Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction

Thom van Dooren. Columbia Univ, $30 (224p) ISBN 978-0-231-16618-8
Looking holistically at the process and fact of extinction, van Dooren, an environmental philosopher and anthropologist from Australia’s University of New South Wales, poses provocative questions about the meaning of species loss. Van Dooren arranges each chapter by species and larger taxonomic groups of birds on the edge of extinction, and then superbly explores the implications of interspecies “entanglements” within ecosystems and the fact that species should be “understood as vast intergenerational lineages, interwoven in rich patterns of co-becoming with others.” Van Dooren works to situate humans more appropriately than they have been: “In focusing on entanglements, this book aims to present alternative understandings of extinction to those grounded in entrenched patterns of ‘human exceptionalism.’” While explaining how human activities are largely responsible for the decline of his subjects—albatrosses, Asian vultures, Australian little penguins, whooping cranes, and Hawaiian crows—van Dooren also investigates the ethical implications of captive breeding programs designed to stave off extinction, at least temporarily. Behind the scenes of the successes lies the “violent reality of the way in which much of this care for species and environments is practiced,” contradictions which become “the messy work of ethical conservation for our time.” (June)
Reviewed on: 04/21/2014
Release date: 06/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-231-53744-5
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-231-16619-5
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