From Publishers Weekly
A skilled essayist as well as an ecologist, Botkin (Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-First Century) combines science, wit and a gift for characterization to craft these consistently engaging essays. Many deal with contradictions and uncertainties that may never be resolved by research alone. In "Winds of a Condor's Wings," he describes a 1980 project that he was engaged in as a member of a committee to advise the State of California how to save the condor, whose population had declined to only 22. Three sets of so-called experts were unable to agree on what factor was chiefly responsible for the condor's decline or whether captive breeding or reintroduction to the wild should be pursued to sustain the species. "The Ecology of Cancer" is a touching account of his late wife's illness and how the questions she raised about chemotherapy motivated Botkin to establish an experimental workshop, as a memorial to her, composed of both biologists and cancer researchers who are learning from one another. In another piece, "How Many Bowhead Whales Ever Lived on the Earth," Botkin recounts his collaboration with John Bockstoce, an anthropologist studying Yankee whaling, whose complex personality springs to life on the page. There are many humorous inclusions, like "Is It Okay to Let Your Dog Drink from the Toilet?" a witty reflection on a study about the good-guy bacteria in toilet bowls. In all, this is a refreshing, open-minded collection about nature, ecology and science.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Daniel B. Botkin is a research professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the president of the Center for the Study of the Environment. He has taught at George Mason University and Yale.