I am so excited to discover a new (at least for me) subject in ecology/environmental studies: road ecology. Road ecology is the study of how life changes for plants and animals near roads and traffic. One of the biggest road ecology issues is all too familiar: roadkill. US drivers kill one million animals every day! Wow. Remedial action is uncommon. Of projects completed, many were initiated by individuals or small groups to fix massive, ongoing roadkill in a specific location. The design of overpasses and underpasses that successfully draw targeted animals across is surprisingly challenging, but there is progress. Other issues under this umbrella include noise and light pollution; excess heat generation; and runoff of salt, oil, exhaust, and other poisons. Road ecology is a young field, so it is rarely considered when new roads are planned. Since every major new road comes with thousands of other new roads built to and from it, road ecology must be incorporated into the planning process. Get involved when possible! A final note: one of the most environmentally impactful road ecology actions is to remove roads from national and state lands, especially forests. Every little unpaved road negatively affects the environment. Let’s get to work— Kay Wosewick
An eye-opening account of the global ecological transformations wrought by roads, from the award-winning author of Eager.
Some 40 million miles of roadways encircle the earth, yet we tend to regard them only as infrastructure for human convenience. While roads are so ubiquitous they’re practically invisible to us, wild animals experience them as entirely alien forces of death and disruption. In Crossings, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb travels throughout the United States and around the world to investigate how roads have transformed our planet. A million animals are killed by cars each day in the U.S. alone, but as the new science of road ecology shows, the harms of highways extend far beyond roadkill. Creatures from antelope to salmon are losing their ability to migrate in search of food and mates; invasive plants hitch rides in tire treads; road salt contaminates lakes and rivers; and the very noise of traffic chases songbirds from vast swaths of habitat.
Yet road ecologists are also seeking to blunt the destruction through innovative solutions. Goldfarb meets with conservationists building bridges for California’s mountain lions and tunnels for English toads, engineers deconstructing the labyrinth of logging roads that web national forests, animal rehabbers caring for Tasmania’s car-orphaned wallabies, and community organizers working to undo the havoc highways have wreaked upon American cities.
Today, as our planet’s road network continues to grow exponentially, the science of road ecology has become increasingly vital. Written with passion and curiosity, Crossings is a sweeping, spirited, and timely investigation into how humans have altered the natural world—and how we can create a better future for all living beings.
About the Author
Ben Goldfarb is the author of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, winner of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. His writing has appeared in the Atlantic, National Geographic, the New York Times, and many other publications, and has been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing. A recipient of fellowships from the Alicia Patterson Foundation and the Whiting Foundation, he lives in Colorado.
Wide-ranging and absorbing…Brilliant.
— Bill McKibben - New York Review of Books
Fascinating and compassionate…[Goldfarb] does an admirable job of detailing the ways that highways and freeways divide our cities along racial lines…It’s rare for a work so focused on wildlife conservation to also treat race.
— Emily Raboteau - New York Times Book Review
Goldfarb is perceptive about how roads tangle animals together with humans…Crossings is well-paced and vivid, an engaging account.
— Timothy Farrington - Wall Street Journal
Beyond the staggering data and the constructive ideas, Crossings is an important book because it is timely: Road ecology is bleeding into the public consciousness at a moment when we can still act on its lessons.
— Jonathan C. Slaght - Atlantic
Crossings provides a badly needed corrective…[D]eserves to make the reading lists of policymakers around the world.
— Marina Bolotnikova - Vox
Chronicles the enormous ecological damage caused by roadbuilding…Goldfarb guides the reader through an array of often heartbreaking stories, from the Los Angeles mountain lions so isolated by highways that they could inbreed themselves into extirpation to salmon populations smothered by tire pollution.
— David Zipper - Bloomberg
A deeply researched and compelling read…[O]ffers readers a look behind the scenes of a rich but underappreciated field of study that has the potential to affect our everyday lives.
— Sarah Boon - Science
[A] swift and winding ride through the science of road ecology…[A] surprising reflection on what we owe to nature…[T]he roadkill you spot along the highway will never look the same.
— Tess Joosse - Scientific American
Delves into the burgeoning field of road ecology and introduces the impassioned, sometimes eccentric scientists who invite us to perceive our roads as animals do to better understand the ecological impacts.
— Amanda Heidt - Science News
The book is teeming with horrifying statistics: More birds die every week on US roads than were killed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; each year, frogs are squished by the millions; in New York alone, a deer collision occurs every eight minutes…While that may sound bleak, Crossings is at times surprisingly funny.
— Jackie Flynn Mogensen - Mother Jones
[Crossings has] so many cool stories…frogs and turtles being ushered across roads by volunteer hands, a wildlife crossing for cougars in California, citizen roadkill reporting networks. In many ways, it’s a book about the people trying to correct our mistakes.
— Colleen Stinchcombe - Seattle Times
Goldfarb traveled across the country, and the globe, to learn more about how roads have shaped not just our communities but the natural world around us…[R]oads may be nearly invisible to the modern human, just another necessary part of everyday infrastructure. But to the other species on this planet, roads have fundamentally changed their existence.
— Emily Baron Cadloff - Modern Farmer
Through expert interviews, compelling research and analysis, and dogged experiential reporting, Goldfarb brings to life some of the core impacts our 40 million miles of roads have had, and are having, on the natural world.
— Brett Berk - Car and Driver
Crossings is science writing at its best…[A] hopeful reminder of our responsibilities in the Anthropocene.
— Miranda Weiss - American Scholar
Written elegantly and convincingly, Crossings acknowledges that most of us can't make do without automobiles but urges individual responsibility…as well as public works initiatives of global proportions.
— David Luhrssen - Shepherd Express
A fresh and startling history of roads, automobiles, and the carnage and destruction they cause…An astute, funny, and imaginative writer, Goldfarb pairs horror with hope as he chronicles the brilliant innovations and tireless advocacy that resulted in lifesaving wildlife crossings, including park-like overpasses and cozy underpasses.
— Booklist (starred review)
Illuminating, witty…[Crossings is] an astonishingly deep pool of wonders.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Captivating…This one’s a winner.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Goldfarb examines the severe impact of roads on wildlife populations and their migration and reproduction…Roads aren’t going away anytime soon, but Crossings will spark conversation around the future of motorized vehicles and transportation.
— Bookpage (starred review)
Ben Goldfarb is the kind of gonzo environmental journalist Hunter S. Thompson would have loved. Crossings, his meditation on the ecological devastation roads and highways inflict—and on the very clever responses from humans and other creatures that road life demands—is an absolute shining star of a book. Modernity and the mobility all we Earth animals require is never going to look the same again.
— Dan Flores, best-selling author of Coyote America and Wild New World
A brilliantly panoptic look at our planet’s sprawling network of roads: what’s wrong with them, how they got that way, and how they could be set right. Precise in detail but vast in scale, Goldfarb’s storytelling carries echoes of Michael Pollan and John McPhee, but with a wry humor that is uniquely his own.
— Robert Moor, best-selling author of On Trails
Ben Goldfarb approaches our fellow animals with delighted curiosity and rare perception. A deeply researched, wonderfully vivid, and genuinely hopeful book.
— Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts
Like some David Attenborough of the asphalt, Ben Goldfarb has written a fascinating guide to understanding the wilder side of roads, both symbols of freedom and harbingers of unnatural selection.
— Tom Vanderbilt, best-selling author of Traffic
A truly important and landmark book on a subject whose full impacts continue to be disregarded or underestimated in considering conservation efforts. Crossings is a moving, compassionate, and indispensable guide to navigating the issue of wildlife survival—and our own.
— Jeff VanderMeer, best-selling author of the Southern Reach Trilogy
Crossings, Ben Goldfarb’s impassioned quest to understand the ecology of roads and its impact on the natural world, is a marvel. The reader learns something new on every page, disturbed and amazed in equal measure. Goldfarb moves us briskly along the manipulated ecosystem of the highway, with vivid, evocative pitstops for environmental history, ecology, and the built environment. With 15 million additional miles of road scheduled to be built over the globe in the near future, the time for this book is now. Crossings adds a new perspective to conversations on how humans have reshaped life on earth.
— The Whiting Award Judges' Citation