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About the Author
Amanda McConnell has written more than 100 documentary films, many of them for The Nature of Things. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature, and she writes and gardens in Toronto, Ontario.
Adrienne Mason has lived on Vancouver Island all her life and spent twenty years on the west coast, first in Bamfield and then Tofino. As well as writing a local history column for Tofino Time, she is the author of numerous books and magazine articles about science, nature, and west coast history. Her most recent titles include West Coast Adventures, The Green Classroom, and The Nature of Spiders. In the course of writing Long Beach: A Storied Stretch of Sand, Mason searched for cougar tracks with her children, found the remains of old trails and homesteads in the area, and spent many hours interviewing the people who arrived at Long Beach and never left.
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter 7 THe Law of Love
The Power of Touch
With the first kiss of a mother’s lips, the first gentle whisper from a father, a tentative snuggle from a sibling, love works its way into our central core. Within a newborn’s tiny brain, neural chemistry is afire, forging new neural pathways as the infant’s senses of sound and smell and touch.relay a flood of information from its new world.
The brain grows at an astonishing rate when we are young. We know, for instance, that young children can learn languages much more readily than adults. The rational brain is learning and absorbing, but so is the emotional brain. Developing infants need to bond with others, to feel security, compassion and love. The role of touch is paramount in human development. Without it, we lack the emotional nourishment we need to thrive, and perhaps, even to survive.
Our body’s largest organour skinis primed for touch. Skin is riddled with nerves, touch receptors with which we feel hot and cold, pain and pleasure, tingles and tickles. We know from studies of primates and other animals that touch is central to proper emotional, psychological and physical development. In one study with monkeys, mothers were separated from their infants by a glass partition. In one group, the mother and child could still see, smell and hear one another, but they could not touch. The conditions were the same for a second group except that the pair could touch one another through holes cut in the partition. The babies who could not touch their mothers cried and paced, whereas the babies who could touch did not show serious behavioural problems. When reunited, the babies that had been deprived of touch clung obsessively to their mothers and failed to develop the level of independence and confidence shown by the other monkeys.
A parent’s touch may not only comfort and please its offspring, but new studies show that touch actually modifies brain development. Like human parents, rat parents have different parenting styles, with some being more attentive than others. Michael Meaney of McGill University demonstrated that differences in maternal care can make physical changes in the brain and determine how rats cope with stressful situations.
Meaney found the offspring of rats that spent more time licking and grooming their pups were better able to deal with stress later in life. The higher the incidence of grooming, the lower the levels of stress hormones produced by the pups. This meant that pups raised by particularly attentive mothers were calmer during stressful times later in life, and they also showed a greater capacity for learning. Overall health improved as well, since long-term exposure to high levels of stress hormones can contribute to chronic problems such as heart disease or diabetes.
The stimulation provided by licking actually triggered a change in the DNA chemistry in certain genes in the baby rats. As the mother licked and groomed her pups, she essentially flipped a switch,” turning on genes that reduced the amount of hormones released during periods of stress. More licking resulted in more receptors in the pups brains that regulate the production of stress hormones.
Table of ContentsAnnotated with new material
Chapter 1: Homo sapiens: Born of the Earth
New information on brain plasticity.
Updated information on total number of species on Earth and examples of how little we actually know when discussing life on Earth
Addition of information on the Human Genome Project.
Expansion of section on consumerism and the societal and environmental effects.
Chapter 2: The Breath of All Green Things
New section on how humans and other mammals cope in low-oxygen environments
Revised section on how, 2.5 billion years ago, bacteria developed a way to capture light energy and convert it into energy/food photosynthesis
New section on how atmospheric pollutants "jump" to regions far from their source (e.g., contamination of Arctic mammals, including humans, from pollutants that original thousands of kilometres away).
Chapter 3: The Oceans Flowing through Our Veins
New information on the idea of "Hypersea" proposed by Mark and Dianna McMenamin
Addition of information on the influence of the Amazon Forest in driving world climate and weather patterns.
Addition of information on water on other planets, including Mars, Saturn, and some Jovian moons.
New section on the environmental consequences of bottled water.
Chapter 4: Made from the Soil
Update on the incredible diversity of life in the soilas many as one billion individual bacteria, split amongst 40,000 species, in a teaspoon of forest soil
New section on life forms distinct from anything that has been discovered before.
New section on the abundance and importance of fungi.
Update of section on human agriculture.
New section on the tragic desertification of the Aral Sea, which, up until the 1950s, was the world's fourth largest lake.
New section: Feeding Ourselves Susatainably. Discusses the constraints of industrial agriculture and ways in which communities around the world are trying to reverse the effects through local sustainable agriculture projects.
Chapter 5: The Divine Fire
New section on medically-induced hypothermia and how it can help the body heal in certain situations, such as after brain injury or brain surgery.
New section on animal thermoregulation.
New section on preliminary experimentation creating fuel from photosynthesis (hydrogen gas).
New sections on peak oil and climate change, including examples of how some communities are making positive changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Chapter 6: Protected by Our Kin
New section on gene transfer technology, and the risks of tinkering with lifeforms when our basic knowledge about how cells, organisms and ecosystems work is too limited to allow us to anticipate the repercussions of manipulating genes.
New section on the "salmon forests" of the west coast of North America. A wonderful example that illustrates the interconnectedness of life.
Update information on biodiversity of life as well as repercussions over rates of extinction.
Chapter 7: The Law of Love
New section on the chemistry of love; the changes our bodies go through when we give and receive love.
New section on the power of touch, with examples of how humans and other animals can fail to thrive without the emotional nourishment of touch.
Update to section, Lessons Learned from Tragedy, on how institutionalization as babies and toddlers affected Romanian orphans.
New section on the social relationships of non-humans, particularly other primates.
Updates to section on biophilia.
Introduction to ecopsychology, and how reconnecting with others and the nature can help people heal.
Chapter 8: Sacred Matter
New section on consciousness and self-awareness in humans and other animal species.
New section discussing ideas as to why we have religion.
Chapter 9: Restoring the Balance
Updating ideas for positive action, including the Suzuki Foundation's Nature Challenge.
Update to section on The Natural Step, including examples of communities and companies adopting ideas from this philosophy.
Update to information on Grameen Bank.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This explains why we love national parks, zoos etc. We naturally feel better when we are a part of where we have always lived; until recently. No matter what your political or religious beliefs this book's discoveries can simply teach you how to be a happier person - without self-help books or pills.
This is an excellent and enlightening world about the general state of the planet, humanity as a species, where we belong on the planet and what it means to us in terms of sustaining us as a species for the long run. Well-written and divided into chapters which could be summarized as humanity, air, earth, water, fire, community, love, spirituality and balance, this book paints an accurate state of the world picture with facts as well as metaphors, always with concern about the greater picture but never losing sight of the details. A great balance of general science and spirituality, with just enough facts and personal stories of many to make the points convincing, this book also is threaded with impacting and eye-opening quotes and poetry from a variety of sources and people. A superb book, overall, from someone who has seen a lot of what he wrote about, this book should be on the curriculum for senior year high school so that the future generations can get a good grasp of the world as they become contributing adults in that world which they will own and determine, more impacting than ever, for future generations. No matter how much or how little they will get from it, every bit helps at a time when that is truer than ever in the past from every one of us living today. Don't get me wrong, though, it's not the book that's profound. It's what you do with what you learn from it which will be.
An acclaimed geneticist artfully explains the diverse web of life, our kinship with other species, and the crucial need of our time to make Nature the ultimate concern of society at large and for our personal lives. The modern scientific world view has created an alienation of the spirit, since now matter & spirit are considered completely separate things, when they once were considered as one. How to preserve the scientific method which has so greatly improved our understanding of how the world works, while restoring a sense of the spiritual?A walk in the garden, for example, may be utterly subjective, but it is through total engagement with the relationships of plants, soil, sun, water, insects, and other garden features, perceived by eye, ear, and physical touch, that we gain an experience that "puts spirit back into the fingertips." Such direct experience in nature allows us to feel that we are whole beings, not merely minds trapped in some sort of bio-mechanical body, allowing us to engage in a true conversation with the Earth.For the author this is only the beginning, however. He advocates achieving an ecological vision, understanding that a simple tree, for example, is far more than trunk, leaves, and roots, but includes the water that moves through it, the sunlight that sustains it, the earth and air that support it, the insects that fertilize it, the fungi that help it obtain nutrients, and so on.