The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970, and is credited with starting an environmental movement.
This year, Earth Day activities are planned locally and globally. Check out Earthdays in the Bluegrass, sponsored by the University of Kentucky Office of Sustainability. Go to Sustainability.uky.edu/node/251. And the Downtown Trash Bash, an annual spring-cleaning event, is noon to 3 p.m. April 22 in downtown Lexington.
To prepare for the day, we're suggesting in several new books.
These books have compelling photographs and heartfelt text, combining expertise with passion. Many of the authors are activists and have founded organizations and interactive blogs to connect with like-minded readers. Here are a few to explore.
■ My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir; Scot Miller photography. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 204 pp. $30.
What a gift. With 72 of Miller's contemporary photographs and a new foreword by Dayton Duncan and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, this edition celebrates the 100th anniversary of an American classic. Environmental crusader Muir's words, hauntingly uplifting, have compelled many aspiring naturalists to follow his footsteps, wandering hundreds of miles along California's High Sierra trails while soaking up the spiritual essence of Yosemite. From the towering majesty of 2,000-year-old giant sequoia trees to the surprise of a mountain meadow filled with thousands of tiny shooting stars in bloom, it's no wonder this place inspired the creation of our national park system and the Sierra Club. Go to Myfirstsummerinthesierra.com to see why we are deeply moved a century later by the experience.
■ Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year by Robert Michael Pyle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 558 pp. $27.
Conservationist Pyle's quest: to find as many kinds of North American butterflies as he could in one year. Of the roughly 800 species in the United States and Canada, he found 478. In the process, Pyle compiled an unusual travelogue as he crisscrossed the country in Powdermilk, his 1982 Honda Civic, accompanied by a butterfly net named Marsha, visiting some out-of-the-way wild places frequented by fritillaries. You might have seen him in Kentucky, swinging through to check out his grandparents' homestead in Carlisle County, then on to search for early hairstreaks and Diana fritillaries, which he found sipping joe-pye weed nectar near the state's high point at Black Mountain. His running commentary on the condition of the countryside, and encounters with truckers, diner waitresses and friends, creates an unsophisticated yet entertaining air. Meanwhile, his ecological findings and scientific details are a fascinating way to learn more about the precious diversity of creatures on Earth. Pyle founded the Xerces Society (Xerces.org), dedicated to invertebrate conservation.
■ Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies by The Xerces Society (Eric Mader, Matthew Shepherd, Mace Vaughan, Scott Hoffman Black and Gretchen LeBuhn). Storey Publishing. 372 pp. $29.95.
Not all insects deserve a swat. Put out a welcome flag for native bees, wasps, beetles, flies, butterflies and moths. They might be tiny, but their essential pollination ability is mighty, fertilizing nuts, fruits and vegetables that supply us with about one-third of our food. They also are an integral link in our fragile ecosystems. Packed with interesting and sometimes unusual details about the lives of bugs, and what it takes to provide and protect a buzz- and chirp-filled habitat, Attracting Native Pollinators is a honey of a primer. Insect profiles detail life cycles, and planting suggestions list appropriate flowers to support them. Environmental impacts are explained in easily understood terms and illustrated with case studies. Find out more at Xerces.org.
■ Envisioning the Garden: Line, Scale, Distance, Form, Color, and Meaning by Robert Mallet. W.W. Norton & Co. 144 pp. $39.95.
The art and craft of creating well-designed gardens rests on classic design principles, which Mallet presents in a succinct, engaging and well-illustrated manner. Since 1897, when the fabled team of architect Edwin Lutyens and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll renovated the Mallet family estate's manor and grounds, new generations have continued to develop Le Bois des Moutiers, which overlooks the sea in Normandy, France. With sensitivity not only to practical applications but to human perception and spirituality, this tutorial supplies readers with tools to harness their vision in creating a landscape. Mallet and his wife, Corinne, have used these ideas in their Shamrock Collection, which has been designated the French National Hydrangea Collection, at nearby Varengeville-sur-Mer, where more than 1,400 specimens are cultivated. Go to Varengeville-sur-mer.fr/GBTourisme-Shamrock.html. It would be an interesting side trip if you're planning to see the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2014, because Caen, the capital of Lower Normandy and the site of the Games, is about a two-hour drive away.
■ The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr. Timber Press. 171 pp. $19.95.
There are myriad ways to live in sync with the Earth. When it comes to growing plants and natural fibers to develop rich and vibrant colors in an environmentally friendly way, Duerr has a solid plan, which she began by founding the Permacouture Institute (Permacouture.org). Lovely in design and easy to follow, Duerr's handbook might inspire you to try fiber craft simply by virtue of its inviting photographs. Details, such as outlining a spiral dye garden, and ideas for finding plants in your neighborhood, including Japanese maple, daffodils, acorns and red cabbage leaves, present eye-opening, artful possibilities. There are recipes for dye and mordant, a substance used to set dyes. You also can color swatches, get composting advice and a seed-saving primer, and try projects, such as dyeing a pillow cover using walnut hulls and a Japanese folded shibori pattern technique.
Kitchen garden guides
■ Taunton's Complete Guide to Growing Vegetables & Herbs, edited by Ruth Lively. The Taunton Press, 298 pp. $24.95
Taunton Press, publishers of Fine Gardening (Finegardening.com) and Kitchen Gardener, presents fantastic models for transforming your yard with edibles in classic potager and cozy cottage raised-bed designs.
■ Vegetable, Fruit & Herb Gardening. John Wiley & Sons Inc. 288 pp. $19.95.
The publisher of Better Homes and Gardens (BHG.com) provides years of experience distilled into basic advice and stellar plant profiles. A coupon for a free 12-month magazine subscription makes this a great gift for beginning gardeners.