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Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (Critical Perspectives on Animals: Theory, Culture, Science, and Law)

Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (Critical Perspectives on Animals: Theory, Culture, Science, and Law) [Kindle Edition]

Thom van Dooren

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This is an excellent book that deserves wide readership. -- Marc Bekoff, editor of Ignoring Nature No More: The Case For Compassionate Conservation I love this book. van Dooren's thorough, detailed, and calmly passionate scholarship adds immensely to my understanding of caring, science and justice, and conditions for recuperation that take multispecies flourishing seriously. He is a leader in learning to learn without the tools of human exceptionalism, attuned to the nuances and specificities of situated worlds, including human worlds-in-relation with other critters. -- Donna Haraway, author of When Species Meet In this wise and fascinating book, van Dooren takes us into the fleshy, biosocial, and ethical consequences of extinction. His lively stories of five bird species open worlds -- both avian and human -- of care, dedication, and the most ardent commitment. Van Dooren draws on philosophy, ethnography, and ethology to conjure the beauty and perils of other creatures' worlds. By developing a deeper understanding of species as intergenerational and inter-species achievements, van Dooren helps us rethink both loss and conservation. Flight Ways is a profoundly realised exploration of why extinction matters, and how we may respond. -- Deborah Bird Rose, author of Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction Haunting, beautiful, and important: Flight Ways is extraordinary. This is ethnographic storytelling at its very best, and it carries the environmental humanities to new heights. You will never look at a bird in the same way again. -- Anna Tsing, University of California, Santa Cruz From the brink of existence, Flight Ways recovers a way of responding ethically to extinction. van Dooren's scientifically-informed case studies of particular bird species facing extinction give the lie to the trope of "the last one" by framing stories of the " distinct unraveling of ways of life" that had evolved over millions of years and whose passings are unevenly experienced as tragedies. Informative, heartbreaking, and deeply inspiring, the book serves as a compelling model for how animal studies scholarship can move beyond false competitions of individuals and populations in order to engage with the real problems of sustaining life in multispecies communities. -- Susan McHugh, author of Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines and Dog "Who are we bound to and in what ways?" This is the question at the heart of this wonderful book. But the "we" here is not limited to "us" -- it includes vultures who help the living take care of the dead, Little penguins who keep returning to deeply storied places, fledging albatrosses who are becoming more and more vulnerable, and mourning crows who can enrich our definitions of grieving. And that changes everything. Because this question is not a simple intellectual proposition. It creates links even as it explores those links in all their dimensions. One finds oneself differently attached after reading this book. A magnificent, sensitive, and marvellously intelligent book. It tells stories of extinction while reinspiring us with life and curiosity. In proposing to move beyond simplistic categories like the natural and the cultural, the biological and the social, the living and the dead, Thom van Dooren reconfigures, in an inventive and brilliant manner, traditional oppositions between species conservation and attention to individuals. With keen attention and contagious curiosity, he explores the multiple forms of living together in a multi-species world. Every page of this book teaches us something about other forms and ways of life, makes us think differently or more deeply than we have been in the habit of thinking, and helps us to do so in company with the beings of other species. Thom van Dooren teaches us that to care passionately can be a weapon of resistance against the forces of destruction. This book is guided by the most philosophical and lively of motives: curiosity with regard to other beings and their ways of life. A curiosity for fleshly creatures -- creatures who are real, concrete, surprising in their complexity, and who become, by way of their histories, more attaching, which is to say more capable of attaching us. This book is magnificent and brilliant. One reason -- not the only nor the least -- is because Thom van Dooren has spent time with the animals whose becoming he is examining. The ethical questions he poses are thus equally ethological questions, questions that demand not only care, but also interest and curiosity. Specific ways of living require specific modes of thought. The stories in this book -- since they are truly stories that enrich our storied worlds -- make this magnificent gamble succeed: to learn other ways of thinking from other forms of life. -- Vinciane Despret, University of Liege

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A leading figure in the emerging field of extinction studies, Thom van Dooren puts philosophy into conversation with the natural sciences and his own ethnographic encounters to vivify the cultural and ethical significance of modern-day extinctions. Unlike other meditations on the subject, Flight Ways incorporates the particularities of real animals and their worlds, drawing philosophers, natural scientists, and general readers into the experience of living among and losing biodiversity.

Each chapter of Flight Ways focuses on a different species or group of birds: North Pacific albatrosses, Indian vultures, an endangered colony of penguins in Australia, Hawaiian crows, and the iconic whooping cranes of North America. Written in eloquent and moving prose, the book takes stock of what is lost when a life form disappears from the world -- the wide-ranging ramifications that ripple out to implicate a number of human and more-than-human others. Van Dooren intimately explores what life is like for those who must live on the edge of extinction, balanced between life and oblivion, taking care of their young and grieving their dead. He bolsters his studies with real-life accounts from scientists and local communities at the forefront of these developments. No longer abstract entities with Latin names, these species become fully realized characters enmeshed in complex and precarious ways of life, sparking our sense of curiosity, concern, and accountability toward others in a rapidly changing world.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5739 KB
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (13 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #936,551 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stirring vision, rooted in facts, of our interconnected life on earth and the challenges facing us 14 Jun 2014
By Raymond J. Salmond - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
A book to stir the soul of anyone who loves nature. An enlivening mix of philosophy and factual information about the parallels and interconnections between all life on earth.

I immensely enjoyed the book and will be rereading it this week.

The chapter on crows offers this, typical of many thought-provoking comments when it refers to "the loss of rich and varied expressions of grief that have evolved on the planet over millions of years".

The last book I read that I felt so in sympathy with and enlightened by was Clive Hamilton's "Requiem for a Species" and David George Haskell's "The Forest Unseen"

I have been reading a lot about climate change and related matters in recent months.

This book, like Haskell's, makes one more determined to do what one can to celebrate our world and to save something from the coming crisis.

Flight Ways comes to things from the opposite direction to Haskell's, in a way, being more academically and philosophically inclined, then moving to the wonderful details, say, of albatross courting and child-rearing, whereas Haskell roots his wider observations in close study of the forest.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a writer--Thoreau he is not 1 July 2014
By periphron - Published on
Mr. Van Dooren is, sadly, just not a writer. His professional description of himself as an "environmental philosopher" rather says it all: like many young scholars of his generation, he just strikes me as too obsessively self-conscious and preponderous. He strikes me as taking himself WAY too seriously. The scientific notations sprinkled throughout his text are distracting. I am certainly not intimidated or dissuaded by footnotes, and indeed, I always appreciate them, but the scientific notations in Van Dooren's narrative just strike me as kind of reeking with insecurity, as though they have been included to "prove" his point. I think the audience should have been considered: to whom was Mr. Van Dooren writing? This reads more like a term or scientific paper than as an engrossing narrative. I read plenty of serious historical, ornithological, and theological literature, so again, I'm not in the least intimidated by "heavy" or serious writing, nor am I looking for shallow, populist literature, but there is a difference between well-written "serious" writing and downright self-conscious preponderous writing. He begins his work with the question, "How else could a book about birds and extinction begin but with the tragic story of the Dodo?" Well, it could have begun any number of different ways--for example, Joel Greenberg just published his work A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction on the extinction of the passenger pigeon. A Henry David Thoreau or a W. G. Sebald this is man is not, despite his strained attempt to sound like one. Not recommended, despite the enticing table of contents--the essays just don't fulfill the promise of their titles.
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