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Book Review: Wildlife Spectacles by Vladimir Dinets

In Animal Behavior, Birds, Book Reviews, Climate Change, Conservation, Endangered Species, Insects, Nonfiction, Oceans by Midge Raymond

  Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors by Vladimir Dinets is a gorgeous book that takes readers on an unforgettable journey into the lives of some of our planet’s most magnificent creatures, from muskoxen to moths, with spectacular photographs and incredible stories. Wildlife Spectacles is divided into three major sections: Great Migrations (migrating animals on land and in air and water), Spectacles of Love (breeding habits and mating rituals), and Everyday Spectacles (how animals hunt, play, and otherwise spend their days). Author and photographer Vladimir Dinets has focused Wildlife Spectacles on the wild animals of …

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Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

In Book Reviews, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Nonfiction, Oceans by John Yunker

Peter Godfrey-Smith has a passion for cephalopods, the class of sea animals that includes the octopus, cuttlefish, and nautilus, among others. Animals that among the oldest creatures on this planet. Measured in numbers of neurons, the octopus has the largest brain of all invertebrates. Its eyes are remarkably similar to ours. And, like us, the octopus can unscrew jars, recognize faces, plot creative escapes, and generally make plenty of mischief. Peter notes instances of octopuses, who don’t like bright lights, squirting jets of water at the lights above their tanks in order to short circuit them. In another case, an octopus didn’t like a specific researcher and always sent …

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Book Review: What a Fish Knows by Jonathan Balcombe

In Animal Behavior, Animal Rights, Book Publishers, Nonfiction, Oceans by Midge Raymond

It’s difficult to think of another title that is more important to the oceans—and therefore to the earth’s entire ecosystem—than What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe. Not only does Balcombe introduce us to the fascinating, complex lives of these sentient creatures, he shows us how devastatingly we are treating them, to the point of endangerment and extinction. While fishes aren’t usually at the top of the list of animals that elicit human sympathy (“We hear no screams and see no tears when their mouths are impaled and their bodies pulled from the …

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Holy Mōlī: Albatross and Other Ancestors

In Animal Behavior, Birds, Book Reviews, Conservation, Endangered Species, Nonfiction, Oceans by John Yunker

The Laysan albatross is known as Mōlī in Hawaiian. It is difficult not to speak in superlatives when describing the albatross. The bird has a wingspan longer than most humans are tall. Albatross far outlive most other birds — with one active albatross now 64 years old. They spend most of their lives  at sea, gliding just a few inches above the waves. Only 5% of their lives are spent on land — and this is where they are particularly vulnerable, when they are breeding and caring for their chicks. Author Hob Osterlund is founder of the Kaua’i Albatross Network an organization that works to protect these birds. And through her writing you …

Film Review: Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

In Animal Rights, Climate Change, Conservation, Education, Endangered Species, Oceans, Organic Farming, Pollution, Trees, Veganism by Midge Raymond

Okay, so this isn’t a book review — but it’s such an important documentary that I wanted to review it here on EcoLit Books. (The book connection: As you watch the film, you’ll learn about a few books to add to your reading list, including Comfortably Unaware and The World Peace Diet.) Cowspiracy (which is currently still available for its special Earth Day price of $1) covers the impact of animal agriculture on the planet — it’s the number-one contributor to human-induced climate change and affects everything from the rainforests to the oceans — and why some of the biggest environmental organizations never talk about …

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Book Review: Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat Is Killing Us and Our Planet by Richard Oppenlander

In Book Reviews, Climate Change, Nonfiction, Oceans, Pollution, Veganism by Midge Raymond

Richard Oppenlander’s Comfortably Unaware is a book everyone on the planet should read. Unfortunately, the book’s biggest drawback is that it may not feel accessible to those who need to read it most. In Comfortably Unaware, Oppenlander makes the case for why the planet needs us humans to adopt a plant-based diet in order to preserve the earth’s rapidly dwindling resources. His sources and statistics are compelling and spot-on—and yet they’re not nearly as well known among environmentalists as they should be. Without question, to be an environmentalist is to be a vegan; as Oppenlander highlights throughout this slender book, …

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Book Review: Stung! by Lisa-ann Gershwin

In Book Reviews, Nonfiction, Oceans by JoeAnn Hart

Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean, by Lisa-an Gershwin (The University of Chicago Press, 2013)   They’re here, and we’ve not just cleared out the guest room for them, we’re opened up the front parlor, the master bedroom, rumpus room, and kitchen. Soon we’ll be barricaded in the basement with a stinging, gelatinous substance dripping on us through the cracks in the ceiling. I’m talking about jellyfish. Our relationship with them has changed for the worse. As they fill our fishing nets and clog our nuclear plant intake valves around the world, they reflect our relationship …

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Book Review: The Botanical Garden by Ellen Welcker

In Book Reviews, Climate Change, Oceans, Poetry by Shel Graves

You could read Melville’s Moby Dick. You could travel the world. You could read about the plight of immigrants and refugees in The New York Times and discuss them over dinner. You could visit the border. You could ship out on a whaler or ship out with Greenpeace. You could give birth, remain childless or try intro-fertilization. Or, you could read Ellen Welcker’s The Botanical Garden. (Astrophil Press 2010). The poem makes a great thematic companion to any of the above activities. At the crossroads of Welcker’s poem, fetuses, whales, refugees, immigrants, and aliens intersect. The poem travels by invoking …

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Book Review: Penguins: Natural History and Conservation

In Animal Behavior, Birds, Book Reviews, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Nonfiction, Oceans by John Yunker

Let me preface this review by saying that I am a longtime fan of co-author Dee Boersma’s work. Years ago, I was part of a volunteer project at Punta Tombo, assisting Dee and her team with a penguin census. It was a week that changed the direction of my life in ways I couldn’t possibly imagine at the time. Dee has spent more than 20 years at Punta Tumbo researching Magellanic penguins — and helped to found the Penguin Sentinels organization. So now that you know of my affinity for penguins and those who work to protect them, on with …

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Farmed fish may be safe for humans but not for the oceans

In Animal Rights, Oceans by John Yunker

So it looks like the FDA is going to approve the sale and consumption genetically altered salmon. The AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon contains a growth hormone from the Chinook salmon, which causes it to grow twice as quickly as regular Atlantic salmon. By the way, you really should check out the company’s website; this is a company concerned about technology and intellectual property and the bottom line, not animal welfare. Here is a photo that compares one of their salmon (background) to a normal Atlantic salmon (foregound). Even if I did eat fish, I can’t imagine eating something that has been genetically modified …