Professor Publishes New Book

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Brevard College Associate Professor of Ecology and Environmental Studies Dr. Robert Cabin has authored a book exploring the relationship between humans and nature through the lens of ecological restoration in Hawaii.

Restoring Paradise: Rethinking and Rebuilding Nature in Hawaii, published by the University of Hawaii Press, investigates the challenges and opportunities associated with preserving and restoring Hawaii’s remaining biological diversity.  Dr. Cabin shows why saving this diversity increasingly requires embracing the emerging paradigm of ecological restoration—the science and art of assisting the recovery of degraded species and ecosystems and creating more meaningful and sustainable relationships between people and nature.

After living and working in Hawaii as a professional restoration ecologist, Dr. Cabin came to see that these islands are a critically important ecological and cultural microcosm of our planet as a whole. For instance, despite its relatively tiny size, this archipelago contains all of the Earth’s climates, most of its ecosystems, and some of its most diverse human communities. Three-quarters of all of the bird and plant extinctions in the United States have occurred there, and the islands now contain more endangered species per square mile than anywhere else in the world.

Dr. Cabin provides a rare, behind-the-scenes look at successful and inspiring restoration programs across Hawaii. In Part 1, he recounts Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge’s efforts to restore thousands of acres of degraded pasture on the island of Hawaii back to the native rain forests that once dominated the area and sheltered native birds now on the brink of extinction.  Along the way, he presents an overview of Hawaiian natural and cultural history, biogeography, and evolutionary biology. Part 2 examines restoration work by the U.S. Park Service within the vast Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; by a charismatic scientist to restore the biologically and culturally important native dryland forests of Maui; and by the Limahuli branch of Kauai’s National Tropical Botanical Garden to revive a thousand-year-old taro plantation.

To investigate the compelling and conflicting philosophies and strategies of those involved in restoration, Dr. Cabin opens Part 3 with interview excerpts from a cross-section of Hawaii’s environmental community.  He concludes with a provocative and insightful discussion of the evolving and often contentious relationship between humans and nature and the power and limitations of science within and beyond Hawaii.

On the book’s back cover, Andre Clewell, President Emeritus of the Society for Ecological Restoration, observes that “Bob Cabin has that rare gift of a scientist who writes like a novelist. The tale he tells is not so much about science as it is about courageous people who are responding in very personal ways to environmental crises.”

“Unlike my previous book,” Dr. Cabin said, “which was geared more towards professional scientists and academics, I had the pleasure of writing this book for a more general audience. And perhaps best of all, this time they let me include some fantastic pictures from colleagues who also happen to be world-class nature photographers.”

Prior to publication, the book was also featured in an article published by the award-winning quarterly magazine, Earth Island Journal.

Dr. Cabin, who has been on the faculty at Brevard College since 2005, is actively involved in promoting more sustainable practices within and beyond the greater Brevard College community and coordinates the College’s Environmental Studies major.  Before coming to Brevard College, he taught at Kenyon College and The State University of New York at Plattsburgh.  After graduate school Cabin lived and worked in Hawaii as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Tropical Botanical Garden and then as a research ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service.

Restoring Paradise: Rethinking and Rebuilding Nature in Hawaii is available from online booksellers, in bookstores, and directly from the University of Hawaii Press.