A profound, scientifically based appeal for recognition of the kinship of all living things.

BEYOND WORDS

WHAT ANIMALS THINK AND FEEL

Award-winning ecologist Safina (Nature and Humanity/Stony Brook Univ.; The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, 2011 etc.) disputes the dogma among scientists that forbids speculations about the “the inner lives of animals.”

As the author notes, “a young scientist is taught that the animal mind—if there is such—is unknowable.” They are taught to always refer to animals as “it” rather than “who.” Attributing emotions to animals is to commit the sin of anthropomorphism. Safina refutes this idea by examining the social behavior of primates, elephants, wolves, whales, and many others. “Not assuming that other animals have thoughts and feelings was a good start for a new science,” he writes. “Insisting that they did not was bad science.” To dissociate man from other animals is to deny the evidence. We recognize when animals are hungry, so why not admit “when animals seem joyous in joyful contexts, joy is the simplest interpretation of the evidence.” The author cites experiments that demonstrate how electrical stimulation of the brains of animals and humans trigger similar emotional responses, and he based his examples on his personal observations of animals in the wild and discussions with experts with firsthand knowledge of them. For example, the matriarch in an elephant or wolf family depends on other adults for support, and they, in turn, depend upon her. Safina illustrates this with poignant descriptions of how the social lives of both adult and young animals are shaped by the interplay of individual adult personalities within the family. The author's chronicles of his observations of wild animals are captivating, but they also serve to make a larger point: why are people unwilling to admit that nonhuman animals also think and feel as we do? Safina suggests that perhaps it is “because acknowledging the mind of another makes it harder to abuse them.”

A profound, scientifically based appeal for recognition of the kinship of all living things.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9888-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: John Macrae/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

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H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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