on 8 July 2011
I really enjoyed this book and it is a great addition to the naturalists library. I would suggest buying it. However I do feel that Sharon Levy is trying to prove the case for mega fauna at all costs. I am on her side, but it seems to go too far. The rewilding of America is a case in point. The idea of tropical elephants standing in for temperate Mastodonts seems cruel. A midwest winter would destroy an elephant with frost bite. Furthermore I thought the case about the extinction of mammoths was interesting, but for some reason the argument why mastodonts disappeared is not tackled - surely this isn't the same as the extinction of mammoths - these animals have a different ecology. The arguments are just too sweeping. However I would still buy the book.
on 4 August 2013
This is an excellent book looking at how we may have lost the giant mammals of the ice age and the effect this has had on the ecology of many of the world's 'wildernesses'. As a comparatively recent book it has more up to date information than most in a field where research is moving forward quickly - climate change is a relevant issue obviously so study of ancient climates and ecology is comparatively well funded.
Interesting to note that a couple of interviewees had been sceptical of the potential that prehistoric humanity had in exterminating mammoths, sloths, giant deer etc, but no believe that it was people who killed them off and habitats changed because they disappeared, not the other way round.
As our 'guilt' becomes more apparent, the need and desire to repair the damage grows. The book details existing initiatives to get our impovershed wildland working again - much is over run by deer and smaller predators because the big carnivores are missing. We can't bring back the sabre tooth cat and short faced bear, but we could do more to reintroduce the wolf and grizzly. The mammoth is gone from the American west, but perhaps the African and or Asian elephant could help fill the gap, distributing the seeds of many trees that are struggling because their main disperser became extinct 10,000 years ago.
This book compliments Paul Martin's 'Twilight of the Mammoths' beautifully, it explores the political dimension and practicalities more effectively - perhaps a sign that restoration of some aspects of the lost world of ice age giants is drawing closer.
on 8 February 2016
From the very start of the book, Sharon Levy takes us into the field and allows us to rub shoulders with the scientists, some more maverick than others, who are proving that the past really is the key to the present. There is a beautiful theme of mourning for the loss of some of planet's most amazing animals that is equalled by the awe and secrets we can learn from them.
The past has a story to tell that we can learn from, but it may have fallen on deaf ears for far too long already. Once and future giants explores the precarious state of nature now, in the absence of great beasts, both predator and prey by looking at the recent past.
As the book goes to lengths to explain, there is no one answer fits all solution. There are many factors to explore, many theories that ask to be voiced, and with most conclusions yet to be reached, no easy round-up of the subject matter. But each and every chapter will make you think, and I can't ask more of an exploration of popular science.
That too is one of the great features of the book. Levy never falls into the droll scientific terms or text book style format that could easily big a reader down. We are always being spoken to by dedicated people who are so passionate about their field that it always shines through. But more than that, they need and want people to understand, and they approach us on our terms. A really rewarding read.