An evocative and heartfelt examination of a beautiful landscape and its fauna.

GODS OF THE MORNING

A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF A CHANGING WORLD

A distinguished British naturalist reflects on his encounters with the birds of the Scottish Highlands and how global warming has impacted these populations.

Set in the Highlands hamlet of Aigas, the 19 essays in the book illuminate the way birds not only “respond quickly to shifts in climate and human behavior,” but also serve as living barometers of “the success or failure of other wildlife.” Lister-Kaye (At the Water’s Edge: A Personal Quest for Wildness, 2010, etc.) notes that minute shifts in light and weather conditions—things that humans often do not notice—can severely affect not only migration patterns of seasonal birds like geese, but also the nesting patterns of other, nonmigratory birds like rooks. Temperature extremes also inevitably take their toll on bird populations. During a three-month subzero period in the winter of 2009-2010, the hardy barn owls of Aigas (where Lister-Kaye established Scotland's first field studies station in 1976) starved for want of access to the mice and voles that had taken refuge underground. The author also shows how human interventions on the landscape—e.g., electricity distribution lines—impact birds like the whooper swan, which collide with the lines and die slow, agonizing deaths. With its use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and mechanized equipment, farming also impacts birds by killing off the bugs, beetles, and flies that feed them. Lister-Kaye’s lyrical descriptions of Aigas and the animal denizens he so clearly loves offer a poignant counterpoint to the destruction he observes. Yet for all the sadness he expresses at the way people have treated the natural world, he still offers hope that humans can work with nature by adopting the kinds of green measures—installing biomass boilers and solar collectors and “preach[ing] sustainability” to school children—that Aigas employs. In so doing, they can restore some semblance of balance in the earthly kingdom overseen by his winged “gods of the morning.”

An evocative and heartfelt examination of a beautiful landscape and its fauna.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60598-796-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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