An engrossing but sad account of a brave and quirky champion of nature.

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THE LAST FLIGHT OF THE SCARLET MACAW

ONE WOMAN’S FIGHT TO SAVE THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL BIRD

A sharp account of an eccentric woman’s efforts to save the last 200 scarlet macaws in Belize.

Barcott (The Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier, 1997)—a contributing editor at Outside magazine, where this book began as an article—takes readers deep into Belize, a former British colony between Mexico and Guatemala noted for its lush wildlife, English-speaking refugees and oddballs and quiet government corruption. The protagonist is middle-aged Sharon Matola, an American-born former lion tamer who came to Belize in 1982 to work on a nature documentary and remained to establish the Belize Zoo, a home for orphaned and outcast animals. The “Zoo Lady,” who shares her office with a three-legged jaguar, earned the Belize government’s ire in 1999 when she opposed plans to build a small dam in the remote Macal River Valley. Designed to generate much-needed electricity, it would have destroyed the nesting grounds of the nation’s remaining macaws. Barcott details Matola’s anti-dam campaign, which began with letters to officials and newspapers and included protests in Newfoundland (the base for the dam’s owners) and a legal battle that was decided by the Privy Council in London. While Belize officials tried to stop her by proposing to build a new garbage dump adjacent to her beloved zoo (she defeated that project), Matola pressed her anti-dam campaign with support from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Along the way, Barcott explores dam-building, species extinction and the history of the charismatic—but not endangered—macaws. For all her efforts—including revelations of geological deceptions in the dam planning—Matola lost the battle, and the Chalillo Dam, commissioned in 2005, put the macaw nests under water. Matola vows to keep fighting on behalf of wildlife; she is currently working to bring the harpy eagle back to Belize.

An engrossing but sad account of a brave and quirky champion of nature.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6293-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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