THE LAST PANDA

Will the beloved giant panda go the way of the dinosaur and the dodo? The prognosis is uncertain (fewer than one thousand pandas remain in the wild, and a live panda draws over $100,000 on the black market), says wildlife expert Schaller in this popularization of his years of panda fieldwork in China (first described in more scholarly fashion in his The Giant Pandas of Wolong, 1985). As usual, Schaller describes nature with a poet's eye (``the ridge lunged upward like a dragon's spine bristling with fir and birch''). But what sets this apart from his earlier books is its bold political content. As Schaller sees it, both the Chinese government and the World Wildlife Fund, cosponsors of his panda fieldwork, have messed up in their attempts to help the panda. Most of the author's opprobrium falls on Chinese officials, who come across as venal, xenophobic, and in love with red tape. Panda breeding stations in China are dark, cold, and caked with frozen urine and feces; some Chinese scientists abuse the animals instead of studying them. Poaching is an ever-present problem as well. In this oppressive climate, Schaller managed to conduct valuable research into panda daily life, mating, child rearing, and the mystery of why these enormous animals eat only bamboo, so poor in nutrients (``like a person who subsists only on watermelon''). He coos over panda droppings (``carefully I passed the fragile treasure to Sir Peter''), measures the length of chewed bamboo stems, and wonders at the panda's solitary ways, all the while fretting over the paranoia rampant in the research camp—a holdover, he believes, from the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. Not that the West is blameless: Schaller denounces the widespread practice of European and American zoos renting pandas for exhibition without paying proper attention to captive breeding programs. Classic Schaller, with a punch—score one for the panda. (Twenty-seven color plates, nine maps—not seen.) (First printing of 20,000)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-226-73628-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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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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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS

A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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