A shocking, aggressively written marine park exposé.

BENEATH THE SURFACE

KILLER WHALES, SEAWORLD, AND THE TRUTH BEYOND BLACKFISH

A former SeaWorld killer whale trainer dispenses serious allegations against the company and the industry at large.

In Hargrove’s unnerving opening sequence, he writes of being antagonistically nudged into the center of a performance pool by an aggressive, 6,000-pound orca. It is with this same unique amalgam of “dread and wonderment” that Hargrove characterizes both his longtime, high-ranking professional relationship with orca whales and his astonishment at how broken the performance animal arena has become—particularly at SeaWorld. He writes of a lifelong affinity for whales, an adoration that began as a boy on his annual trips to SeaWorld in Orlando and continued with an apprenticeship in Texas and, ultimately, years spent as a senior instructor at SeaWorld San Antonio and in France. Though his appreciation for and understanding of the species are abundantly clear, the author addresses the inherent dangers these oversized mammals can pose to even seasoned instructors while calling out SeaWorld’s misdeeds and cruel methods employed to obtain, control and artificially breed their stable of whales. The public performances can be treacherous, he writes, and leave little margin for error since the whales, while fully trained, can still exhibit aggressive behavior and attack without warning, as chronicled in the lethal assault and corporate obfuscation case seen in the independent documentary Blackfish (2013). Hargrove divulges some of the lesser-known, more insidious facts about marine parks: the ways whales are artificially impregnated, how boredom can become their undoing, and that these virtual “prisoners in the park” are subjected to secretive food-deprivation tactics to ensure that they understand “that it is best to cooperate.” Hargrove believes the basis of SeaWorld’s bottom-line corporate strategy was to treat the whales as a “company asset on the ledgers” and “a matter for spreadsheets.” The author left the industry in 2012 after an “intellectual conversion” in which he realized the lives of trained whales were a living hell.

A shocking, aggressively written marine park exposé.

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-137-28010-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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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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