Here is the shortlist for the 2017 award for general audience science book written by a Canadian. The winner will be announced in June and the awards will be presented during Science Literacy Week in September, 2018
How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future by Edward Struzik
For two months in the spring of 2016, the world watched as wildfire ravaged the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. Firefighters named the fire “the Beast.” It acted like a mythical animal, alive with destructive energy, and they hoped never to see anything like it again. Yet it’s not a stretch to imagine we will all soon live in a world in which fires like the Beast are commonplace. A glance at international headlines shows a remarkable increase in higher temperatures, stronger winds, and drier lands– a trifecta for igniting wildfires like we’ve rarely seen before.
This change is particularly noticeable in the northern forests of the United States and Canada. These forests require fire to maintain healthy ecosystems, but as the human population grows, and as changes in climate, animal and insect species, and disease cause further destabilization, wildfires have turned into a potentially uncontrollable threat to human lives and livelihoods.
Our understanding of the role fire plays in healthy forests has come a long way in the past century. Despite this, we are not prepared to deal with an escalation of fire during periods of intense drought and shorter winters, earlier springs, potentially more lightning strikes and hotter summers. There is too much fuel on the ground, too many people and assets to protect, and no plan in place to deal with these challenges.
In Firestorm, journalist Edward Struzik visits scorched earth from Alaska to Maine, and introduces the scientists, firefighters, and resource managers making the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfire in the 21st century. Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly. Struzik weaves a heart-pumping narrative of science, economics, politics, and human determination and points to the ways that we, and the wilder inhabitants of the forests around our cities and towns, might yet flourish in an age of growing megafires.
The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World
by David R. Boyd
An important and timely recipe for hope for humans and all forms of life
Palila v Hawaii. New Zealand’s Te Urewera Act. Sierra Club v Disney. These legal phrases hardly sound like the makings of a revolution, but beyond the headlines portending environmental catastrophes, a movement of immense import has been building — in courtrooms, legislatures, and communities across the globe. Cultures and laws are transforming to provide a powerful new approach to protecting the planet and the species with whom we share it.
Lawyers from California to New York are fighting to gain legal rights for chimpanzees and killer whales, and lawmakers are ending the era of keeping these intelligent animals in captivity. In Hawaii and India, judges have recognized that endangered species — from birds to lions — have the legal right to exist. Around the world, more and more laws are being passed recognizing that ecosystems — rivers, forests, mountains, and more — have legally enforceable rights. And if nature has rights, then humans have responsibilities.
In The Rights of Nature, noted environmental lawyer David Boyd tells this remarkable story, which is, at its heart, one of humans as a species finally growing up. Read this book and your world view will be altered forever.
The Vaccine Race
Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease
By Meredith Wadman
Penguin Random House
The epic and controversial story of a major breakthrough in cell biology that led to the conquest of rubella and other devastating diseases.
Until the late 1960s, tens of thousands of American children suffered crippling birth defects if their mothers had been exposed to rubella, popularly known as German measles, while pregnant; there was no vaccine and little understanding of how the disease devastated fetuses. In June 1962, a young biologist in Philadelphia, using tissue extracted from an aborted fetus from Sweden, produced safe, clean cells that allowed the creation of vaccines against rubella and other common childhood diseases. Two years later, in the midst of a devastating German measles epidemic, his colleague developed the vaccine that would one day wipe out homegrown rubella. The rubella vaccine and others made with those fetal cells have protected more than 150 million people in the United States, the vast majority of them preschoolers. The new cells and the method of making them also led to vaccines that have protected billions of people around the world from polio, rabies, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis A, shingles and adenovirus.
Meredith Wadman’s masterful account recovers not only the science of this urgent race, but also the political roadblocks that nearly stopped the scientists. She describes the terrible dilemmas of pregnant women exposed to German measles and recounts testing on infants, prisoners, orphans, and the intellectually disabled, which was common in the era. These events take place at the dawn of the battle over using human fetal tissue in research, during the arrival of big commerce in campus labs, and as huge changes take place in the laws and practices governing who “owns” research cells and the profits made from biological inventions. It is also the story of yet one more unrecognized woman whose cells have been used to save countless lives.
With another frightening virus imperiling pregnant women on the rise today, no medical story could have more human drama, impact, or urgency today than The Vaccine Race.
Rise of the Necrofauna
The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction
by Britt Wray
Jurassic Park meets The Sixth Extinctionin Rise of the Necrofauna, a provocative look at de-extinction from acclaimed documentarist and science writer Britt Wray.
What happens when you try to recreate a woolly mammoth—fascinating science, or conservation catastrophe?
In Rise of the Necrofauna, Wray takes us deep into the minds and labs of some of the world’s most progressive thinkers to find out. She introduces us to renowned futurists like Stewart Brand and scientists like George Church, who are harnessing the powers of CRISPR gene editing in the hopes of “reviving” extinct passenger pigeons, woolly mammoths, and heath hens. She speaks with Nikita Zimov, who together with his eclectic father Sergey, is creating Siberia’s Pleistocene Park—a daring attempt to rebuild the mammoth’s ancient ecosystem in order to save earth from climate disaster. Through interviews with these and other thought leaders, Wray reveals the many incredible opportunities for research and conservation made possible by this emerging new field.
But we also hear from more cautionary voices, like those of researcher and award-winning author Beth Shapiro (How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth) and environmental philosopher Thomas van Dooren. Writing with passion and perspective, Wray delves into the larger questions that come with this incredible new science, reminding us that de-extinction could bring just as many dangers as it does possibilities. What happens, for example, when we bring an “unextinct” creature back into the wild? How can we care for these strange animals and ensure their comfort and safety—not to mention our own? And what does de-extinction mean for those species that are currently endangered? Is it really ethical to bring back an extinct passenger pigeon, for example, when countless other birds today will face the same fate?
By unpacking the many biological, technological, ethical, environmental, and legal questions raised by this fascinating new field, Wray offers a captivating look at the best and worst of resurrection science.
Matters of Life and Death
Public Health Issues in Canada
By: Andre Picard
Douglas & McIntyre
Respected health reporter André Picard tackles the nation’s most pressing public health topics.
Health issues have long occupied top headlines in Canadian media, and no journalist has written on public health with more authority or for as many years as André Picard. Matters of Life and Deathcollects Picard's most compelling columns, covering a broad range of topics including Canada's right-to-die law, the true risks of the Zika virus, the financial challenges of a publicly funded health system, appalling health conditions in First Nations communities, the legalization of marijuana, the social and economic impacts of mental illness, and the healthcare challenges facing transgender people.
The topic of health touches on the heart of society, intersecting with many aspects of private and public life—human rights, aging, political debate, economics and death. With his reporting, Picard demonstrates the connection between physical health and the health of society as a whole, provides the facts to help readers make knowledgeable health choices, and acts as a devoted advocate for those whose circumstances bar them from receiving the care they need.
Providing an antidote to widespread fear-mongering and misinformation, Matters of Life and Deathis essential reading for anyone with an investment in public health topics—in other words, everyone.