THE MODERN ARK

THE HISTORY OF ZOOS: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

Croke, a wildlife journalist for the Boston Globe, gets to the heart of our love-hate affair with zoos in this elegant, thoughtful study. Creatures of the wild strike primitive, visceral, and spiritual chords in many of us, even when viewed in a zoo setting: 120 million people in the US visited zoos last year. The way Croke sees it, as society increasingly distances itself from the natural world, zoos are one path back: ``What we take away from zoos in our heads is questionable . . . what we take away in our hearts is irrefutable.'' She is a fan of zoos, good zoos, and feels that they can ``carve out a niche that fits intelligently into the spectrum of people's experience.'' To get to the nub of the matter—what makes a good zoo?—she toured just about every decent-sized zoo in the US. Where had they gone right, where wrong? Was there space enough for the animals, were there opportunities for them to enrich themselves, were they allowed to let their hair down, to be natural? These are not simple questions, and Croke must dip into physiology and biochemistry and stereotypic-behavior theory (dealing with animals' behavior in confinement) to gain even a toehold on the answers. But this is also a general zoo history, with sections on ancient menageries (Queen Hatshepsut gathered hers in the Land of Punt); plenty of grisly stories of attacks and escapes; an overview of problems relating to collection, inbreeding, and triage; and the question of reintroducing animals to the wild. Zoos of the future may well be interactive marvels, suggests Croke, but they had better get involved in saving wild places, for that is ultimately where these creatures should be: ``Wild animals don't belong in cages,'' says the author, voicing the zoo-lover's ethical lament. Engagingly written, full of astute cultural critiques as viewed through the prism of zookeeping practices, and deeply respectful of animals. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 4, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-19712-X

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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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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