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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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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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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