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Dancing at the Dead Sea: Tracking the World's Environmental Hotspots

Overview


One hundred and fifty years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, award-winning environmental reporter Alanna Mitchell set out to retrace the idea of evolution and grapple with the fact that a massive extinction of the planet's species was well under way. So began a three-year odyssey in which Mitchell picked up where Darwin left off, examining not just the origin but also the ultimate fate of our world.

Combining scientific curiosity with travel and adventure, ...

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Overview


One hundred and fifty years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, award-winning environmental reporter Alanna Mitchell set out to retrace the idea of evolution and grapple with the fact that a massive extinction of the planet's species was well under way. So began a three-year odyssey in which Mitchell picked up where Darwin left off, examining not just the origin but also the ultimate fate of our world.

Combining scientific curiosity with travel and adventure, Dancing at the Dead Sea takes the reader on an intimate tour through the world's environmental hotspots. Readers join Mitchell as she tracks the spectacular biodiversity of regions as extraordinary as the island of Madagascar, the rain forests of Suriname, the parched oases of Jordan, the Arctic desert of Banks Island, the volcanic crests of Iceland, and, ultimately, the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin conducted his famous research. Along the way, Mitchell introduces us to the numerous scientists and conservationists who are working to protect these endangered places. She also chronicles the courageous efforts of everyday men and women in these regions as they try to convince governments to turn the world's hotspots into environmentally protected areas.

Ultimately, Mitchell's travels around the world compel her to ponder our shelf life as a species in the grand evolutionary scheme of the planet. She wonders what Darwin would make of the profound ecological destruction she witnesses. Is the human race suicidal? What can help our species avert extinction? Posing tough and cutting questions such as these, Dancing at the Dead Sea is a must-read for aficionados of good science writing and travel literature alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The itinerary of this winning pilgrimage is well-chosen to illustrate contemporary environmental crises. Mitchell, an environmental journalist at the Toronto Globe and Mail, visits some familiar disaster areas, including the island of Madagascar, whose deforestation by a populace hungry for land and firewood is wiping out a unique ecosystem; the dying Jordanian oasis of Azraq, whose aquifer has been drained to support development in Amman; and the Canadian High Arctic, where the native Inuvialuit people see apocalyptic portents in the warming of winters and thinning of sea ice. Mitchell also explores more hopeful locales, like Suriname, in South America, which has preserved 90% of its rainforest, and Iceland, which is using geothermal energy to wean itself off of fossil fuels and onto a hydrogen economy. Mitchell dusts her lucid, if sketchy, rundown of environmental issues with a sprinkling of ecotourist travelogue, as she visits Amazonian religious sites and goes scuba diving off the Gal pagos Islands. She tries to tie it all together with a garbled interpretation of Darwinian evolution, writing that species "are programmed to continue to adapt... even if it means dying out." Extinction is not quite what Darwin meant by adaptation, but there's no doubt the great naturalist would be appalled by the panorama of ecological havoc described by Mitchell. (May 18) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mitchell, a journalist for Canada's national newspaper Globe and Mail, treks to exotic locales as varied as the rain forests of Suriname and the Arctic desert of Banks Island to determine the inevitability of a sixth mass species extinction for humans. Accompanied by world-renowned scientists, she concludes that the populaces of areas with the most biodiversity-called hotspots-are least able in terms of social, economic, and educational means to protect that biodiversity. Her story begins and ends with Darwin as she compares the Victorians, with their refusal to accept evolutionary theory, with our collective denial that worldwide ecosystem destruction has reached a frightening pace. To her mind, the legend of the fixity of the species mirrors the anthropocentric assumption that evolution stops with Homo sapiens. How foolish we are, Mitchell bemoans, to deny that environmental destruction caused by climate change, species loss, and deforestation has a fixed limit. With colorful anecdotes and chilling predictions, Mitchell warns that human shortsightedness will spell our ruin and that it's time to rewrite our legend of life as one where economic development and sustainability work hand in hand. This is an entertaining read for both armchair travelers and students of environmental studies. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-April Brazill, Southampton Coll. Lib., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226532004
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/15/2005
  • Pages: 239
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet 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.
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Table of Contents


Introduction: Dancing at the Dead Sea
1. The Devil's Chaplain
2. In Search of Lemurs
3. Reading the Secrets of the Fossils
4. Parched Oasis
5. Sunken Graves of the High Arctic
6. Where the Rainforest Goes On Forever
7. Iceland's New Power
8. Ocean's End
Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Selected References
Index
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