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Dancing at the Dead Sea: Tracking the World's Environmental Hotspots Hardcover – 1 May 2005
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"A lively, impassioned ecological travelogue."-Audobon Magazine
"A lively, impassioned ecological travelogue."--"Audobon Magazine"
"Well written and inspiring. . . . Should help awaken environmental awareness."-Booklist
"The itinerary of this winning pilgrimage is well-chosen to illustrate contemporary environmental crises."-Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Alanna Mitchell is an international award-winning senior features writer at the "Globe and Mail." In 2000 and 2001, the World Conservation Union and the Reuters Foundation cited her work as the best environmental reporting in North America and Oceania.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
With Darwin's journals of his voyage on the Beagle in hand, she traces his footsteps on the Galapagos. There and elsewhere she maintains an internal dialogue with Darwin wondering what he would have made of the ecological destruction she witnesses. Like the local people in Evatraha, Madagascar, who believe that trees "carry their own magic of regeneration", we are destroying precious resources somehow believing that "there will always be another tree". The evidence, Mitchell warns, attests to the opposite. Today, more species are endangered than ever before and some fragile ecosystems are beyond recovery. Reflecting on the five mass extinctions on our planet, she casts some doubt on our "shelf life" in the grand evolutionary scheme of the planet. Unless, that is, we can learn the lesson that nature's resources are finite and we are not in control of the ecosystems. Mitchell draws comparisons between Darwin's contemporary critics of his new theories of evolution and our own society's inability or unwillingness to "understand evolution as it applies to the future".
In personal encounters with her travel companions Mitchell has a series of questions to pose. The most fundamental one among them is: "Is the human species suicidal? What could help us pull back from the brink? What can we learn from past experiences?" While most of the findings expose the serious threats to our habitat and even question long term survival, Mitchell finds also encouraging trends. There are signs, she eagerly records, that people are learning lessons and are working together to make a difference. The most spectacular of these positive development she finds in Suriname, where large areas of tropical rainforest are being protected as part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The point is, explains primatologist Russ Mittermeier, for rainforest conservation to be sustainable it has to make economic sense to the local people. "Environmentalists who are innocent of economics have no audience." He's the motor driving this and other conservation projects and an enthusiastic buyer of local artifacts. This particular story, "Where the rainforest goes on forever", alone makes the book worth reading. Still, it is only one of the highly informative while at the same time entertaining chapters. It is, though, the most optimistic.
In the end, as she reflects in the remoteness of the boreal forest in northern Canada on her own lessons learned, Mitchell acknowledges that she has been on a "quest for hope". Share her "world wind" tour, enjoy and follow the call for reflection. [Friederike Knabe, Ottawa Canada]
The only disappointment was her praise of BP's chief executive John Browne in the Epilogue. She is intelligent enough to realize "words are like whispers, actions are like thunder"! My dear friend under age 50 has lost a lung due to BP's actions in the Gulf of Mexico and many thousands of other people were very severely adversly affected in several States.
While some of Mitchell's observations of how our species is destroying the very ecosystems we depend on for life are depressing, other prominent people's views on how destructive our species is are further disturbing.
"Leakey, the eminent Kenyan paleoanthropologist and authority on human evolution, is convinced that humans are poised to become 'the greatest catastrophic agent' the world has ever seen, a highly intelligent, highly lethal species set to destroy billions of years of evolutionary advances."
Much of Mitchell's book looks at how humans have decimated the planet, but she also writes about some environmental success stories including how Suriname's rainforest, thanks to conservationists, is almost entirely intact. Mitchell, in the chapter "Iceland's New Power" reports on how Iceland is "doing away with fossil fuels in favor of harnessing the mythical energy of hydrogen," and how, in the next couple of decades, they will switch their cars and ships to hydrogen and then won't require any oil.
Dancing at the Dead Sea is a fascinating, sometimes disturbing, book, but it is one which needs to be read. If we are to overcome our destructive, short-sighted ways and begin living in harmony with the other species, we need to be fully aware of what we're capable of - both in terms of causing environmental catastrophes and healing the planet. --Glenn Perrett
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