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Ground Truth

A Guide to Tracking Climate Change at Home

Ground Truth

A Guide to Tracking Climate Change at Home

Before you read this book, you have homework to do. Grab a notebook, go outside, and find a nearby patch of nature. What do you see, hear, feel, and smell? Are there bugs, birds, squirrels, deer, lizards, frogs, or fish, and what are they doing? What plants are in the vicinity, and in what ways are they growing? What shape are the rocks, what texture is the dirt, and what color are the bodies of water? Does the air feel hot or cold, wet or dry, windy or still? Everything you notice, write it all down.

We know that the Earth’s climate is changing, and that the magnitude of this change is colossal. At the same time, the world outside is still a natural world, and one we can experience on a granular level every day. Ground Truth is a guide to living in this condition of changing nature, to paying attention instead of turning away, and to gathering facts from which a fuller understanding of the natural world can emerge over time.

Featuring detailed guidance for keeping records of the plants, invertebrates, amphibians, birds, and mammals in your neighborhood, this book also ponders the value of everyday observations, probes the connections between seasons and climate change, and traces the history of phenology—the study and timing of natural events—and the uses to which it can be put. An expansive yet accessible book, Ground Truth invites readers to help lay the groundwork for a better understanding of the nature of change itself. 

240 pages | 30 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Biological Sciences: Botany, Conservation, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Natural History


“Hineline’s wonderful new book advocates the addition of a new kind of individual action to supplement our political struggle [against climate change]—one that’s both pragmatic and emotionally resonant. . . . Lyrical . . . . Puckish . . . . After reading this book, I’m on it.”

Rebecca Onion | Slate

“Doing Hineline's homework is a great way to ensure future generations will know what Earth was like in the early 21st century. Ground Truth is sure to please fans of Bernd Heinrich and Bill McKibben.” 

Shelf Awareness

"In this beautifully written and almost poetic book, the author asks us to consider observing the range of plant life, noting how our local trees, shrubs, and flowers pass through the seasons. What is his objective? He wants his readers to begin to record the impact climate change has on the biological life of the planet. . . . Intensely personal and leavened by many stories from his own life, Hineline’s volume is about as far as one can get from a traditional book about science. But his passionate advocacy of close observation and measurement of the natural world by ordinary citizens has a profound appeal."


The Quarterly Review of Biology

“An alternative to the many books that paint dire scenarios, this book appeals to readers with an interest, but not a strong background, in the science related to climate change. . . . Recommended.” 


“The practice of phenology is another tool for comprehending the climate crisis, and Ground Truth is a good read for teachers, parents, and practitioners in settings from junior high schools to kitchen tables to community organizations and national networks of citizen science.”

Krista Hiser | H-Net

“An expertly crafted and enjoyable personal journey that transforms the complicated topics of phenology and climate change. The book engages everyone with something accessible, tangible, and actionable. I highly recommend it.”

Mark D. Schwartz, editor of Phenology: An Integrative Environmental Science

Ground Truth is an eloquent primer, plea, and playbook, inviting us to ‘get our eye in,’ and learn to truly see the world around us underfoot, overhead, and everywhere in between.  It is a unique DIY manual for becoming attuned to the rhythms of the natural world, for reading the signs of changing climate before our eyes, at home, and in our communities. In learning, with this book, how to take the pulse of our planet, we better appreciate that we, too, are part of Earth's living, breathing web of life, and how our actions affect its vital signs.”

James T. Costa, author of Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory

Ground Truth is a necessary book, a guide to positive action in a time of paralyzing fear and negativity. Hineline illuminates phenology and climate change in a way that invites all of us to become engaged in the critical work of observing and documenting the changes happening now in nature nearby, to be part of a global community working together to gather data on a world changing in ways that we cannot imagine, but can learn from.”

Susan J. Tweit

Table of Contents


Part One
1 Intimate and Momentous
2 Seasons and Circulations
3 Lilacs and Passing Time
4 Noting with a Climate Eye
5 Bedrock and Baselines

Part Two
6 The Green World
7 Wriggles, Buzzes, and Calls
8 Feathers and Phenophases
9 Warm Blood and Live Birth
10 The Atmosphere at Home

Part Three
11 Ground Truth
Further Reading

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