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The Green Life: Book Review Wednesday: Books About Endangered Species

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November 25, 2009

Book Review Wednesday: Books About Endangered Species

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week we’re recommending books about endangered species.

Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink (by Jane Goodall and Thane Maynard, $28, Grand Central Publishing, Sept. 2009): This is not your average doom-and-gloom species-decline book. As the title implies, the authors focus on the diligent efforts of conservationists to save species that were on the edge of extinction. They provide a very thorough summary of past and ongoing efforts to save all sorts of plants, birds, insects, and other animals, supplying a promising message of hope that not all is lost in today’s world. This book will go over well with anyone who loves Goodall’s writing or just needs some good news.

On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear (by Richard Ellis, $29, Knopf, Nov. 2009): The polar bear has become the poster child for climate change. We see its image everywhere, but how much do we actually know about the fascinating creature? Marine conservationist Richard Ellis covers a broad natural history of the species, ranging from its initial interaction with humans to the impact of the changing climate. While the danger of the bears' livelihood and natural habitat becomes imminent, Ellis writes that the polar bear can be salvaged if immediate action is taken. A must-read for animal lovers and those seeking an in-depth look at the polar bear.

Nature’s Ghosts: Confronting Extinction from the Age of Jefferson to the Age of Ecology (by Mark V. Barrow, Jr., $35, University of Chicago Press, Oct. 2009): Though the environmental movement and Endangered Species Act came alive in the early 1970s, Barrow proves that the threat of extinction has been an issue since America’s beginnings. As species decline became more apparent, he recounts, scientists started to realize the human impact on wildlife. These observations spawned educational and political campaigns that helped lay the foundation for species protection. This book tells the history of endangered animals in the U.S., and is ideal for those interested in the history of American wildlife conservation.

Extinction in Our Times: Global Amphibian Decline (by James Collins and Martha Crump, $30, Oxford University Press, July 2009): If you're an amphibian lover, this book is for you. The authors use the recent and mysterious worldwide decline of amphibians as a lens from which to view larger climate-change and conservation issues, analyzing how humans might be causing these extinctions and affecting the planet's biodiversity.

Witness to Extinction: How We Failed to Save the Yangtze River Dolphin (by Samuel Turvey, $17, Oxford University Press, Oct. 2009): Turvey tells a firsthand story about how environmental degradation and apathy led to the 2007 extinction of the baiji – the Yangtze River dolphin. For years, the dolphin had been at risk but Chinese officials failed to act. Turvey highlights the failures that led to the extinction, and writes that such inaction must be prevented so that other threatened species don't fall to the same fate. This is an eye-opening tale of how people must not be complacent, especially in regard to nature.

--Michael Mullaley

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