Category Archives: General Knowledge

Spotlight on Sir David Attenborough 

Sir David Attenborough – with his distinctive voice and his enthusiasm for the wonders of our natural world – is probably the best-known environmentalist in the world. As writer, presenter and narrator, he has been educating and entertaining audiences about natural history for almost 70 years. He has created a tremendous body of work that represents a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth, as well as showing generation after generation of viewers the marvellous diversity in our environment and our living things. Now 96 years old, Sir David is still an active advocate for environment protection, highlighting how issues such as climate change and population growth can impact biodiversity. If you want to learn more about Sir David’s life and career, here are some good starting points:

Wild Life

Wild Life: The Extraordinary Adventures of Sir David Attenborough by Leisa Stewart-Sharpe

Journey through the jungle and coral reefs, across the African plains and icy poles, and even to the Galapagos Islands, in this beautiful picture book about the life and work of Sir David Attenborough. We discover that David has been a nature-lover since a young age, collecting fossils, stones and natural specimens to create his own “museum”. His eighth birthday gift – a fire salamander – sparks his imagination and ultimately leads to David Attenborough travelling and filming across the continents, visiting astonishing places and mysterious animals, and showing them to audiences all over the world.

Living Planet

Living Planet: The Web of Life on Earth by David Attenborough

This is a new and updated edition of The Living Planet, originally published in 1984, which looks at how plants and animals have evolved and adapted to the differing geographies and climates found around the world. The chapters march majestically across the planetary surface, showing how adaptation has created enormous diversity: from the poles to the tundra, to forests and jungles, the grasslands, the deserts. From fresh water to salt water, deep oceans to mountains and volcanoes. With the help of zoologist Matthew Cobb, this updated edition describes our latest understanding about biodiversity and evolutionary biology, including a significantly revised chapter on human evolution. The Living Planet is packed with information and stunning photography, and like all of Sir David’s work, manages to both inform, entertain as well as inspire.

A Life on Our Planet

A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and Vision for the Future by David Attenborough

In recent years, Sir David has shifted his attention from showing us the wonders of the natural world, to highlighting the environmental threats that stands to destroy our biodiversity. A Life on Our Planet is Sir David’s “witness statement” for the “the dreadful damage” done by humanity, and his plea for urgent climate action. Using his lifetime as a framing device, Sir David captures the accelerating destruction of our planet – changes not obvious from day to day, but shown in stark clarity over nine decades. He then warns us of the painful consequences of inaction – ice-free summers in the Arctic by the 2030s, climate-induced difficulties in food production and large scale, unmanageable human migration by late this century. Nonetheless, his call for action ends on a hopeful note, with ideas on how to turn things around by reducing energy and resource consumption and adopting a more sustainable diet.

Adventures of a Young Naturalist

Adventures of a Young Naturalist: Sir David Attenborough’s Zoo Quest Expeditions by David Attenborough

One of the first television programs presented by Sir David was Zoo Quest, which followed him and his (very small) team on expedition to British Guiana (Guyana), Indonesia and Paraguay in the 1950s. These expeditions aimed to collect exotic live animals – that no other zoo possessed – and bring them back for display at the London Zoo. Adventures of a Young Naturalist takes an affectionate, funny look at these intrepid trips, where Sir David and his team encounter idiosyncratic characters, exotic animals including capybaras, komodo dragons and vampire bats, and pristine environments. We also see early glimpses of the passion, respect and confidence around animals that will become Sir David’s onscreen trademark. Adventures of a Young Naturalist also encourages us to reflect on how, through the work of Sir David and other conservationists, our attitudes towards wildlife conservation have changed.

Journeys to the Other Side of the World

Journeys to the Other Side of the World: Further Adventures Of A Young Naturalist by David Attenborough

This companion volume to Adventures of a Young Naturalist is a collection of stories from the later part of the Zoo Quest program, where the young David Attenborough and his team travelled to Madagascar, New Guinea and other Pacific Islands, and to Australia’s Northern Territory. These expeditions became lessons in anthropology as well as zoology, with the team learning about and recording the indigenous culture of these remote places, whose ways of life had never been encountered by most of the British public before. From Aboriginal rock art, to the land divers of Pentecost Island, to encounters with paradise birds and chameleons, these stories are a valuable record of rituals and wildlife never previously filmed, and that have become endangered.

Life on Air

Life on Air (Revised and Updated Edition) by David Attenborough

It makes perfect (and witty) sense that Sir David, who made his name with the Life on Earth series, would call his memoirs Life on Air. This latest version is updated to include the most recent activities in his 60+ year career. The story starts in 1950, when a young David, dissatisfied with his job in a publishing house, applied for a job at the BBC. He was not successful; however, he was eventually asked to join BBC’s television department, kickstarting his long association with wildlife programming. Sir David spent considerable time as station management before his love of natural history led him to return to programme-making (just imagine – if he had become the Head of the BBC, his monumental Life on Earth series might never have been made!). Like his TV persona, Sir David writes with unfailing modesty and a warm sense of humour, none of which obscure the groundbreaking work he has done, both as a broadcaster and as station management.

Climate Change Crusaders, the voices challenging the way we treat our world 

Climate Change is not a new issue, nor is it going to fix itself without our education, action and attention. There are a number of individuals and groups that have been trying to get society’s attention to take action for years. Some have made an impact quickly and have roused us to protest, change our behaviour and expect more from each other. Today we’re sharing six books tackling this topic in very different ways, one shows how their family has been impacted, another teaches us how to discuss this important topic and others outline how the world will look should we choose to ignore it.

How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference by Rebecca Huntley

Why is it so hard to talk about climate change? While scientists double down on the shocking figures, we still find ourselves unable to discuss climate change meaningfully among friends and neighbours or even to grapple with it ourselves. The key to progress on climate change is in the psychology of human attitudes and our ability to change. Whether you’re already alarmed and engaged with the issue, concerned but disengaged, a passive skeptic or an active denier, understanding our emotional reactions to climate change – why it makes us anxious, fearful, angry or detached – is critical to coping on an individual level and convincing each other to act. This book is about understanding why people who aren’t like you feel the way they do and learning to talk to them effectively. What we need are thousands – millions – of everyday conversations about the climate to enlarge the ranks of the concerned, engage the disengaged and persuade the cautious of the need for action.

Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change by Nathaniel Rich 

By 1979, we knew all that we know now about the science of climate change; what was happening, why it was happening, and how to stop it. Over the next ten years, we also had the very real opportunity to stop it. Obviously, we failed. Nathaniel Rich’s groundbreaking account of that failure and how tantalisingly close we came to signing binding treaties that would have saved us all before the fossil fuels industry and politicians committed to anti-scientific denialism, is already a journalistic blockbuster, a full issue of the New York Times Magazine that has earned favourable comparisons to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and John Hersey’s Hiroshima. In the book Losing Earth, Rich provides more of the context for what did, and didn’t, happen in the 1980s and, more important, is able to carry the story fully into the present day and wrestle with what those past failures mean for us today. It is not just an agonising revelation of historical missed opportunities, but a clear-eyed and eloquent assessment of how we got to now, and what we can and must do before it is truly too late.

Hot Air: The Inside Story of the Battle Against Climate Change Denial by Peter Stott 

Hot Air is the shocking inside story of the fight to halt climate change over the past twenty-five years by a world-renowned scientist, Peter Stott. Ours is the age of global warming. Rising sea levels, extreme weather, forest fires. Dire warnings are everywhere, so why has it taken so long for the crisis to be recognised? Here, for the first time, climate scientist Peter Stott reveals the bitter fight to get international recognition for what, among scientists, has been known for decades: human activity causes climate change. Hot Air is the urgent story of how the science was developed, how it has been repeatedly sabotaged and why humanity hasn’t a second to spare in the fight to halt climate change.

Climate: Powerful Voices, Inspiring Ideas by Christina Limpert

With climate change at the forefront of current discussion, Words of change in Climate offers a curated collection of thought-provoking quotes and passages from the writings and speeches of activists in the environmental community, with a focus on diverse and previously unheard voices.

Compiled by social scientist and researcher Christina Limpert, this collection of stirring words is intended to enlighten, to prompt change, to provide encouragement, and to deepen readers’ conviction. Celebrating activism, focusing on solutions, and avoiding apathy and pessimism, this book is call to action. The back matter includes a brief bio for each person quoted to provide context for their life and work.

Stand Up! Speak Up! A Story Inspired by the Climate Change Revolution by Andrew Joyner

From a #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator, and the creator of The Pink Hat, comes a timely picture book about a young girl’s mission to inspire others to help the planet. Celebrate young climate change activists in this charming story about an empowered girl who shows up, listens up, and ultimately, speaks up to inspire her community to take action against climate change. After attending a climate march, a young activist is motivated to make an effort and do her part to help the planet… by organising volunteers to work to make green changes in their community, from cleaning a lake, to planting trees, to making composting bins, to hosting a clothing swap and more! Here is an uplifting picture book that is an important reminder that no change is too small, and no person is too young, to make a difference. With simple text and lively illustrations, Andrew Joyner has given young children a timely story about activism, community, and hope.

In a few weeks we will be sharing more books on how to talk to children about climate change so be sure to check back again for more titles.

Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis by Malena Ernman, Greta Thunberg, Beata Ernman, Svante Thunberg

The profoundly moving story of how love, courage and determination brought Greta Thunberg’s family back from the brink. This is the story of a happy family whose life suddenly fell apart, never to be the same again. Of two devoted parents plunged into a waking nightmare as their eleven-year-old daughter Greta stopped speaking and eating, and her younger sister struggled to cope. They desperately searched for answers, and began to see how their children’s suffering reached far beyond medical diagnoses. This crisis was not theirs alone: they were burned-out people on a burned-out planet. And so they decided to act. Our House is on Fire shows how, amid forces that tried to silence them, one family found ways to strengthen, heal, and gain courage from the love they had for each other and for the living world. It is a parable of hope and determination in an emergency that affects us all.

You can read other titles by Greta Thunberg here.

Next week on the blog we’ll be sharing six books offering suggestions as to what changes we can do at home to aid the future of the planet. 

Enjoy!

Raise your heart rate with Booko: Ninja Wilderness Survival Guide

If you find yourself in an unexpected extreme situation a fundamental understanding of your surroundings can make the difference between life and death, Ninja Wilderness Survival Guide shows you how.


Why do we think like we do? Six of the newest books exploring logic

How many times do you stop yourself and question why you think like you do? The most common response is ‘hardly ever’. It’s usually not until someone challenges us directly on why we think, or act, like we do that we actually stop to give it some thought. In our household our children are developing their own critical thinking skills and it is them that question us on the logic behind our thoughts. There are so many books on the market that explore logic, mindsets, and reasoning so we thought we’d share six of the newest titles on the market. 

The Critical Thinking Toolkit by Galen Foresman

Okay, so this one is a textbook, but boy is it a good one. The Critical Thinking Toolkit is a comprehensive compendium that equips readers with the essential knowledge and methods for clear, analytical, logical thinking and critique in a range of scholarly contexts and everyday situations. It takes an expansive approach to critical thinking by exploring concepts from other disciplines, including evidence and justification from philosophy, cognitive biases and errors from psychology, race and gender from sociology and political science, and tropes and symbols from rhetoric Written in an accessible way, this book leads readers through terrain too often cluttered with jargon Ideal for beginning to advanced students, as well as general readers, looking for a sophisticated yet accessible introduction to critical thinking.

The Art of Logic by Eugenia Cheng

Emotions are powerful. In newspaper headlines and on social media, they have become the primary way of understanding the world. But strong feelings make it more difficult to see the reality behind the rhetoric. In The Art of Logic, Eugenia Cheng shows how mathematical logic can help us see things more clearly and know when politicians and companies are trying to mislead us. First Cheng explains how to use black-and-white logic to illuminate the world around us, giving us new insight into thorny political questions like public healthcare, Black Lives Matter and Brexit. Then she explains how logic and emotions, used side-by-side, can help us not only to be more rational individuals, but also to live more thoughtfully. Filled with useful real-life examples of logic and illogic at work The Art of Logic is an essential guide to decoding modern life.

Livewired by David Eagleman

How can a blind person learn to see with her tongue or a deaf person learn to hear with his skin? What does a baby born without a nose tell us about our sensory machinery? Might we someday control a robot with our thoughts? And what does any of this have to do with why we dream? The answers to these questions are not right in front of our eyes; they’re right behind our eyes. This book is not simply about what the brain is, but what it does. Covering decades of research to the present day, Livewired also presents new findings from Eagleman’s own research, including new discoveries in synaesthesia, dreaming and wearable neurotech devices that revolutionise how we think about the senses.

The Miniature Guide To Critical Thinking Through Concepts and Tools by Richard Paul and Linda Elder

Sometimes you just need a mini-little-book to give you the gist of something rather than a giant textbook. So here’s a gem of a miniature guide that does just that. This miniature guide, which has sold more than half a million copies, and is widely used in teaching and learning for both personal and professional lives. It distills the essence of critical thinking into a 24-page, pocket-sized guide and introduces the interrelated complex of critical thinking concepts and principles implicit in the works of Richard Paul and Linda Elder. 

The Beginner’s Guide to Stoicism: Tools for Emotional Resilience and Positivity by Matthew Van Natta

Optimize joy, overcome obstacles-discover the calm of stoicism. Being a stoic means embracing positivity and self-control through the ability to accept the uncertainty of outcomes. With this stoicism guide, the beginner stoic will learn how to take charge of their emotions on the path to sustained happiness and satisfaction.

This easy-to-navigate stoicism guide gives you the emotional tools needed to let go of the things you can’t control and find joy in what you have. Through thought-provoking strategies and exercises, this book helps you find contentment so you can build closer relationships and become an active member of society. This book explores the evolution and history of stoicism and how its principles can help you find peace.

Using Questions To Think by Nathan Dickman

Our ability to think, argue and reason is determined by our ability to question. Questions are a vital component of critical thinking, yet we underestimate the role they play. Using Questions to Think puts questioning back in the spotlight. Naming the parts of questions at the same time as we name parts of thought, this one-of-a-kind introduction allows us to see how questions relate to the definitions of propositions, premises, conclusions, and the validity of arguments. Why is this important? Making the role of questions visible in thinking reasoning and dialogue, allows us to ask better questions, improve our capability to understand an argument, exercise vigilance in the act of questioning, make explicit what you already know implicitly, engage with ideas that contradict our own and see ideas in broader context. 

Breathing new life into our current approach to critical thinking, this practical, much-needed textbook moves us away from the traditional focus on formal argument and fallacy identification, combines the Kantian critique of reason with Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics and reminds us why thinking can only be understood as an answer to a question.

Enjoy!

Who decides what’s in the dictionary?

While the concept of a dictionary dates back to ancient civilisations, the first English dictionary wasn’t published until the 1600s. Historically, dictionaries have been written by individual authors who chose what to include or exclude, but today it appears we have more of an input.

Ilan Stavans shares the history of Webster’s Dictionary in this Ted Talk. Click through to watch.