Beloved Beasts by Michelle Nijhuis [9/10]

Framed as a condensed narrative history of modern conservation, “Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction” is also a welcome survey of where we, the human race, are in relation to the non-human species on Earth. The author, an American science journalist, writes like a dream and her command of her vast material is exemplary. Tracing the conservation movement from Linnaeus who brought order to species’ taxonomy; through early species’ rescue attempts; through Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic”; through Rachel Carson’s beautiful writing bringing conservation into broader society; through the introduction of ecology into our vocabulary; through the invention of cross-disciplinary conservation biology; through the notion of integrating humans and threatened species; to our modern understanding of the looming (current?) age of mass extinctions and a final look at those desperate to avert disaster (forgive this summary’s lack of mastery of Beloved Beasts; it’s a complex narrative). Throughout, the author leavens the historical account with personal experiences in the wild and amongst conservationists. Being a lover of the species of Cranes, I especially enjoyed the tale of how Whooping Cranes were rescued from the brink. I urge you to buy this as a window onto one of our greatest challenges, protecting our planet’s biodiversity, and I predict that if you do make the purchase, upon completing the read, you will commence to reread, as I am right now.

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