Both troubling and encouraging, a well-told tale of environmental activism and citizen action.

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RECOVERING A LOST RIVER

REMOVING DAMS, REWILDING SALMON, REVITALIZING COMMUNITIES

In his debut, environmental journalist Hawley describes the populist movement to remove federally funded hydroelectric dams from America’s waterways and the entrenched interests resisting this movement.

Today, writes the author, the “oceanward progress of six hundred thousand linear miles of brook, creek, stream, and river has been retarded by the construction of 75,000 dams.” Once touted as environmentally safe and economically beneficial, hydroelectric dams, particularly in the American West, have proven to be ecological disasters. Primarily focusing on efforts to remove four dams from the Snake River, a part of the Columbia River basin in the Northwest, Hawley details the damage. He begins with salmon. By the next century, they may be extinct, in large part because they cannot navigate dammed rivers like the Snake to return to their spawning grounds. In turn, fewer and fewer salmon make their way back down the Columbia to Washington’s Puget Sound to provide food for orca whales. Also endangered are the fishing industry, tourism and the traditional, salmon-centered way of life of Indian tribes such as the Nez Perce. Whole towns such as Lewiston, Idaho—situated between the Snake and Clearwater rivers—face inundation as dams lead to the buildup of silt in the rivers, raising the water level to dangerous heights. Despite arduous effort by civic and environmental groups, the dams remain. The reason for this, argues Hawley, is the power of utility companies and their allies among innumerable federal agencies who derive short-run benefit from building, maintaining and operating these dams. A fascinating though confusing section of the book follows the machinations of these agencies and their allies as they fight to save their dams. Gradually, dam removal as a social movement is growing, and the positive results of removal can be seen along the Kennebec River in southern Maine. Fish and other wildlife have returned, as have outdoors enthusiasts, and river towns have returned to economic vitality.

Both troubling and encouraging, a well-told tale of environmental activism and citizen action.

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0471-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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H IS FOR HAWK

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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