An optimistic book filled with genuine heroes, but it also reminds us that saving the planet is a war in which the bad guys...

ECO BARONS

THE DREAMERS, SCHEMERS, AND MILLIONAIRES WHO ARE SAVING OUR PLANET

Enthusiastic account of a dozen Americans currently making spectacular contributions to the preservation of the environment.

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Humes (Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul, 2007, etc.) delivers the usual litany of ecological outrages but concentrates on hopeful accomplishments. After cashing out of Esprit, the hugely successful fashion company he founded with former wife Susie, Doug Tompkins has devoted his millions to purchasing immense areas in Chile and Argentina to preserve as permanent wilderness. Far less wealthy, Peter Galvin and Kieran Suckling established the Center for Biological Diversity, a scrappy group that specializes in suing the U.S. government. For decades, officials ignored existing laws, enabling logging and development to proceed undisturbed. Through aggressive lawsuits and petitions, the Center forced the government to enforce the law and protect forests and endangered species; it even persuaded the Bush administration to admit that global warming exists. Thirty years of battles have taught activists the necessity of finding middle ground. The last great wild forest east of the Rockies, in Maine, and Tejon Ranch, an ecological preserve just north of Los Angeles that is home of the endangered California condor, will be developed, but developers have agreed to donate much of their lands to preservationists so that they can exploit the rest free of lawsuits. This, admits the author, may be the best we can hope for. Further eco-friendly accomplishments, such as the plug-in hybrid car, seem just around the corner. Others, like saving the polar bear or sea turtle from extinction, are not assured. Many will involve painful compromises.

An optimistic book filled with genuine heroes, but it also reminds us that saving the planet is a war in which the bad guys show no signs of giving up.

Pub Date: March 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-135029-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2009

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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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Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all...

THE GENIUS OF BIRDS

Science writer Ackerman (Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold, 2010, etc.) looks at the new science surrounding avian intelligence.

The takeaway: calling someone a birdbrain is a compliment. And in any event, as Ackerman observes early on, “intelligence is a slippery concept, even in our own species, tricky to define and tricky to measure.” Is a bird that uses a rock to break open a clamshell the mental equivalent of a tool-using primate? Perhaps that’s the wrong question, for birds are so unlike humans that “it’s difficult for us to fully appreciate their mental capabilities,” given that they’re really just small, feathered dinosaurs who inhabit a wholly different world from our once-arboreal and now terrestrial one. Crows and other corvids have gotten all the good publicity related to bird intelligence in recent years, but Ackerman, who does allow that some birds are brighter than others, points favorably to the much-despised pigeon as an animal that “can remember hundreds of different objects for long periods of time, discriminate between different painting styles, and figure out where it’s going, even when displaced from familiar territory by hundreds of miles.” Not bad for a critter best known for bespattering statues in public parks. Ackerman travels far afield to places such as Barbados and New Caledonia to study such matters as memory, communication, and decision-making, the last largely based on visual cues—though, as she notes, birds also draw ably on other senses, including smell, which in turn opens up insight onto “a weird evolutionary paradox that scientists have puzzled over for more than a decade”—a matter of the geometry of, yes, the bird brain.

Ackerman writes with a light but assured touch, her prose rich in fact but economical in delivering it. Fans of birds in all their diversity will want to read this one.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59420-521-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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