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review 2018-07-26 06:55
The Fall of the Wild by Ben A. Minteer
The Fall of the Wild: Extinction, De-Extinction, and the Ethics of Conservation - Ben A. Minteer

TITLE:  The Fall of the Wild:  Extinction, De-extinction, & the Ethics of Conservation

 

AUTHOR:  Ben A. Minteer

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:       

4 December 2018

 

FORMAT: ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9780231177788

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Book Description:

"The passenger pigeon, the great auk, the Tasmanian tiger—the memory of these vanished species haunts the fight against extinction. Seeking to save other creatures from their fate in an age of accelerating biodiversity loss, wildlife advocates have become captivated by a narrative of heroic conservation efforts. A range of technological and policy strategies, from the traditional, such as regulations and refuges, to the novel—the scientific wizardry of genetic engineering and synthetic biology—seemingly promise solutions to the extinction crisis.

In The Fall of the Wild, Ben A. Minteer calls for reflection on the ethical dilemmas of species loss and recovery in an increasingly human-driven world. He asks an unsettling but necessary question: Might our well-meaning efforts to save and restore wildlife pose a threat to the ideal of preserving a world that isn’t completely under the human thumb? Minteer probes the tension between our impulse to do whatever it takes and the risk of pursuing strategies that undermine our broader commitment to the preservation of wildness. From collecting wildlife specimens for museums and the wilderness aspirations of zoos to visions of “assisted colonization” of new habitats and high-tech attempts to revive long-extinct species, he explores the scientific and ethical concerns vexing conservation today. The Fall of the Wild is a nuanced treatment of the deeper moral issues underpinning the quest to save species on the brink of extinction and an accessible intervention in debates over the principles and practice of nature conservation."

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This book focuses on the ethics, pros and cons, of a variety of conservation methods.  Ben Minteer makes use of several popular examples to make his point.  Examples and topics that make an appearance in this book include the Passenger Pigeon, Great Auk, Thylacine, Elephants, American Bison, Condors, specimen collecting of marginal species, captive breeding programmes, the future appearance of zoos (think Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs), species translocation, assisted colonization of endeangered species outside their usual range, resurrection science, and the limits of technological "fixes" to problems.

What the author has tried to promote in this book is an alternative environmental ethic, what he calls "pragmatic preservationism".  This concept captures two core ideas regarding conservation"  (1) the growing need to intervene more aggressively to save species in a rapidly changing environment; and (2) an acknowledgement of our resonsibility to preseve a convincing sense of the wild and a respect for nature as we implement (or not) these interventions.  

While this isn't a particularly original or detailed examination of the topic, it does make for an interesting, well-written, thought-provoking, enjoyable and short introduction to conservation ethics, with no irrelevant biographical side tangents.

 

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review 2018-07-19 07:41
Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn
Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live - Rob Dunn

TITLE:  Never Home Alone:  From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live

 

AUTHOR: Rob Dunn

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:       

6 November 2018

 

FORMAT: ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13: 9781541645769

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Book Description:

"A natural history of the wilderness in our homes, from the microbes in our showers to the crickets in our basements

Even when the floors are sparkling clean and the house seems silent, our domestic domain is wild beyond imagination. In Never Home Alone, biologist Rob Dunn introduces us to the nearly 200,000 species living with us in our own homes, from the Egyptian meal moths in our cupboards and camel crickets in our basements to the lactobacillus lounging on our kitchen counters. You are not alone. Yet, as we obsess over sterilizing our homes and separating our spaces from nature, we are unwittingly cultivating an entirely new playground for evolution. These changes are reshaping the organisms that live with us--prompting some to become more dangerous, while undermining those species that benefit our bodies or help us keep more threatening organisms at bay. No one who reads this engrossing, revelatory book will look at their homes in the same way again."

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Never Home Alone explores the variety of life that shares our living spaces with us, from microbes and fungi, to insects and other arthropods; as well as the ways in which those lifeforms are evolving.  This is a well written, popular science book that shows us that the ecosystems in our homes are more diverse than we may suspect, and that most of our co-inhabitants are beneficial or benign as opposed to harmful.  The author’s enthusiasm for this subject is evident as he tells readers about various interesting studies about the creatures living with us.   

 

The author discusses such things as swabbing the International Space station (ISS) for bacteria and fungi; chronic autoimmune diseases associated with lack of microbes; microbes living in water heaters, showerheads, tap water, dry-walling; technophilic fungi that eat metal and plastics; the “uses” that our co-inhabitants may provide in terms of health and industrial applications; the evolution of pesticide resistance and the use of social spiders as non-toxic fly catchers; pets and the additional creatures they bring indoors; fermented food and bread making (Herman the yeast starter makes an appearance here); and the inoculation of beneficial microbes to prevent colonization by harmful microbes. 

 

I found the sections that deal with microbes and fungi on the Space Stations (ISS and Mir) to be especially interesting.  Dunn points out that these fungi are more successful in establishing themselves in space in terms of procreation and living out many generations, that humans have been. 

 

I really would have loved more scientific details, but that’s just my preference.  I found this book to be interesting and informative, with a chatty and informal writing style. Human houses provide living spaces and ecosystems for a myriad of organisms. After reading this book, you will never look at your home in the same way again.

 

 

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review 2018-07-10 09:15
The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee
The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions - Thomas McNamee

TITLE:  The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions

 

AUTHOR:  Thomas McNamee

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780316262873

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Book Description:

"Our feline companions are much-loved but often mysterious. In The Inner Life of Cats, Thomas McNamee blends scientific reportage with engaging, illustrative anecdotes about his own beloved cat, Augusta, to explore and illuminate the secrets and enigmas of her kind.

As it begins, The Inner Life of Cats follows the development of the young Augusta while simultaneously explaining the basics of a kitten's physiological and psychological development. As the narrative progresses, McNamee also charts cats' evolution, explores a feral cat colony in Rome, tells the story of Augusta's life and adventures, and consults with behavioral experts, animal activists, and researchers, who will help readers more fully understand cats.

McNamee shows that with deeper knowledge of cats' developmental phases and individual idiosyncrasies, we can do a better job of guiding cats' maturation and improving the quality of their lives. Readers' relationships with their feline friends will be happier and more harmonious because of this book.
"

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This book was less about the inner lives of cats, or the science and secrets of cats than an ode and memoir about the author's cat, Augusta. 

 

The science bits were interesting though some of the numbers quoted lack a reference and make verification difficult.  There were also many interesting sections on feral cats in Rome, sensory input and raising kittens and the semi-domestic nature of cats, as well as the stupidity of humans who keep wild animals in their homes and are surprised when it eats them or shreds the house.  The majority of the book involves stories about Augusta.  Sometimes these stories tied in with the more informative parts of the book, sometimes they didn't. 

 

I haven't lived with a cat for years, so I'm not as inclined as cat-owners to go all soppy over the Augusta sections (maybe if Augusta was a German Shepherd it might have been different), but I did find the book entertaining and well-written though lacking in science.

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OTHER BOOKS:

 

-The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker

 

- Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life by Matin Durrani & Liz Kalaugher

 

- Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World by Richard C. Francis

 

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review 2018-07-09 07:49
BUZZ by THOR HANSON
Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees - Thor Hanson

TITLE:  Buzz:  The Nature and Necessity of Bees

 

AUTHOR:  Thor Hanson

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  10 July 2018

 

FORMAT:  ARC ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9780465052615

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NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

_________________________________

 

Book Description:

"From the award-winning author of The Triumph of Seeds and Feathers, a natural and cultural history of the buzzing wee beasties that make the world go round.


Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, the beloved Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing.


As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect. Read this book and you'll never overlook them again.
"

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Buzz by Thor Hanson is a wonderfully written book about bees - all sorts of bees.  The author does not focus on honeybees, but "celebrates bees in general, from leafcutters and bumbles to masons, miners, diggers, carpenters, wool-carders, and more."  This is not a book about honey-bees and how to cultivate them.

Hanson starts off with why bees are important, then delves into their evolution from wasps, bee anatomy, habitats and habits, as well as the special relationship bees and flowers have.  Without bees the colourful and fragrant flowers we have today would not exist.  There is also a fascinating section on honeyguides (a species of bird), early hominins and their possible evolutionary honey munching habits.  Hanson also briefly covers Colony Collapse Disorder, the decrease in wild bees in connection with current mono-culture farming habits, how farmers are working to provide more habitat for wild bees, and how our food is reliant on bee pollination.

This book is well-written, informative, wide-ranging book on a fascinating topic, made more personal with Hanson's observations and experiences.  Thor Hanson loves bees and this is evident through out the book.

 

 

 

NOTE FROM BOOK:  "A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to help preserve and protect wil bees."

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-07-02 12:45
Fortress Plant by Dale Walters
 Fortress Plant: How to Survive When Everything Wants to Eat You - Dale Walters

TITLE:  Fortress Plant:  How to Survive When Everything Wants to Eat You

 

AUTHOR:  Dale Walters

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Hardback

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-19-874560-0

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From the blurb:

"Everything, it seems, is out to get you - bacteria, fungi, insects, vegetarians... even other plants.  So how do you survive?  As Dale Walters explains in this extraordinary account, you fight back.  And plants are not short of weaponry.  Constant vigilance, rapid communications systems, several lines of fortifications, chemical weapons, insect allies - all are deployed against invaders.  And you can't rest.  You have to keep innovating, and sharpening your defences, because you can be sure your enemies will be finding ways around them.

 

All this, of course, happens withot direction of purpose.  These are evolutionary arms races resulting from natural selection.  But they are no less deadly for that."

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Dale Walters makes use of an amusing fortress metaphor (the plant is the fortress and bacteria, fungi, insects, vegetarians etc are the invaders) to explore the large variety of methods stationary plants use to defend themselves from everything that want to eat them.  This book is divided into chapters on "recognizing the enemy", alerting the plant of imminent invasion "call to arms", the weapons of war, the variety of chemical compounds used to deter/destroy invaders, aid from plant "friends", and the never-ending evolving arms-race between plants and their enemies.  This book is written with the intelligent, intersted reader in mind - not everything is over-explained or simplified and there is a fair amount of botany and biochemistry involved.  However,   I do not believe that there is anything particularly difficult to understand in this book provided the reader is paying attention and not expecting to breeze through the book.  I found this book very interesting, with a lovely writing style, juicy science stuff and no irrelevant biographical side tangents.  The multitude of photographs were also very useful.

 

 

 

 

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