Anyone with an interest in environmental activism and environmental law will take pleasure in this vigorous account of...



Give a hoot, don’t pollute—and sue anyone who does.

According to this account by British writer Goodman (Chair, Creative Writing/Univ. of Hull; Suffer and Survive: The Extreme Life of J.S. Haldane, 2007, etc.) and ClientEarth CEO Thornton, an American innovation ranking up there alongside jazz is the fine tradition of taking despoliators of the environment to court; that the New World could teach the Old World something about public-interest law, they add, is “a significant postcolonial act.” Thornton and his team of environmental lawyers have taken the American ethic and run with it, their overriding premise being that “without talented lawyers’ intense scrutiny of legal language on the Earth’s behalf, ecosystems will continue to vanish.” The brief of those lawyers is to “assert planetary rights”—and if corporations can have legal personhood, why should the planet not have the same standing? ClientEarth lawyers dug deep into U.K. and EU regulations on fishing to develop sustainable standards, no easy matter in the instance of the EU given that 26 signatory nations have to agree, and EU regulations always seem open to being thwarted. “A legal strategy deployed by a single lawyer at ClientEarth,” write the authors, “may stop the destruction of 40 years’ worth of health and environmental law built up by the EU.” ClientEarth prevailed, though not without considerable difficulty—and considerably impressive lawyering, making the case, for instance, that fish have rights, too. (“Any lawyer for halibut might start with establishing one right: Let the fish breed.”) As groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have learned in the U.S., the courtroom is usually a more effective venue for reform than the sidewalk. Demonstrations have their uses, but, as the authors write, making corporate bigwigs lie awake at night wondering when the next process server is going to show up has its own pleasures.

Anyone with an interest in environmental activism and environmental law will take pleasure in this vigorous account of justice in the making.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947534-03-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribe

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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


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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