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The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World Hardcover – January 4, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The environment's glass is half-full for lyrical conservationist Safina (Song for the Blue Ocean)--even though coral reefs are suffocating under seaweed as parrotfish, which normally consume it, are netted to near extinction; penguins are finding less food to forage for as the Antarctic Ocean's winter sea ice melts earlier and freezes later, reducing the krill they can feed on; and migrating shorebirds are starving because horseshoe crabs have been overhunted and there aren't enough eggs to fuel the birds' annual 20,000-mile roundtrip. These are a few of many cause-and-effect calamities addressed in Safina's compassionate account of both a year of four seasons around his eastern Long Island beachfront home, and his travels that same year to the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Caribbean, and the islands of the Pacific. He leavens the gloom, however, with this perception: œI'm continually struck by how much beauty and vitality the world still holds--an optimism that suffuses this sensible and sensitive book. Safina reserves his real anger for capitalists, whose predatory practices, he writes at some length, œcontinually privatize profits and socialize costs, brazenly fouling the environment. (Jan.) (c)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Lazy Point is a “flat peninsula of scrubby pines between the Sound and the bay,” a “place of real power” on a wild swath of Long Island, where ecologist and ocean advocate Safina lives, avidly observing terns, sea ducks, and other shorebirds, as well as bluefish and horseshoe crabs. From his home base, this celebrated scientist and activist travels to places where the impact of climate change and environmental abuse is starkly evident. With the spiral of a year as his structure and with what Einstein termed the “circle of compassion” as his moral compass, MacArthur and Guggenheim fellow Safina illuminates the wondrous intricacy and interconnectedness of life in a book of beautifully modulated patterns and gracefully stated imperatives. Safina’s exacting descriptions of coral reefs and polar bears, the acidification of the oceans and melting glaciers are matched by bold observations regarding the consequences of our failure to incorporate knowledge of how nature, the original network, actually works into our now dangerously inadequate economic systems and social institutions. Emphasizing the fact that where nature is most abused, so, too, are human rights, Safina argues that we must renew the social contract, free ourselves from the politics of greed, and embrace the facts about the still thriving yet endangered, immeasurably precious living world. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805090401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805090406
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #679,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If I could urge the reading of just one book by political, economic, industrial, religious and judicial leaders of the world, it would be Carl Safina's "The View from Lazy Point." I am a scientist, with experience in both the lab and the field; the author spoke to me in a way that few writers have ever done. I read a lot of books; never have I repeatedly stopped in mid-reading to write my son, a social scientist, brief passages with my own comments appended. As I told him, Safin has seen many things that I have seen but has related his experiences in ways that simply made me jump up and say "Yes! Just what I wish I could have said." One of the beauties of this work is that all readers -- scientist, weekend naturalist or lovers of plain good reading, will find much of value.

The picture painted by Safin is grim, but not bleak. He stresses the evolutionary interconnectedness of all life, combining excellent science with beautiful stories of pain and joy. He clearly knows his world history, and uses ideas and personages from the past to illustrate where we are in the present and where we need (no, must) go in the future. Do not plan to sit and read this work in a day or two; you will be doing a great disservice to yourself. This is a work that needs to be slowy savored.
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Format: Hardcover
By the time your reach 59 years, if you've been reading natural history for any length of time, the "trip through the year" conceit gets a little old. Safina freshens it up a bit by reporting on the effects of global warming in exotic locales both hot and cold. And, though he draws tight parallels between the local Long Island phenology of his residence and the coral reefs and the Arctic and Antarctic islands he visits, the two don't mesh perfectly--hence, two books in one. Safina makes sure that his book isn't a complete "downer" by showcasing positive developments in natural ecosystems, but the overall message certainly is (and rightly so) extraordinarily discouraging; the sugar coat is mighty thin.

Nevertheless, Safina is a gifted writer and keen observer. His prose is lyrical and heartfelt. As a result, the book is a reading pleasure. It's worth noting, however, that Safina devotes a considerable number of pages to his fishing exploits; if you're not a fisher, these sections wear thin pretty quickly. In addition, Safina's political leanings and philosophy come through loud and clear, sometimes to the point of being shrill, but they clearly are honest and grow from his utter exasperation with the status quo and humans' inclination to bury their heads in the sand in the face of overwhelmingly difficult challenges.
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Format: Hardcover
It took me a little while to adjust to the style of this book, which is aptly defined in the subtitle. Descriptions of events in the natural world alternate with reflections about the unnatural world of human society. Once I made the adjustment, I loved the book.

The author lives near the end of New York's Long Island, and the nature writing aspect of the book covers events there, and in what are described in the Table of Contents as Travels Polar and Travels Solar ranging from coral reefs to the Arctic and Antarctica. His major interest is the ocean so there is a lot about fish and seabirds. There is also a lot of fishing as a warning for those reluctant to read about that.

A couple highlights for me were a few pages about his experience with peregrine falcons because of my own experience with them, and a confrontation with a man filling his pickup truck with nesting horseshoe crabs as Safina's companion frantically heaves others from the beach back into the ocean. "It's legal," comes the justification, and that is really the deeper point of the book--how our laws and economics and ethics are hopelessly outdated for our too large population and what we now know about the ecological reality of the world, such as economics ignoring costs such as pollution as "externalities"--effectively defined as someone else's problem. I don't know if the phrase "privatizing gain and socializing pain" is original to the book, but I love it.

Many books like this don't even have an index. This book has a much appreciated great one with entries for civilization, common good, community, compassion, consumerism, and corporations. There are other letters as well.

A fine book--thanks to the author and Kenzie.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Remember The Silent Spring? Rachel Carson set a pretty high bar. Those that followed may have stood on her shoulders, but few have seen farther--- until now. Let me put it this way: Everyone should read this book. The prose is so beautiful, the thoughts so original that I got tired of underlining. I literally could not read more than a page without wanting to reread what I had just read. To be clear, I did not drink the Kool Aid. Indeed, I strongly disagree with some of the author's comments---corporations are evil; deregulation is bad; we should be satisfied with less. Let's just say, those are opinions unsupported by his Main Argument: Everything is connected; these connections have evolved over millions of years; we are part of that interconnected system; our actions have consequences; it's time to stop destroying ourselves. It's a strong case, well presented. Maybe, this time, we'll listen.
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