Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Suggested reading

I just finished reading David Quammen's Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction, and I can't recommend it too strongly. If you're at all interested in ecology, the environment, or man's relationship with nature, this is just a fantastic book. I must admit that I tried reading it during law school and couldn't finish it. However, now that I'm out, and don't have tons of reading already, it was a pleasure.

Quammen does a great job in laying out the history of evolutionary theory and traces it up through modern ecological science. Being that the book focuses on extinction, it's not particularly uplifting. Moreover, Quammen doesn't pull any punches, so there's no happy ending either. He ultimately concludes that the only reason we really have not to despair over the increasing ecological uniformity of the earth, is that despair is less fun than fighting. I'd agree, but it's still a sad fact.

I wish that Quammen had been able to add a chapter on what can be done to fight extinction. I mean, the solutions are implicit in the book itself (encourage habitat connectors, fight fragmentation, identify critical habitat and save it, etc.), but I think a more explicit discussion of possible policy solutions to extinction and the scientific justification for those solutions would have been useful. On the other hand, perhaps Quammen was right to leave that out, as it forces the reader to contemplate their own solutions.

In any case, 'twas a great book and I heartily recommend it for everyone, especially those feckless sons of motherless goats we dignify with the name "developers".