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review 2018-08-27 07:12
The Curious Life of Krill by Stephen Nicol
The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World - Stephen Hamilton Nicol

TITLE:  The Curious Life of Krill:  A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World

 

AUTHOR:  Stephen Nicol

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2018

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-61091-853-4

__________________________

DESCRIPTION:

 

"Krill-it’s a familiar word that conjures oceans, whales, and swimming crustaceans. Scientists say they are one of most abundant animals on the planet. But when pressed, few people can accurately describe krill or explain their ecological importance. Antarctic krill have used their extraordinary adaptive skills to survive and thrive for millions of years in a dark, icy world far from human interference. But with climate change melting ice caps at the top and bottom of the world, and increased human activity and pollution, their evolutionary flexibility to withstand these new pressures may not be enough.

Eminent krill scientist Stephen Nicol wants us to know more about this enigmatic creature of the sea. He argues that it’s critical to understand krill’s complex biology in order to protect them as the krill fishing industry expands. This account of Antarctic krill-one of the largest of eighty-five krill species-takes us to the Southern Ocean to learn firsthand the difficulties and rewards of studying krill in its habitat. Nicol lays to rest the notion that krill are simply microscopic, shrimplike whale food but are in fact midway up the food chain, consumers of phytoplankton and themselves consumed by whales, seals, and penguins. From his early education about the sex lives of krill in the Bay of Fundy to a krill tattoo gone awry, Nicol uses humor and personal stories to bring the biology and beauty of krill alive. In the final chapters, he examines the possibility of an increasingly ice-free Southern Ocean and what that means for the fate of krill-and us.

Ocean enthusiasts will come away with a newfound appreciation for the complex ecology of a species we have much to learn from, and many reasons to protect."

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This is a book about Krill fisheries, the methods used to study Krill and the organisations involved in the conservation of Krill.  The book is rather short on the actual science of Krill life, other than the bits that are involved in finding out where the Krill congregate so they can be harvested.  The chapter explaining the Southern Ocean was interesting and beautifully written.  The chapter on Krill conservation efforts involves a whole lot of commissions, conventions, meetings and politicing which makes for dull reading.  The writing is poetic, but tends to be repetitative in some instances.  I got that Krill weren't microscopic bugs the first time the author mentioned it.  He didn't need to repeat it at least 3 times each chapter.  An interesting book, but extremely superficial where it covers the curious life of Krill, and rather more detailed about fishing, studying and conserving Krill.

 

NOTE:  This book is specifically about the Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superba), and does not deal with Krill found elsewhere.

 

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text 2018-05-20 13:46
Elephants

Lynn and MbD's exchange about elephants reminded me of Beryl Markham's comments on the subject in West With the Night, which FWIW I'll just render here verbatim:

"I suppose, if there were a part of the world in which mastodon still lived, somebody would design a new gun, and men, in their eternal impudence, would hunt mastodon as they now hunt elephant.  Impudence seems to be the word.  At least David and Goliath were of the same species, but, to an elephant, a man can only be a midge with a deathly sting.

 

It is absurd for a man to kill an elephant.  It is not brutal, it is not heroic, and certainly it is not easy; it is just one of those preposterous things that men do like putting a dam across a great river, one tenth of whose volume could engulf the whole of mankind without disturbing the domestic life of a single catfish.

 

Elephant, beyond the fact that their size and conformation are aesthetically more suited to the trading of this earth than our angular informity, have an average intelligence comparable to our own.  Of course they are less agile and phyiscally less adaptable than ourselves -- Nature having developed their bodies in one direction and their brains in another, while human beings, on the other hand, drew from Mr. Darwin's lottery of evolution both the winning ticket and the stub to match it.  This, I suppose, is why we are so wonderful and can make movies and electric razors and wireless sets -- and guns with which to shoot the elephant, the hare, clay pigeons, and each other.

 

The elephant is a rational animal.  He thinks.  Blix [NB: Baron Bror Blixen, Karen Blixen's husband and Markham's close friend] and I (also rational animals in our own right) have never quite agreed in the mental attributes of the elephant.  I know Blix is not to be doubted because he has learned more about elephant than any other man I ever met, or even head about, but he looks upon legend with a suspicious eye, and I do not.  [...]

 

But still, there is no mystery about the things you see yourself.

 

I think I am the first person ever to scout elephant by plane, and so it follows that the thousands of elephant I saw time and again from the air had never before been plagued by anything above their heads more ominous than tick-birds.

 

The reaction of a herd of elephant to my Avian [plane] was, in the initial instance, always the same -- they left their feeding ground and tried to find cover, though often, before yielding, one or two of the bulls would prepare for battle and charge in the direction of the place if it were low enough to be within their scope of vision. Once the futility of this was realized, the entire herd would be off into the deepest bush.

 

Checking again on the whereabouts of the same herd next day, I always found that a good deal of thinking had been going on amongst them during the night.  On the basis of their reaction to my second intrusion, I judged that their thoughts had run somewhat like this: A: The thing that flew over us was no bird, since no bird would have to work so hard to stay in the air -- and anyway, we know all the birds.  B: If it was no bird, it was very likely just another trick of those two-legged dwarfs against whom there ought to be a law.  C: The two-legged dwarfs (both black and white) have, as long as our long memories go back, killed our bulls for their tusks.  We know this because, in the case of the white dwarfs, at least, the tusks are the only part taken away.

 

The actions of the elephant, based upon this reasoning, were always sensible and practical.  The second time they saw the Avian, they refused to hide; instead, the females, who bear only small, valueless tusks, simply grouped themselves around their treasure-burdened bulls in such a way that no ivory could be seen from the air or from any other approach.

 

This can be maddening strategy to an elephant scout.  I have spent the better part of an hour circling, criss-crossing, and diving low over some of the most inhospitable country in Africa in an effort to break such a stubborn huddle, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

 

But the tactics vary.  More than once I have come upon a large and solitary elephant standing with enticing disregard for safety, its massive bulk in clear view, but its head buried in thicket.  This was, on the part of the elephant, no effort to simulate the nonsensical habit attributed to the ostrich.  It was, on the contrary, a cleverly devised trap into which I fell, every way except physically, at least a dozen times.  The beast always proved to be a large cow rather than a bull, and I always found that by the time I had arrived at this brilliant if tardy deduction, the rest of the herd had got another ten miles away, and the decoy, leering up at me out of a small, triumphant eye, would amble into the open, wave her trunk with devastating nonchalance, and disappear."

And a little later she warns:

"Elephant hunters may be unconscionable brutes, but it would be an error to regard the elephant as an altogether pacific animal.  The popular belief that only the so-called 'rogue' elephant is dangerous to men is quite wrong -- so wrong that a considerable number of men who believed it have become one with the dust without even their just due of gradual disintegration.  A normal bull elephant, aroused by the scent of man, will often attack at once -- and his speed is as unbelievable as his mobility.  His trunk and his feet are his weapons -- at least in the distateful business of exterminating a mere human; those resplendent sabres of ivory await resplendent foes."

And she proceeds to prove her point by recounting an instance where she and Baron Blixen literally came within an inch of being reduced to dust themselves, courtesy of a large elephant bull.

 

Markham, one of aviation history's great female pioneers (among several other accomplishments), was hired as an aerial scout by elephant hunters in a time when the ecological devastation wrought by their dubious occupation was not a noticeable concern; and she makes no bones about the fact that this was part of how she was earning her living at the time.  Given her comments in the opening paragraphs of this excerpt, however, and her alertness to the the unconscionable havoc that humans with guns can wreak, I would like to think that she'd be on the side of conservation these days (even if she'd probably also be unapologetic about her past) -- having grown up in Africa and considering it home, she clearly loved its wildlife vastly better than most of its human society.  Her comments elsewhere in the book (as well as, again in the opening paragraphs of this excerpt) also make it quite clear that like most of those who have seen the damage that guns can do in action, she was appalled by the notion of easy access to guns, and of guns in hands where they don't belong.  In another part of the book, she quotes with approval her friend (and flying instructor) Tom Black's disdainful comment on an amateur hunter's severe injuries at the claws of a lion he'd shot but not killed immediately: "Lion, rifles -- and stupidity" ... and she makes it perfectly clear that from her point of view, the lion's later death from its gunshot wounds was the vastly more regrettable and anger-inducing outcome of that encounter than the hunter's injuries.

 

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review 2018-04-06 22:20
Save the mountain gorillas
Gorillas in the Mist - Dian Fossey

Much like when I reviewed Jane Goodall's In the Shadow of Man, I quickly fell in love with the gorillas that Dian Fossey describes in exquisite detail in her book Gorillas in the Mist. (You may have heard of it.) Dr. Fossey moved to the Virungas of Africa (Zaire, Uganda, and Rwanda) to study the mountain gorillas that lived there. That study ended up taking nearly 20 years. However, she wasn't only studying the habits of the gorillas but also the parasites, environment (rainfall), vegetation, and the other animals that lived there (elephants, buffalo, duiker). (Basically, whatever she and her team could study they did to increase their chances of getting more grant money and lengthening their stay.) One of the things that Fossey stressed was that it would take more than passive conservation (tourism) to keep the mountain gorillas alive and thriving. She found that active conservation was the only way to go which meant that she had to employ staff to track down poacher's lairs and destroy their supplies and traps. Basically, she was a bada$$ of the highest caliber and the surrounding villagers had a nickname for her (it wasn't sweet lady of the mountain either). She quickly earned a reputation for not backing down and for doing everything within her power to protect these creatures from imminent extinction (which is looking more and more likely). Between poachers, population encroachment, and decreasing territory for the different gorilla groups there were only 242 mountain gorillas left at the end of her nearly two decade study. There are even less now. Fossey's fervent desire was that governments and the people governed by them would want to conserve these animals because they lived in the area providing the only fresh water source for the region. However, deforestation to make way for increasing numbers of people and farms continued no matter what arguments she put forth. I had heard about this book and its movie adaptation before but it wasn't until I saw Ellen DeGeneres talking about it (on her birthday episode) that I decided to finally pick up the book. I am so glad that I did. Even if you only read the appendices (which are absolutely phenomenal) you'd learn so much about these amazing animals and the land they inhabit. You'd also bear witness to the dedication and passion which Fossey had for her research. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Gorillas in the Mist and afterward that you do further research into Fossey because it makes it all the more poignant and meaningful (at least it did for me). 10/10

 

Source: My Hero

What's Up Next: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

 

What I'm Currently Reading: juggling 3 books as the mood strikes me.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2016-10-22 05:52
#5 - Forest - an exploration of wild things, wild places and intimate relationships
FOREST - Love, Loss, Legend - Rod Raglin

How I came to write my fifth novel, Forest - Love, Loss and Legend.

 

My fifth novel was being written in my head even before I put anything on paper (more precisely typed anything into my laptop). It was the residuals of past works.

 

Left over from The Big Picture - A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic was my research into the drug war in Mexico which my heroine Freyja covered as a photo journalist. I'd also done some investigating of failed states and civil wars throughout Africa where she was going on her next assignment. Added to that was my fascination with war correspondents and how they cope with a steady diet of death, destruction, chaos and hopelessness.

 

I also wanted to delve deeper into intimate relationships - what attracts us, what keep us engaged and what are the impediments to long lasting relationships? I'd touch on this in my previous novels with the turbulent romances between Freyja and Marty, and Freyja and Miguel in The Big Picture, and Dieter and Maggie in Not Wonder More - Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients. I wanted to explore further how different values, different cultures, timing and circumstances impact on how, who and when we fall in love - and if it lasts.

 

I set this book in the Pacific Northwest of Canada - perhaps one of the few areas on the planet where there still are vast tracts of wilderness. Where, behind an impenetrable wall of green it was as my hero, Matt Bennett says, “easy to imagine no human had ever set foot a hundred metres on either side of the road. Species could come to life, thrive and die without anyone except God ever knowing they existed.”

 

This land is a place of legend and mystery and if you're born and raised here and take an interest in the wild things and wild places as I have, well, there's no end to fascinating tales with just enough substantiated fact to whet the imagination. Two of which I incorporated into this story.

 

Here's the blurb that introduces the novel.

 

Matthew and Raminder are young, idealistic and in love.

As soon as they can they plan to leave behind the small town and small minds of Pitt Landing. They will embrace life and experience the world, maybe even change it.

Man plans, God laughs. Raminder’s father has a stroke and her commitment to her family means she must postpone her plans and stay in Pitt Lake. It’s just the opposite for Matt. A family tragedy leaves irreconcilable differences between him and his father and forces him to leave.

They promise to reunite, but life happens.

Twelve years later, Matt is an acclaimed war correspondent. He’s seen it all and it’s left him with post-traumatic stress, a gastric ulcer, and an enlarged liver. He’s never been back to Pitt Landing though the memory of Raminder and their love has more than once kept him sane.

He’s at his desk in the newsroom, recuperating from his last assignment and current hangover and reading a letter from his father, the first contact they’ve had in over a decade. It talks about a legendary lost gold mine, a map leading to it, and proof in a safety deposit box back in Pitt Lake. He’s sent it to Matt in case something happens to him and cautions his son to keep it a secret.

Matt is about to dismiss the letter when the telephone rings. It’s Raminder telling him his father has disappeared somewhere in the wilderness that surrounds Pitt Lake.

Lost gold, lost love and lost hope compels Matt to return home to Pitt Landing, a dying town on the edge of the rainforest on the west coast of Canada. Will he find any of these, or does something else await him?

 

This novel also gave me an opportunity to revisit one of my central themes - the environment, specifically the protection of endangered species and forest conservation.

 

Quite inadvertently it also turned out to be a mystery.

 

Forest - Love, Loss, Legend was released in January 2015 with no expectations. Sales have been dismal despite the handful of very flattering reviews it has garnered.

 

Perhaps because it was told from only one point of view, Forest was easy to write. Too easy. I resolved that my next book would be more challenging in format and content.

 

You can check all my published work at my Amazon Author Page at

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

 

Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.

 

30

 

 

 

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review 2015-10-03 04:44
Gotta love a good thought experiment!
The World Without Us - Alan Weisman

Some books that you read make you question everything. Alan Weisman's The World Without Us is definitely one of those books. The book seeks to answer the question 'What would happen to the world if humans were to disappear?' I've read books that look at it from the flip side of the coin where humans have destroyed the planet to such a degree that humanity can no longer be sustained. It was interesting to look at the reverse. Weisman looked at the issue from a variety of viewpoints. He looked at the evolution of humans and their impact on the megafauna and megaflora of the planet. His point there was that although much of the animals and plants were eradicated by us, variations of these have survived into present day. Therefore, if humanity were to disappear nature would find a way to carry on and maybe another kind of humanity would take our place. He also looked at the damage we have done through chemical processes (I'm talking nuclear) and whether or not the planet's remaining inhabitants could survive. He went to a variety of places where it was as close to being primeval as possible (Kingman Reef) and also those places which were irrevocably changed by us (Chernobyl). He spoke to scientists of all disciplines (many of which sound like amazing careers that I need to look into immediately). It was a thoroughly researched and thought provoking read and I encourage anyone interested in conservancy and ecology to go and give this book a shot.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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