A powerful warning, very much in the vein of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

SILENCE OF THE SONGBIRDS

HOW WE ARE LOSING THE WORLD’S SONGBIRDS AND WHAT WE CAN DO TO SAVE THEM

Ornithologists have noticed a significant decline in the numbers of migratory songbird species. Here’s an overview of the problem.

Stutchbury (Biology/York Univ., Toronto) begins with the tropical forests of Central and South America, and many islands in the Caribbean: second homes to our familiar birds. There they adopt a different lifestyle, fattening up for the flight back to their breeding grounds in springtime. But their southern homes are under severe pressure. Deforestation is a significant threat, as the once-solid ranks of trees come down to make way for cash crops. Prime habitat is being lost, and, along with it, food sources the songbirds depend on. Worse still, in many of the countries where they winter, birds are subjected to heavy doses of pesticides. Some birds are killed outright; others are simply so weakened that they cannot complete their migration north. Stutchbury offers positive suggestions, such as drinking shade-grown coffee, which minimizes deforestation, and buying organic food instead of pesticide-laced products. But there are other, less easily dodged problems. City lights and tall buildings are bird killers—many thousands of birds can crash into a TV tower or wind farm during the migration season. Domestic cats allowed to roam free are prolific bird killers, too—as are feral cats. Northern habitats are also under pressure—forest preservation not being the highest priority in North America. The result has been a steady and measurable decline in the populations of almost all the major migratory songbirds over the last several decades. Stutchbury emphasizes that birds are not the only threatened species: The loss of forest contributes to global warming, and the human population will inevitably suffer the consequences. She closes with a short list of countermeasures the average person can take to help save the birds.

A powerful warning, very much in the vein of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1609-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!

SILENT SPRING

It should come as no surprise that the gifted author of The Sea Around Us and its successors can take another branch of science—that phase of biology indicated by the term ecology—and bring it so sharply into focus that any intelligent layman can understand what she is talking about.

Understand, yes, and shudder, for she has drawn a living portrait of what is happening to this balance nature has decreed in the science of life—and what man is doing (and has done) to destroy it and create a science of death. Death to our birds, to fish, to wild creatures of the woods—and, to a degree as yet undetermined, to man himself. World War II hastened the program by releasing lethal chemicals for destruction of insects that threatened man’s health and comfort, vegetation that needed quick disposal. The war against insects had been under way before, but the methods were relatively harmless to other than the insects under attack; the products non-chemical, sometimes even introduction of other insects, enemies of the ones under attack. But with chemicals—increasingly stronger, more potent, more varied, more dangerous—new chain reactions have set in. And ironically, the insects are winning the war, setting up immunities, and re-emerging, their natural enemies destroyed. The peril does not stop here. Waters, even to the underground water tables, are contaminated; soils are poisoned. The birds consume the poisons in their insect and earthworm diet; the cattle, in their fodder; the fish, in the waters and the food those waters provide. And humans? They drink the milk, eat the vegetables, the fish, the poultry. There is enough evidence to point to the far-reaching effects; but this is only the beginning,—in cancer, in liver disorders, in radiation perils…This is the horrifying story. It needed to be told—and by a scientist with a rare gift of communication and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Already the articles taken from the book for publication in The New Yorker are being widely discussed. Book-of-the-Month distribution in October will spread the message yet more widely.

The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!  

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1962

ISBN: 061825305X

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1962

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