale of life itself... its infinite unfolding, and how... present joy is a reflection of deep time, suggesting that, to avoid mass extinction, we evolve a new set of values... consonant with ecocentrism. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Ecologist Seidl blends a well-researched environmental study with observations of small-town Vermont life, even as she reaches beyond New England by keeping her discussion of global warming artfully broadminded. Thus Mexico can easily figure into a chapter on butterflies and Japan fits nicely into a discussion of her backyard garden. But mostly Seidl remains firmly settled in Vermont, and just as Sue Hubbell so effectively draws readers into the Ozarks, this title recounts the stories of sugar-makers, farmers, and neighbors whose stalwart dedication to maintaining daily weather journals, including significant records of climate data, is reminiscent of the Old Farmer’s Almanac. The inclusion of her children in the narrative makes clear Seidl’s awareness of the work of Richard Louv, and makes the title prescient in ways that nature writers could ignore in the past. The fact of the matter is that Seidl brings her children into the story because it is their world that is so drastically changing. At once deeply personal and solidly scientific, Seidl’s chronicle manages to be concerned without being cloying. --Colleen Mondor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807085847
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807085844
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,131,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amy Seidl is an ecologist, writer, and teacher. She is the author of Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World. Amy teaches at the University of Vermont and lives near Burlington with her husband and their children in a solar-powered home.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By also known as Moira on May 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I could tell by the end of the first chapter that I would never have bought this book for myself, and my feelings are quite strong due to the writing style of the author, the lack of real content, and what seems to be an underlying philosophical difference between the author and myself. I have rewritten this review several times trying to find a reasonable way to explain what I mean.

Early Spring is an introductory gloss on the local manifestations of global warming. Seidl alternates between rather detached scientific explanations and overly sensuous descriptions of her Vermont environs as she points out that global warming is apparent in one's own backyard. She asks, and prompts those who have obviously not been paying much attention until now to ask, what global warming means for traditions, communities, the future. The book never gets much further than this- posing the question- and could stand to be a great deal shorter for all it accomplishes.

I was looking forward to Early Spring, and I have to say I'm disappointed. The subject is important enough but never actually discussed- just set up. Over and over and over again.

Early Spring is done in a literary style- Seidl aims for aesthetic expression as much as the conveying of information. Unfortunately, her inflated style quickly reaches the point of overkill, and she does not manage to add much to the subject of global warming at all. I knew much of the subject matter going in; I do not live in Vermont but neither do I live in a cave. I kept waiting for her to tie it all together and take it further, and she doesn't. Instead I get to hear about her sensuous rapture at the bounty nature created apparently for no other purpose but her pleasure, and, of course, I get to hear more about her darling children.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Maggie Brasted on June 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Early Spring is a personal reflection on potential disruption of natural ecosystems and human communities from anthropogenic climate change. Seidle asks questions that need our attention and offers informed speculation but cannot tell us the answers; nobody really knows.

Early Spring is frequently engaging. Homey descriptions of family life and modern rural Vermont society are sweet but not overly sugared. Imperiled species and the complex ecosystem interactions they depend on are elegantly unfolded.

I found potential impacts on relationships in natural systems particularly thought provoking. No element is isolated, each rare species and well-loved creature relies on a complex web of relationships. Entire natural systems will not simply shift their activities smoothly to start spring earlier. Migrants depending on day-length cues will miss food sources that rely on temperature cues. Each change to complex dynamic systems will impact other elements of the system, generating cumulative changes we cannot anticipate.

Seidle writes as much about potential impacts on the social live of her community as on natural systems. I found these sections to be a little weaker. Speculations on how local customs may alter seem rather trite at times. I felt she tried a little too hard to relate global climate change to her own life when mostly all she can report is vague worries about things that seem rather minor in the big scheme.

Throughout Early Spring, Seidle consciously echoes Rachel Carson. Carson's Silent Spring made the little-known issue of unbridled pesticide use a compelling national concern, spurring federal legislation. Early Spring, in contrast, runs over well-known ground and articulates no policy agenda. This is a more personal work, smaller both physically and in scope than Carson's. Still and all, I enjoyed this small semi-precious gem of personal nature writing on an important and timely issue.
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By Annette Lamb on December 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World by Amy Seidl skillfully balances expert scientific discussion with personal storytelling. Like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Early Spring explores climate change at both a global and personal level.

"...the USDA has found that on average, lilacs in the U.S. are blooming two to four days earlier per decade than they did forty years ago." (p. 29). "Lilacs bloom eight to sixteen days earlier than they did when I was born. And by the time my daughters are my age, the lilacs in the hollow will be blooming fourteen to twenty-eight days earlier than they are now - in April rather than in May." (p. 32)

Each chapter explores a different theme including weather, gardens, water, birds, butterflies, and meadows and fields. Seidl's eloquent descriptions of everyday encounters with each theme are connected to the larger issues of climate change. Her smooth transitions between personal stories and global warming research add to the effectiveness of the narrative. In addition, her selection of timely statistics, disturbing trends, and concrete examples provide strong support for climate change. Lilacs blooming early, reductions in river volume, and changes in migration patterns were just a few of her many unsettling examples.

"Some ecosystems are more resilient than others; it depends on the ability of their constituent species to react (behaviorally, physiologically, and phenologically) to changing conditions. Still other ecosystems are crossing thresholds and collapsing under the degree of change; their constituents species are unable to adapt (no genetic or phenotypic capacity, no habitat available, or immobile by nature) to the environmental changes around them.
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