Archives For Steven Apfelbaum


A Brief Review of Nature’s Second Chance:
Restoring the Ecology of Stone Prairie Farm
by Steven Apfelbaum.


Review by Peter White.

In 1981, Steven Apfelbaum purchased 2.7 acres in southern Wisconsin. A trained ecologist, full of all the youthful idealism and enthusiasm a 26-year-old can contain, Apfelbaum sought out not only a place to call home, but a place to walk his environmental talk. Over the next two decades, he would eventually acquire the 80 surrounding acres and transform the landscape from abused and abandoned farmland to thriving ecosystem. Part memoir, part environmental treatise, his Nature’s Second Chance: Restoring the Ecology of Stone Prairie Farm is a book about land restoration and stewardship. In it, Apfelbaum develops a land ethic with a deep indebtedness to Aldo Leopold’s environmental classic, Sand County Almanac.

Apfelbaum divides his work into three acts. In the first he lays the foundation for his story, his ideas and his project. His prose is most relatable in his stories rather than the explanation of scientific ideas. His mother tenaciously navigates the real estate networks in first discovering the land. On their first visit, his boisterous younger brothers go for a tractor joyride through the neighbors’ cornfield leaving the more subdued Steven an awkward first meeting with said neighbors.

In the middle section Apfelbaum lays out just how he, along with his company Applied Ecological Services, his colleagues and his partner Susan, went about restoring the landscape of Stone Prairie Farm. Over time, they are able to engage their neighbors as partners rather than outsiders. In one incident, he describes how a neighbor spotted an endangered whooping crane and called everyone he knew. As the majestic bird captured the attention of a crowd for the majority of a Sunday morning, the farmer finally confessed, “If I could help guarantee that this bird would regain its health, I’d think about making some land available so it had a place to come back to each and every year.” In the final section, Apfelbaum outlines his vision for the future, including ideas ranging from conservation-oriented development to land community membership.

Apfelbaum’s book succeeds in communicating the deep need to consider the relationship between humans and the natural world. Land is more than pretty scenery. It is a living and dynamic part of our community that will thrive or die according to our lifestyle choices. He is able to avoid the man-versus-nature cliches of the genre with his consistent anecdotes that emphasize the human element–from the practicalities of running the business office out of the farmhouse to later living with a family on the land. In this way the narrative tempers his scientific idealism. If the book lacks anything, it’s in the practical application for the reader. Apfelbaum is an expert in his field (literally, in this case). But what about the rest of us? The book is unlikely to win new converts. However, those with even a passing curiosity in the care of Creation will find in Apfelbaum a worthwhile voice.

Nature’s Second Chance:
Restoring the Ecology of Stone Prairie Farm
Steven Apfelbaum.

Hardcover: Beacon Press, 2009.
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Our favorite music critic Andy Whitman
reviews U2’s new album NO LINE ON THE HORIZON

“Time is irrelevant, it’s not linear,” Bono proclaims near the beginning of No Line on the Horizon (4 stars), U2’s 12th studio album, which releases March 3 but is already posted on the band’s MySpace page. When you’ve spent 30 years in the circus, are well into middle age, and are still working the territory most commonly associated with preening 20-year-olds, it’s a reasonable stance to take. Fittingly, it’s a preoccupation Bono circles back to again and again, and it results in the band’s most thematically rich album in a storied career.

Read the full review:


Release Date: 3 March 2009
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THE OTHER JOURNAL reviews Katie Ford’s
new book of poems COLOSSEUM.

When the lights go down in Colosseum, Katie Ford’s second collection of poetry, we find ourselves in the poet’s cranial theater, an old-fashioned movie palace of flickering reels and irregular splicing. It is here that the book’s preoccupation unfolds: a remembering of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. And it’s here that the memory landscape shifts from history book to watercolor dream cycle, nightmarish in its images and vagaries. Showing a deft sense of humor, or perhaps just irony, Ford includes a poem about the late great New Orleans movie theater lost to fire months after the hurricane, the “Coliseum Theatre”—it is, of course, an elegy.

To say the poems in Colosseum record anxiety, trauma, and a stunned sense of coping might belittle Ford’s surprising chemistry in mixing the loss of New Orleans with the destruction and devastation of the classical world. At first it might seem that the thematic thread is a project, and arbitrary—why Rome? Why not Rhodes? Only after reading and re-reading Colosseum did I see Ford’s book as an attempt to honor New Orleans by placing its destruction into the tradition of the great dead: Athens, Rome, Carthage, Alexandria. Is Ford’s point that every vanquished city is worthy of such high simile, or is it just New Orleans? Feeling runs so high in this collection that I must admit that reading it put me in mind of testimonies from Vietnam War veterans

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Katie Ford.

Paperback: Graywolf Press, 2008.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $12 ] [ Amazon ]


If you’ve ever read Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, finding it hard to put down, then Nature’s Second Chance is your chance to witness the ecological wonder as Steven Apfelbaum transforms his tired farmstead once used to grow corn crops into a Midwestern paradise: a biologically diverse and healthy prairie, with wetland, forest and spring brook. Leopold’s writings culminated in the land ethic philosophy. Nature’s Second Chance puts it into practice, not only at Apfelbaum’s eighty acre Stone Prairie Farm over a period of thirty years, but at the Prairie Crossing “conservation development” north of Chicago and, perhaps, in a community near you though projects spearheaded by the now internationally-acclaimed, multimillion dollar ecological restoration business, Applied Ecological Services.

Writes Apfelbaum: “I envisioned a network of restored lands that would reconnect dispersed and isolated habitats. This may be viewed as an ecological systems approach to rethinking the landscape or a community land ethic where the health of the land — not just of individually owned parcels — is a measure of land community vitality.”

This highly readable treatise on a more ecologically mindful approach to living on the land provides both enlightening anecdotes and descriptive policy changes needed that will allow us to restore the health of diverse ecological systems on which our own very survival is based. Through his work both at Prairie Stone Farm and with Applied Ecological Services, Apfelbaum rekindles the spirit of service to all of creation, with humans, themselves, playing the central role in nurturing the renewal work so crucial in this Century and in the emerging restoration economy.

Read the full review:

Steven Apfelbaum.

Hardcover: Beacon, 2009.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $21 ] [ Amazon ]


As explained by Livio, the history of mathematics is partly a struggle between these points of view: that math is how God (or nature) organizes the world, or it is simply a human tool to understand that world.

Livio comes down in the middle, contending that math may well be both invented and discovered. He points, for instance, to the eternal truth contained in the geometry formulated by Euclid 2,400 years ago. By the 19th century, however, iconoclasts had posited and established a whole new world of non-Euclidian geometry. Livio writes about the symmetries of the universe: the immutable, if incompletely understood, laws of math and physics that make a hydrogen atom, for instance, behave in the same way on Earth as it acts 10 billion light years away. Another sign of universal structure, as teased apart with the help of math? No, Livio writes, it is more likely a sign that “to some extent, scientists have selected what problems to work on based on those problems being amenable to a mathematical treatment.”

The author acknowledges that some readers will find his inconclusive conclusion to be unsatisfying. I didn’t. Sometimes the adventure, the intellectual ride, is more important than the final destination.
Read the full review:

Mario Livio.

Hardcover: Simon and Schuster, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $21 ] [ Amazon ]