In the early months of 2020, the world’s attention was riveted on Australia, where the nation’s iconic wildlife fought for survival in the face of unprecedented wildfires. Images of koalas drinking from firefighters’ water bottles went viral and became the global face of a catastrophe that would kill as many as three billion animals. Known as the Black Summer, the fire season was responsible for more wildlife deaths and near-extinctions than any other single event in Australian history. Flames of Extinction, written by a journalist at the heart of this news coverage, is the first book to tell the stories of Australia’s record-setting fires, focusing on the wild animals and plants that will be forever changed.
As news of the fires spread around the world, journalist John Pickrell was inundated with requests for articles about the danger to Australia’s wildlife. The picture seemed grim, from charred koalas to flames that burned so hot not even animal skeletons remained. But Pickrell’s reporting exposed a larger picture of hope. Flames of Extinction tells the story of the scientists, wildlife rehabilitators, and community members who came together to save wildlife and protect them in the future.
As climate change intensifies and devastating wildfires become more commonplace, Australia’s Black Summer offers a poignant warning to the rest of the world. Through evocative and urgent storytelling, Flames of Extinction puts readers on the ground to witness the aftermath of one of Australia’s greatest tragedies and inside the inspiring effort to save lives.
For such simple garments, hats have had a devastating impact on wildlife throughout their long history. Made of wild-caught mammal furs, decorated with feathers or whole stuffed birds, historically they have driven many species to near extinction. By the turn of the twentieth century, egrets, shot for their exuberant white neck plumes, had been decimated; the wild ostrich, killed for its feathers until the early 1900s, was all but extirpated; and vast numbers of birds of paradise from New Guinea and hummingbirds from the Americas were just some of the other birds killed to decorate ladies’ hats. At its peak, the hat trade was estimated to be killing 200 million birds a year. At the end of the nineteenth century, it was a trade valued at £20 million (over $25 million) a year at the London feather auctions. Weight for weight, exotic feathers were more valuable than gold. Today, while no wild birds are captured for feather decoration, some wild animals are still trapped and killed for hatmaking. A fascinating read, Hats will have you questioning the history of your headwear.
We are currently facing the sixth mass extinction of species in the history of life on Earth, biologists claim—the first one caused by humans. Activists, filmmakers, writers, and artists are seeking to bring the crisis to the public’s attention through stories and images that use the strategies of elegy, tragedy, epic, and even comedy. Imagining Extinction is the first book to examine the cultural frameworks shaping these narratives and images.
Ursula K. Heise argues that understanding these stories and symbols is indispensable for any effective advocacy on behalf of endangered species. More than that, she shows how biodiversity conservation, even and especially in its scientific and legal dimensions, is shaped by cultural assumptions about what is valuable in nature and what is not. These assumptions are hardwired into even seemingly neutral tools such as biodiversity databases and laws for the protection of endangered species. Heise shows that the conflicts and convergences of biodiversity conservation with animal welfare advocacy, environmental justice, and discussions about the Anthropocene open up a new vision of multispecies justice. Ultimately, Imagining Extinction demonstrates that biodiversity, endangered species, and extinction are not only scientific questions but issues of histories, cultures, and values.
Planet Without Apes
Craig B. Stanford Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress QL737.P96S733 2012 | Dewey Decimal 599.88
Planet Without Apes demands that we consider whether we can live with the consequences of wiping our closest relatives off the face of the Earth. Leading primatologist Craig Stanford warns that extinction of the great apes—chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans—threatens to become a reality within just a few human generations. We are on the verge of losing the last links to our evolutionary past, and to all the biological knowledge about ourselves that would die along with them. The crisis we face is tantamount to standing aside while our last extended family members vanish from the planet.
Stanford sees great apes as not only intelligent but also possessed of a culture: both toolmakers and social beings capable of passing cultural knowledge down through generations. Compelled by his field research to take up the cause of conservation, he is unequivocal about where responsibility for extinction of these species lies. Our extermination campaign against the great apes has been as brutal as the genocide we have long practiced on one another. Stanford shows how complicity is shared by people far removed from apes’ shrinking habitats. We learn about extinction’s complex links with cell phones, European meat eaters, and ecotourism, along with the effects of Ebola virus, poverty, and political instability.
Even the most environmentally concerned observers are unaware of many specific threats faced by great apes. Stanford fills us in, and then tells us how we can redirect the course of an otherwise bleak future.
Featuring numerous illustrations, this book explores the many lessons to be learned from Pleistocene megafauna, including the role of humans in their extinction, their disappearance at the start of the Sixth Extinction, and what they might teach us about contemporary conservation crises.
Long after the extinction of dinosaurs, when humans were still in the Stone Age, woolly rhinos, mammoths, mastodons, sabertooth cats, giant ground sloths, and many other spectacular large animals that are no longer with us roamed the Earth. These animals are regarded as “Pleistocene megafauna,” named for the geological era in which they lived—also known as the Ice Age.
In Vanished Giants: The Lost World of the Ice Age, paleontologist Anthony J. Stuart explores the lives and environments of these animals, moving between six continents and several key islands. Stuart examines the animals themselves via what we’ve learned from fossil remains, and he describes the landscapes, climates, vegetation, ecological interactions, and other aspects of the animals’ existence. Illustrated throughout, Vanished Giants also offers a picture of the world as it was tens of thousands of years ago when these giants still existed. Unlike the case of the dinosaurs, there was no asteroid strike to blame for the end of their world. Instead, it appears that the giants of the Ice Age were driven to extinction by climate change, human activities—especially hunting—or both. Drawing on the latest evidence provided by radiocarbon dating, Stuart discusses these possibilities. The extinction of Ice Age megafauna can be seen as the beginning of the so-called Sixth Extinction, which is happening right now. This has important implications for understanding the likely fate of present-day animals in the face of contemporary climate change and vastly increasing human populations.