Afine history of the genesis of the conservation movement.
Nijhuis, a project editor at the Atlantic and co-editor of The Science Writers’ Handbook, admits that the sixth extinction shows little sign of slackening, and people are still killing too many animals and destroying too much habitat. On the bright side, modern conservation movements have many victories to their credit—and even some political clout. The author delivers a vivid account of the movements’ past and present along with compelling minibiographies of the lives of many brilliant and energetic if not always admirable men and women. Without their work, there would be “no bison, no tigers, and no elephants; there would be few if any whales, wolves, or egrets.” Like many histories of the natural world, Nijhuis looks at Carl Linnaeus and Charles Darwin, but readers will encounter many other intriguing names and factoids. For example, who saved the first animal from extinction? William Hornaday, who almost single-handedly saved the bison and went on to become the director of the Bronx Zoo. Other lively characters populating this illuminating narrative include Rosalie Edge, who established the first reserve for birds of prey in 1934; and the well-known crusaders (Aldo Leopold, Julian Huxley, Rachel Carson) who converted environmentalism into a mass movement. The author concludes with a review of current efforts to preserve wildlife and wilderness, and she believes that in addition to ecological concerns, “conservationists need to pay a lot more attention to human complexity.” Despite progress in many areas, in 2019, “a global assessment by an international panel of biodiversity experts estimated that a million species were in danger of going extinct within decades—including as many as a quarter of all plant and animal species.” Compassionate yet realistic and candid throughout, Nijhuis makes a significant contribution to the literature on environmentalism.
An engrossing history of conservation and its accomplishments.