Review: Deserts: The Living Drylands

Article excerpt

Review: Deserts: The Living Drylands By Sara Oldfield Reviewed by Alan L. Chan Chinese Lutheran Church, San Francisco, USA Sara Oldfield. Deserts: The Living Drylands. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2004. 160pp. ISBN 0-262-15112-X. U.S. $29.95 (hardcover).

Designed as a companion to her previous work, Rainforest, Sara Oldfield includes in her new book, Deserts: The Living Drylands, valuable information on a variety of deserts across our planet Earth.

Supplemented with 180 colorful pictures, this volume is composed of seven chapters. The first chapter is a general introduction to deserts around the world: their landscapes, ecology and adaptations, people, and resources. The following five chapters concentrate on the details of specific locations such as the deserts in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Finally, the last chapter comprises an intense discussion and urgent plea for the future of the world's drylands.

Making an effort to define the term "desert," Oldfield argues that it often carries the connotations of dryness, remoteness and barrenness. Deserts are also believed to be some of the most uninhabitable places on earth. However, vivid images support the author's factual evidence that not only does a variety of vegetation thrive in these environments, but also reptiles, frogs, fish, birds, and mammals. Most importantly, it is known that people have dwelled in deserts at least as long as there have been written records. Therefore, a desert does not necessarily imply a dull and lifeless habitat. As the title suggests, the book attempts to inform the reader about not only the geology and ecology of deserts, but the many means of survival of desert creatures. …