Green Planet: How Plants Keep the Earth Alive

Green Planet: How Plants Keep the Earth Alive

Green Planet: How Plants Keep the Earth Alive

Green Planet: How Plants Keep the Earth Alive


Plants are not just a pretty part of the landscape; they keep the entire planet, with all of its human and nonhuman inhabitants, alive. Stanley Rice documents the many ways in which plants do this by making oxygen, regulating the greenhouse effect, controlling floods, and producing all the food in the world. Plants also create natural habitats for all organisms in the world. With illustrations and clear writing for non-specialists, Green Planet helps general readers realize that if we are to rescue the Earth from environmental disaster, we must protect wild plants.

Beginning with an overview of how human civilization has altered the face of the Earth, particularly by the destruction of forests, the book details the startling consequences of these actions. Rice provides compelling reasons for government officials, economic leaders, and the public to support efforts to save threatened and endangered plants. Global campaigns to solve environmental problems with plants, such as the development of green roofs and the Green Belt Movement--a women's organization in Kenya that empowers communities worldwide to protect the environment--show readers that efforts to save wild plants can be successful and beneficial to the economic well-being of nations.

Through current scientific evidence, readers see that plants are vital to the ecological health of our planet and understand what can be done to lead to a better--and greener--future

Benefits of plants:

  • Help modulate greenhouse gases
  • Produce almost all oxygen in the air
  • Create cool shade that reduces energy costs
  • Prevent floods, droughts, and soil erosion
  • Produce all of the food in the world
  • Create and preserve soil
  • Create natural habitats
  • Heal the landscape after natural and human disasters


The alder, whose fat shadow nourisheth
Each plant set neere to him long flourisheth.


It certainly didn’t seem like paradise. I was up to my hips in the sucking slime of a swamp. Because of the water had very little oxygen, the leaf litter and the corpses of mosquitoes and snapping turtles did not completely decompose. Instead they produced a dark brown glue that stained my clothes like a stygian tea. Bacteria released a putrid scent of hydrogen sulfide. I had no idea how deep the muck was, and my left leg slipped in more deeply as I tried to lift my right. There was nothing to grab on to except poison ivy, the thorny branches of greenbrier and rose, or dead sticks.

I was in Hudson Pond in central Delaware. The bridge for U.S. Highway 113, only a few yards from where I stood, rumbled with hundreds of cars and trucks. The passing motorists who looked down on me might have thought I was crazy if they knew that I was studying the small trees that grew in the swamp. If they knew that I had driven a thousand miles to see them, their suspicions would have been confirmed. But when I looked up at the trees that I had driven so great a distance to see, it all seemed worthwhile. There they were, Alnus mar- itima, the seaside alders. Each one consisted of a cluster of little gray trunks, with serrated leaves and puffy, conelike fruits (fig. I.1). What makes this species so special is that it is very rare, and that it has an unusual geographic distribution. All of the seaside alders in the entire world occur in just three populations. The first population lives along . . .

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