What is the purpose of a zoo? Is it a place offering its visitors to opportunity to view animals from far off lands? Is it a public space where people can gather, perhaps for events such as concerts of simply to meet for a few hours of relaxation? Is it a research institution where the animals collected can be studied under controlled conditions? Is it a center of wildlife conservation in which rare animals can be protected and breeding programs undertaken to increase their numbers? Is it a socio-political tool for the creation or reinforcement of a national identity? Is it a cause around which a society can rally in times of or following a national crisis?
Over its long and colorful history, the Berlin Zoo has been all these things. It has embodied the best and worst of governmental practice and human behavior, and been the site of magnificent as well as horrific activities – as well as some that embody such multi-faceted moral complexity that they pose significant and deeply challenging questions for us today even long after their cessation. Indeed, to tell its story well, an author would have to be a historian of exceptional skill, possessing both expansive knowledge and great perspicacity; and in his new Through the Lion Gate; A History of the Berlin Zoo, Gary Bruce proves quite clearly that he is just such an author. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
Deep in the Peruvian rain forest, a helicopter descends into a clearing. Moving quickly, its passengers emerge from its open side doors and spring nimbly to the ground the moment its skids touch the surface. They have to move fast to get their equipment unloaded and operational. Time is of the essence. The rest of the team will arrive soon; everything must be set up for when they do. No effort can be wasted if they are going to complete their assignment; everything must flow seamlessly – and even then, they all know that the their task is, realistically, impossible. They will simply have to do all they can before their designated extraction time. Keep reading…
The scene: England in the middle ages. King Arthur and his faithful servant Patsy have just clip-clopped by two men standing by the road.
Large Man: Who’s that then?
Dead Collector: I dunno. Must be a king.
Large Man: Why?
Dead Collector: He hasn’t got shit all over him.
(Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
Once, not so very long ago, people all around the world lived with dung as a part of their daily lives. If they lived in the countryside, there was a dung pile somewhere nearby. If they lived in a city, the draft animals that provided the engines of transportation dropped it copiously in the streets. Then, of course, there was the little matter of all the human waste that needed to be managed in both these environments; and without central plumbing, that meant various “closets” and pots (often emptied directly into gutters, sometimes out of upper-story windows) in the city and simple latrines (at best) of varying forms in the country side. Keep reading…
Mark on Sundays
Rather than his own review of a book this week, Mark has dedicated his Sunday book review to the winner of his recently concluded book reviewing contest. The challenge: review George Monbiot’s book “Feral; Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life.” The submitted reviews were then read, critiqued, and scored by a most eminent and distinguished panel of judges. The one with the best marks was then declared to be the winner.
Newly Noted Books
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man / is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” So wrote John Donne in his oft-quoted Meditation XVII. Theodore Fleming, we can assume has, at least at some point in the past, likely read Donne’s famous meditation, and perhaps was even thinking about it as he examined the discoveries he made in his study of cactus pollination and pollinators near Sonora, Mexico.
When it comes to field guides pertinent to the United States and Canada, while the massive full country editions are often very helpful for study and reference, the breath-taking variety of eco-regions to be found within the continent’s temperate zone renders such volumes often far too large and cumbersome for field use.
I couldn’t help but find it particularly ironic that the day after the first rains my home state of Oregon had seen for months finally arrived, providing much-needed help to the valiant fire fighters working around the clock trying to extinguish the massive forest fires raging throughout the state, that a copy of Edward Struzik’s new “Firestorm” arrived on my desk from Island Press.
If there was ever a more appropriate time than the beginning of The Wildlife Society’s annual conference to publish news of the recently published “Becoming a Wildlife Professional” from Johns Hopkins University Press, I cannot think of what it might possibly be.
It only took me a few pages of reading in Leslie T. Sharpe’s “The Quarry Fox And Other Critters of the Wild Catskills,” recently published by The Overlook Press, to find myself wondering if I wasn’t in fact reading a long-lost essay by sage of the Catskills himself, John Burroughs.
At the recently concluded BirdFair, should you have popped in at the Princeton University Press stand you would have noticed two new additions to the Britain’s Wildlife series prominently featured: Britain’s Spiders and Britain’s Mammals. While the spider guide has yet to reach my desk, a copy of the one for mammals appeared just this past week.
The Well-equipped Naturalist
For as long as I’ve ventured afield in search of whatever nature might wish to show me, I’ve gone fully vested. That is to say, I’ve worn a field vest. Not that I have anything against day packs or shoulder bags, mind you; I just find that vests (or as my British friends call them, waistcoats) allow me to carry what I need in a way that allows me easy access to all of it while still letting me move about with a feeling of being unencumbered.
On the day this article is published, it will be exactly one month until the day of the 2017 North American Solar Eclipse; an event that is expected to cause tens of millions of people to stop what they are doing and turn their eyes (properly protected, it is hoped) skyward to witness one of […]
The recent arrival of a copy of “The Oxford Handbook of the Science of Science Communication” spurred me to look further into the Oxford Handbook series as a whole. What I found was indeed quite a remarkable selection of high-level but still remarkably readable collections of scholarly articles on a wide range of subjects.