THE MYTH OF WILD AFRICA

CONSERVATION WITHOUT ILLUSION

From two members of the World Wildlife fund: an important book on conservation in the continent where Tanzania, home to the famous Serengeti Park, is now ranked as the third poorest nation in the world. In a well-argued and fully documented brief, the authors set out to destroy a prevailing myth among Western conservationists and their supporters that ``Africa and wildlife do not belong together''—a myth that thrives despite the fact that ``Africans have more than demonstrated their genuine interest in and understanding of the importance of conservation—aesthetically, practically, culturally.'' They note that, since independence, African governments have set aside over 48 million hectares of land for animals; that these governments spend over $115 million a year managing this land; and that—in contrast to the US, which has set aside only 8% of its land—Tanzania has relinquished 13% of its territory for game parks. African countries are under stress as populations explode and economies falter, yet many conservationists, including ``celebrity scientists'' like Dian Fossey, have promulgated the idea that Africans are intruders into what was once a pristine wilderness. These scientists, the authors contend, push the cause of ``charismatic megafauna''—elephants, rhinos, gorillas—to gain money for programs that either ignore or seriously damage the lives of local peoples. Adams and McShane say that animals and people can coexist—in fact that such coexistence is the African tradition—and, to back their argument, they cite historical examples as well as contemporary projects such as Zimbabwe's CAMPFIRE and Zambia's ADMADE, which emphasize local involvement as well as recognizing specific community needs. ``Africans do care about wild life,'' the authors conclude. ``They have been labeled as the problem; they are in fact part of the solution.'' The authors' eloquent plea that ``conservation cannot ignore the needs of human beings'' may be provocative, but it is long overdue. A must read, then, for conservationists, Africanists, and animal lovers. (Photographs; maps.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-393-03396-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1992

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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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The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!

SILENT SPRING

It should come as no surprise that the gifted author of The Sea Around Us and its successors can take another branch of science—that phase of biology indicated by the term ecology—and bring it so sharply into focus that any intelligent layman can understand what she is talking about.

Understand, yes, and shudder, for she has drawn a living portrait of what is happening to this balance nature has decreed in the science of life—and what man is doing (and has done) to destroy it and create a science of death. Death to our birds, to fish, to wild creatures of the woods—and, to a degree as yet undetermined, to man himself. World War II hastened the program by releasing lethal chemicals for destruction of insects that threatened man’s health and comfort, vegetation that needed quick disposal. The war against insects had been under way before, but the methods were relatively harmless to other than the insects under attack; the products non-chemical, sometimes even introduction of other insects, enemies of the ones under attack. But with chemicals—increasingly stronger, more potent, more varied, more dangerous—new chain reactions have set in. And ironically, the insects are winning the war, setting up immunities, and re-emerging, their natural enemies destroyed. The peril does not stop here. Waters, even to the underground water tables, are contaminated; soils are poisoned. The birds consume the poisons in their insect and earthworm diet; the cattle, in their fodder; the fish, in the waters and the food those waters provide. And humans? They drink the milk, eat the vegetables, the fish, the poultry. There is enough evidence to point to the far-reaching effects; but this is only the beginning,—in cancer, in liver disorders, in radiation perils…This is the horrifying story. It needed to be told—and by a scientist with a rare gift of communication and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Already the articles taken from the book for publication in The New Yorker are being widely discussed. Book-of-the-Month distribution in October will spread the message yet more widely.

The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!  

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1962

ISBN: 061825305X

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1962

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