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On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature

On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature [Kindle Edition]

Melanie Challenger
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'A wide-ranging and often beautiful book ... Challenger is an exquisite writer' --Observer

'Challenger's courage is exemplary ... This book is an urgent attempt to understand how we got into this mess' --Guardian

`Lovingly crafted and beautifully executed ... a wonderfully thoughtful examination of the concept and reality of extinction' --Big Issue

`Challenger combines her meditations on our fragmenting world into a finely integrated study of loss' --Nature

`A rigorous and animated book convincingly tackling a topic many of us choose to ignore'

'Consistently thought provoking and enjoyably ruminative'
--Independent on Sunday

Product Description

How do we think about the things we have lost? How can we use what we know about extinctions – cultural, biological and industrial – to reconnect with nature?

In Cornwall, hiking around the half-buried ruins of an old tin mine, Melanie Challenger started to think about the things that have disappeared from our world. When the gigantic bones of mammoths were first excavated from the Siberian permafrost in the eighteenth century, scientists were forced to consider a terrifying possibility: many species that had once flourished on the Earth no longer existed. For the first time, humans had to contemplate the idea of extinction.

Challenger became fascinated by this idea, and started to consider how we think about the things we have lost, and, indeed, how we come to lose them. From our destruction of the natural world to the human cultures that are rapidly dying out, On Extinction is a passionate exploration of these disappearances and why they should concern us. Challenger asks questions about how we’ve become destructive to our environment, our emotional responses to extinctions, and how these responses might shape our future relationship with nature. She travels to the abandoned whaling stations of South Georgia, the melting icescape of Antarctica and the Inuit camps of the Arctic, where she traces the links between human activities and environmental collapse. On Extinction is an account of Challenger's journey that brings together ideas about cultural, biological and industrial extinction in a beautiful, thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful book.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1925 KB
  • Print Length: 364 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1847081878
  • Publisher: Granta Books (6 Oct 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005OQ4CIQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #205,809 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it! 30 Jan 2012
By Ruby L
This book is extremely interesting and thought-provoking. It offers an original and brave exploration into us as a species. It's not a simple "we've messed up the world, isn't this terrible" kind of message, although there are aspects of revealing the damage we have inflicted on the natural world. But more so it delves into why we behave why do, how we have behaved in the past and what is the outcome for the future. It's certainly not all doom and gloom in this book either, as the title may suggest. The language is beautifully poetic and many descriptions of places and animals are exquisite. I highly recommend this book, I've never read anything like it and it's made me reconsider the way I view our relationship with the natural world.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and thought provoking 23 Jan 2012
By Clarky
A disturbing, beautiful read. Melanie Challenger makes her points poetically and persuasively. Richly researched and thought provoking, this book is not offering easy answers or blaming the usual suspects, it is drawing out the truths that we all know, deep down, and stimulating and inspiring us to do better by the world, and ourselves.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Emma
Melanie Challenger takes on one of natural history's most compelling and critical issues in this book: the permanent loss of a species. This book is more than simply about species loss, however, as the word 'extinction' is unfolded and spread over a flat surface for the reader to see how it manifests itself in numerous forms. Challenger examines the extinction of industry, in both the whaling town of Whitby and the tin mine district of West Penwith in Cornwall, the extinction of language in South American tribes, the extinction of a particular type of sailing boat, and the complex threat of cultural extinction faced by the Inuit tribes of Northern Canada (those interested in this part of the book should also read Jay Griffiths' work, Wild: An Elemental Journey). Challenger travels as she examines: she spends time in Cornwall, Canada, Antarctica, laying bare her research methods and revealing her own inner journey as she probes one of the most unsettling topics on earth, examining human nature, psychologically and genetically, in the process.

This book is wonderfully written: some of the turns of phrase that Challenger opts for are beautiful (she sees `dark knuckles' of granite; the `guttered brow of a Neanderthal skull', and on speaking of an abandoned tin mine, writes that `years had obscured the origins of [its] name'). Building upon this refreshing and poetic use of language is perhaps one of my favourite things about this book: its accessibility.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extinctions -- hope or despair? 19 Dec 2012
By David H. Vonseggern - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Melanie Challenger's first prose book ("On Extinictions") is a wonderful read. Let me begin by saying what it is not. It is not a strident siren song beckoning action on the issue of species extinctions, not an objective nor a coherently crafted argument for reevaluation of humans' interaction with nature. In comparison with, say, with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, it is only a soft brush of reality. The subtitle is not effectively described or argued at all. Yet, the author manages to make the point in a remarkably compelling manner, and the overall effect is soul chilling. She treats not just species extinctions, but extinctions of languages, of cultures, of industries, and of livelihoods. She does this by probing deeply into her own past experiences, beginning with her youthful forays in Cornwall, and continuing to her recent excursions to the polar regions. Along with that, she weaves seamlessly into her discourse the observations and thoughts of innumerable past authors, from the ancient Greeks to the writers of recent decades. Clearly the author is well read, and she easily draws on the contributions of others even though she seems to be able to see things with a thousand pairs of eyes herself. The early chapters are narrative, often in a seemingly florid prose which may not appeal to all -- consider, for example: "MIsts moved against the still hedges, slow exhalations of the failing day." But within this, slowly a thesis builds as the author leads us from the fallow pastures of Cornwall through the hulks of the whaling industry in the southern ocean and finally into the native people's lands of far northern Canada. Along the way, we are presented with the parallel between human's extinction of species and of culture and language, even our own in cases. Although our estrangement from nature is not directly argued or treated, it is adequately revealed by example. It is not clear from this book whether that is indeed a good or bad development. It seems that humans left a very poor record on species, and other, extinctions when they were well connected to nature. Perhaps our estrangement from nature will allow us a perspective by which effective action can be deployed and cultural changes made to arrest extinctions. This is a book which should draw the reader to think along with the author. In all the extinction narrative, the author continually points to the nostalgia that humans feel for things lost and destroyed. For this reviewer, a true nostalgia will be simply: the first reading of Challenger's book in the cold, gray days of December.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living in Place 26 Jan 2013
By Stephen W. Arkle - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Teaching texts that deal with living in the environment over the past years, this one certainly shows what happens when we move too far from nature in the spaces we live. Thoughtful with wonderful analogies and allusions.
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome juxtaposition 14 Nov 2013
By Jonathan Balcombe - Published on
There is something haunting about this book. Perhaps it is the unusual but welcome juxtaposition of passages of exquisite prose with more prosaic narratives of the author’s travels. Maybe it is that the theme of extinction is such a somber one. Whatever the reason, it is a rewarding read, and a journey worth taking.
5.0 out of 5 stars ...what a concise book! 7 Jun 2013
By Penny Reilly - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
...I have always loved this kind of writing and the depth Ms Challenger goes to in her descriptive style will appeal to those who are simply, mildly curious to the science -v- spirituality of our fragile planet ...wonderful book!
5.0 out of 5 stars An appreciation and reverence for nature 6 Feb 2013
By Nora Stanley - Published on
While reading On Extinxtion, by Melanie Challenger I kept going back to my encounters with nature. While you embark to Whitby, Cornwall and Artic with the author my mind took me to Northern Michigan's forests and bogs and to Florida's scrub and springs. How to cultivate that wonder and elation you feel when an unknown bird flies by or by the beauty of a stand of trees? Ms. Challenger elegantly describes this in detail. To cultivate this in others is to posess this yourself and to share your knowledge and appreciation, which I am sure she is with her son and has with this novel. Well done.
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