Best children’s books: Try an atlas—of global ecology!

Call me: “Geek!”
I’ll smile and agree. From the time I was in 6th Grade, my gateway into the world was through books like atlases, illustrated histories and travel narratives. Of course, young readers today have all of those choices on cable TV. Nevertheless, there’s still a cool adventure between the covers of a well-designed atlas.

Today, in our series of “Best Books” for young readers, we’re recommending: “The Atlas of Global Conservation: Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities to Make a Difference,” by the Nature Conservancy and University of California Press (which you can order via Amazon through this link).

In 250 lavishly illustrated pages, this new atlas invites readers to explore all kinds of challenges and opportunities—from the crisis of invasive species to areas around the world where “green” fisheries projects have been certified as “sustainable and well managed.” Yes, there’s a lot of bad news in this book—but there’s also a big section, “Taking Action,” which focuses on positive, constructive news.

Think you know this stuff already? Well, the truth is: Most of us have very little idea about what’s happening around the world. Try this 10-question quiz, based on articles and maps in the new atlas—and see how you do. (NOTE: The answers are below, so don’t scroll too far until you’re ready.)

10-Question Quiz on “Atlas of Global Conservation”

1.) Which habitat would a speedy Cheetah prefer to call home? Savanna, Rain Forest or Tundra?

2.) Forests once covered half of the Earth. But now how much do they cover? 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent?

3.) Overfishing is about to wipe out the Mekong Giant Catfish in Asia. These whoppers once were able to reach what size? Nearly 100 pounds, about 300 pounds, more than 600 pounds?

4.) What’s a Nerpa? They can grow to more than 4 feet and live more than 50 years—but the species is endangered. So, what is it? A seal, a cousin to the crow, a lizard?

5.) Think that the world is just what’s visible on the surface? Hardly! The Ox Bel Ha in Mexico is one of those tough-to-explore wonderlands. What is it? An immense cavern inside a volcano? An underwater cave system? An uncharted island?

6.) Yes or no to this statement: We can successfully “manage” tropical rain forests.

7.) Which has the most species? Mammals, Birds or Fish?

8.) Which has a greater diversity of freshwater turtles and crocodiles? South America or Africa?

9.) Which of the following have been found flowing from U.S. homes into our rivers? Acetaminophen pain relievers, Estrogen from birth control, Triclocarban from antibacterial soaps?

10.) In which time period did the world see the biggest rise in protected land? From 1900 to 1920 in the era of rising “National Parks”? From 1960 to 1980 when it was cool to save the environment? From 1980 to 2005 when the message was spreading among younger generations?

Answers to Quiz on “Atlas of Global Conservation”

1.) Cheetahs do best in Savannas like the African Serengeti with wide-open hunting grounds. They’d find Tundra way too cold for good hunting.

2.) Forests now cover only about 10 percent of the Earth’s surface.

3.) What a fisherman’s dream! The Mekong Giant Catfish once were logging in at 600-700 pounds on a good day! It’s a real tragedy that the species is disappearing. The Mekong Delta provides protein to 40 million people in mostly rural areas.

4.) The Nerpa also is known as the Baikal Seal, because they call this chilly area of Siberia their home. These freshwater seals can stay underwater for up to 43 minutes!

5.) The Ox Bel Ha is the world’s longest underwater cave system—at least as far as scientists have been able to determine. No one is entirely sure of everything that lies beneath Earth’s surface.

6.) This is an easy one: Yes we can! It’s not easy but there are examples around the world. The Matang forest of Malaysia has been successfully managed for 108 years, providing employment for 2,200 people and food for 10,000.

7.) Fish have 35,000; Birds have 9,900; Mammals have 5,400.

8.) South America has the greater diversity of those species, mainly because of the vast Amazon River.

9.) You guessed it! Yes, ALL of them—and there’s much more in this dangerous cocktail we’re sending down our drains each day.

10.) This is some of the good news in the new atlas. Far and away the greatest gain in protecting endangered land around the planet came between 1980 and 2005.

We want our “national conversation” to continue

Conversation is far better than the dangerous shouting matches we’ve been witnessing in our global culture recently. So, please, email us at [email protected] and tell us what you think of our stories—and, please tell a friend to start reading along with you!

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