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Noah's Choice: The Future of Endangered Species Hardcover – February 14, 1995

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How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature
Help kids fall in love with nature while instilling them with a sense of place along the way.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Oklahoma, a highway to improve access to a hospital that serves poor people was delayed for more than four years to protect a beetle. In enforcing the Endangered Species Act, do we put insects above human needs? Mann and Plummer, coauthors of The Aspirin Wars, argue that trying to save every species is unethical and impractical, that we have to make choices. They cite case histories of ecological conflict: the snail darter in Tennessee, the Karner Blue butterfly in New York and Wisconsin, a bird habitat threatened by home-building in Texas. When the act passed in 1973, few people?least of all, Congress, the authors say?understood its ramifications, especially the cost. The act is up for renewal this year. Mann and Plummer offer suggestions for making it more practical in this provocative, timely and reasonable study.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A beetle puts a stranglehold on the construction of a highway that would have provided Native Americans reasonable access to a hospital; a minnow almost stops a dam from being built. Mann and Plummer, who also collaborated on The Aspirin Wars (LJ 10/1/91), highlight these and other examples in their discussion of the difficult choices that must be made with increasing frequency between human needs and the preservation of biodiversity. The writing is clear and entertaining, and the authors' key argument-that the Endangered Species Act doesn't allow for enough flexibility based on values-is compelling, cogent, and highly controversial. Included are excellent summaries of the concepts of island biogeography and species, the history of the Endangered Species Act, and current thinking on the rate of extinction. Highly recommended. [Other recent books on the excesses of environmentalism include Greg Easterbrook's A Moment on the Earth (LJ 2/1/95) and Charles T. Rubin's The Green Crusade (LJ 2/15/94).-Ed.]-Lynn C. Badger, Univ. of Florida Lib., Gainesvill.
--Lynn C. Badger, Univ. of Florida Lib., Gainesville
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (February 14, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679420029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679420026
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #533,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles C. Mann is the author of 1493, a New York Times best-seller, and 1491, which won the U.S. National Academy of Sciences' Keck award for the best book of the year. A correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, Science, and Wired, he has covered the intersection of science, technology, and commerce for many newspapers and magazines here and abroad, including National Geographic, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and the Washington Post. In addition to 1491 and 1493, he is the co-author of five other books, one of which is a young person's version of 1491 called Before Columbus. His website is

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By E. Husman on January 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't remember where I first saw this book reviewed and recommended, but I do remember that I couldn't check it out in the school library because one of the Range Science professors put it on reserve for his class. That intrigued me enough to just buy it.

I found the first 3/4 of the book fascinating as it described a variety of encounters between human activity and species decline. Mann & Plummer make a good case that consistency requires the act and its defenders to defend squirmy species with the same fervor as they defend the "cute and cuddly" species. They also point out that some of man's activities which appear benign or even helpful (such as fire suppression) actually harm species who thrive in areas damaged by natural devastation (such as fires and storms). Finally, they relate several tales where species protection interferes with humanitarian activities (such as building roads on native american reservations between the remote areas and the centralized hospital).

However, despite all of the story telling and fact gathering, they chicken out in their recommendations. Throughout the book, they foreshadow a dramatic new proposal, but then fail to deliver. They make a short call for reform and a more thoughtful process - "more of the same, only better." I would recommend the book for the anecdotes, but don't expect a world-shaking ending.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark J. Heinicke on August 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is a valuable resource for those concerned about biodiversity, species extinctions, and their social, political, economic, and cultural ramifications in the U.S. It looks at these broader issues as manifested by the applications (and misapplications) of the Endangered Species Act. The authors present enough detailed and closely researched examples of the Act's implementations to argue compellingly for revision of this legislation--legislation which has led to unfortunate, unforeseen and costly consequences, to include backlash which has undermined and reversed many of the outcomes the Act was intended to bring about. I sought this book based on a reference in an article entitled "Which Species Will Live?' authored by Michelle Nijhuis in the August 2012 Scientific American--which was a fascinating and insightful piece in itself.

The authors write concisely, weaving together multiple points of view while unsnarling the political, economic, and scientific complexities occasioned by concrete implementations (and attempted implementations gone awry) of the Endangered Species Act. However, I was annoyed by the narrative device of their plunging the reader into the middle of a controversy without framing it in a context. This is true of the very first pages, written from the point of view of a entomological hobbyist who happens to find an unusual beetle in Latimore County, Oklahoma. It is four pages before you come across the term "endangered species" and another eleven pages to get to a mention of The Endangered Species Act itself and the year of signing (1973). This device is fun in a work of fiction, but it is unnecessarily confusing in a work of nonfiction where historical context is vitally important.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James Walizer on February 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was very informative.
It was far beyond my expectations.
Enjoyed it very much. It's a great addition to my collection.
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