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PDF Download - Society of Environmental Journalists

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Book Shelfconcern with

Book Shelfconcern with storytelling, and Neuzil has given us the history ofthe story of the millennia.Bill Kovarik is a communications professor and coordinator ofthe journalism program at Radford University in Virginia.Reviewed by GREG HARMANWhat would the Bushmendo? This book tells you.Heart of Dryness:How the Last BushmenCan Help Us Endurethe Coming Age ofPermanent Droughtby James G. WorkmanWalker & Company$26In the history of the conservation movement, notions ofwilderness have rarely included people. Homo sapiens wereuniversally tagged as the hapless despoilers of the land. Nearly 30years ago, writer Gary Paul Nabhan exposed a notable exceptionto this ingrained prejudice by examining two desert oases — A’alWaipia, located inside Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus NationalMonument, and Ki:towak, across the Mexican border.De-peopled of subsistence farmers by the U.S. Parks Servicein 1957, A’al Waipia had since choked on sediment, Nabhan wrotein The Desert Smells Like Rain. It regressed to a quiet pondvisited by few animals or people, while across the border, atKi:towak, fruit trees bloomed and insects rushed about thanks toirrigation that made use of local springs. Native greens and healingherbs grew across the border and biological surveys showedhuman partnership with the land doubled the amount of birdspecies present.The Parks system also drove out Lakota, Crow, Blackfeet,and Miwok from enormous parks like Yellowstone and Yosemiteto preserve that “virgin” country. And so it was that the governmentof former president Festus Mogae began to drive theBushmen of Botswana’s Kalahari Reserve off their land whileexploiting global affection for the African elephant, writes JamesWorkman in Heart of Dryness.In his well-researched book, Workman argues that ourincreasingly thirsty world desperately needs the knowledge ofthose we persecute in the name of saving the Earth.Workman tracks the unraveling of what had been one of themost successful democracies in Africa as Mogae pressed for thetotal removal of the few remaining bands of subsistence huntergathererswho attempted — during what turned out to be theplanet’s hottest years on record — to hold onto their traditionalways. The fight came to a climactic moment a few years ago whenhe ordered the dismantling of the sole federal water pump insidethe game reserve. Workman spent time with the Bushmen,learning how they gathered the water they needed from aparched landscape.Though many human-rights organizations mobilized againstMogae’s efforts to drive out the Bushmen, Workman suggests itgot a wink from American and European wildlife biologists. Afterall, in protecting the elephant’s wide-ranging habitat, entireecosystems are preserved as well. For Botswana, there wasnothing quite like it for the balance sheet: tourism-relatedrevenues climbed in pace with the growth of the elephant population.“The trouble with indigenous people, it seemed,” Workmanwrites, “was that they generated insufficient cash flow, especiallyforeign exchange from ecotourists.”But it wasn’t only elephants and tourist dollars motivatingMogae’s government to sustain a low-intensity war upon theBushmen. The world’s largest diamond company, De Beers,reportedly had its eye on the Kalahari for new mining sites. In aregion where native peoples are frequently relocated to make wayfor development projects, the case against the Bushmen wasexacerbated by the inherited racism of the dominant Tswana,many of whom ridiculed the Bushmen as a “serf” class or asembarrassing “Stone Age” creatures. “If the Bushmen want tosurvive, they must change,” Mogae had said in 1996, “otherwise,like the dodo they will perish.”Workman uses the story of Bushmen resistance to tell abroader story about the looming global water crisis that is alreadyrecasting political relationships around the planet. Ultimately,Workman’s book is a rallying cry. It is a call to trade in our leaky,centralized water systems and water-hogging agriculturalmethods with a decentralized model based upon indigenousprinciples. For example, fundamental rights to water would behonored for all, but only at a level to ensure healthy survival.He turns the tables on centuries of hydrological thought toask, “What Would the Bushmen Do?” The answer — to Workman’smind — doesn’t flow from a United Nations resolutionestablishing an inherent human right to water. Neither does itcome through privatization. Instead it sits somewhere like asubmerged Kalahari sip well, beckoning us to part the sands,fashion our reeds, and reevaluate the value of life itself.Greg Harman is a staff writer at the San Antonio Current. He alsoruns the blog Harman on Earth.www.sej.orgVisit often28 SEJournal Spring 2010

Corwin highlights threats to themost endangered species.Book ShelfReviewed by JENNIFER WEEKS100 Heartbeats:A Journey to Meet OurPlanet’s Endangered Animalsand the Race to Save Earth’sMost Endangered Speciesby Jeff CorwinRodale, $24.99If you didn’t know that Jeff Corwin was an Emmy-winningproducer and television host, you might come away from reading100 Heartbeats convinced that he was a conservationist with abad case of Attention Deficit Disorder. One minute he’s trackingpolar bears above the Arctic Circle; then suddenly he’s riding in ajeep through the forest in India looking for Bengal tigers. After afew pages about habitat fragmentation and poaching, he turns upat a zoo in Spain that breeds endangered Iberian lynxes. Like atelevision newscast, the book is riddled with jump cuts andabrupt transitions.But Corwin has a theme: human impacts have created a majorcrisis for biodiversity on Earth. His book is about members ofwhat he calls the “Hundred Heartbeat Club,” a term borrowedfrom biologist E.O. Wilson to describe critically endangeredspecies that have 100 or fewer individuals alive in the wild today.Corwin has seen many animals that belong to the club or may joinit soon and he uses their stories to illustrate the many threatsdriving them to extinction.He leavens the gloom with stories about conservationistsworking to save threatened species. “[E]very day presents opportunitiesfor us to make a resounding difference in their lives andtheir future as species,” he writes. From panda reserves in Chinato captive black-footed ferret breeding programs in Wyoming,Corwin musters plenty of examples to show that human interventioncan make a difference. But he’s also realistic: once we’veinterfered drastically with a species, he points out, there are noquick fixes – long-term management is the only option.100 Heartbeats is (loosely) structured as an overview ofhuman-generated threats that are driving many species towardextinction. It’s a sorry list that includes climate change, habitatloss and fragmentation, pollution, introduced species, and overhunting,to name just a few of the biggest drivers. Each section isillustrated with animal encounters and vignettes from Corwin’sglobal reporting.Many of these close-ups are poignant, like an encounter withLonesome George, the last giant Abingdon Island tortoise — asubspecies found on one of the Galapagos Islands. George livesat the Charles Darwin Research Station, and researchers are lookingfor closely related female tortoises that they can mate withhim and keep his genetic line going at least one generation longer.He’s only 90-something (giant tortoises are thought to live for 15029 SEJournal Spring 2010years or more), so there’s still time.There’s also Booming Ben, the last heath hen that remainedon Martha’s Vineyard in the 1920s after his species had beeneradicated on the mainland. For five years, Corwin writes, Bencame to the hens’ spring lekking (mating ground) to dance: “Heboomed out his mating call again and again, unaware that therewere no other heath hens to hear him,” before he died in 1932.Many of Corwin’s stories touch on scientific problems, suchas how chytrid fungus attacks and kills frogs, or the harmfulimpacts when keystone species are removed from an ecosystem.The anecdotes are bite-sized, but they show how many unintendedconsequences have resulted from human actions like over-huntingand importing species around the world.Corwin’s writing is uneven. Sometimes he uses vividmetaphors to put readers in the scene: for example, describing baldeagles’ seven-foot nests, he recalls, “The first time I climbedinside one, I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland after eating themushroom that made her very small.” But he also can turn clichédand clunky, writing that seeing an eagle in the wild “feeds mysoul,” or asking rhetorical questions such as “How can we reconcilethe moral chasm that lies between a 5,000-pound rhino carcassand a few harvested horns?”Even when the phrasing gets awkward, though, Corwin’ssincerity feels genuine and unforced. And he doesn’t just say thatwe need to do better — he also rightly points out that conservationpolicies are most effective when they motivate people to changetheir behavior. For example, he argues, the best way to stem theAfrican trade in bushmeat (meat from non-game wild animals likechimpanzees) is not just to ban the practice but to give peopleother sources for income and protein.This book isn’t the source for in-depth case studies or bigpolicy solutions, but it’s a good survey of threats to endangeredspecies and some creative rescue initiatives. If you’re new towriting about wildlife conservation, it’s a good jumping-off point.If you already know the field, you may get inspired to extend someof Corwin’s stories where he leaves off, or to track down the nextcandidate for the Hundred Heartbeat Club.Freelancer Jennifer Weeks lives and writes in Watertown,Massachusetts.SEJ MembersAsk how SEJ can help spread theword about your book.Email linda.knouse@sejhq.org

PDF Download - Society of Environmental Journalists
PDF Download - Society of Environmental Journalists
PDF Download - Society of Environmental Journalists
PDF Download - Society of Environmental Journalists
PDF Download - Society of Environmental Journalists
PDF Download - Society of Environmental Journalists
PDF Download - Society of Environmental Journalists
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