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Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic Hardcover – April 10, 2005

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In 1999, environmental journalist Cone was awarded a Pew fellowship to examine the Arctic paradox: "How," she wondered, "could the Arctic, so innocent, primitive, so natural... be home to the most contaminated people on the planet?" What she discovered is that pollution is as global as the economy, and that industrialized nations—with their "Save the whales!" movements—are poisoning those very whales with chemical drift. In clear, engaging prose, she explains how PCBs leaking from a Chicago electrical transformer accumulate dramatically in sea mammals and people thousands of miles away. Traveling from Greenland to Alaska, she quickly finds that Power Bars and a down parka are inadequate to the Arctic, and that Inuit and Inupiat peoples rely on whales and seals for food and clothing because "nothing else is perfectly suited to their environment." In this sparsely populated territory, scientists have documented the world's swiftest ecosystem crash and mother's milk so chemically contaminated that it "could be classified as hazardous waste." But solutions are hard to find: there are no alternatives to replace contaminated food, it has become harder to ban chemicals in the U.S., and new contaminants are being introduced. Cone's sympathy with the peoples of the Arctic and her admiration for the harsh, beautiful world in which they live make this an inspiring book. And we all carry some level of the same toxins; as one Inuit says, "The chemical threat is the ultimate threat... it reaches everywhere in the world."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When we think of the Arctic, we picture a realm as pristine as a diamond, but it has been poisoned with toxic chemicals carried north from the industrialized world via wind and water. So insidious is this invisible invasion, the animals and people of the Arctic "carry more mercury and PCBs in their bodies" than any other living beings on earth. Cone, an award-winning environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times, recounts her travels throughout the afflicted region in a riveting narrative as notable for its conversational fluency as for the clarity of its alarming information. As she vividly describes her experiences with Arctic hunters, she elucidates how the well-being of circumpolar people has resided for millennia in the animals they hunt and eat. She then chronicles the painstaking work of scientists who discovered that the toxins Arctic dwellers now ingest in traditional foods cause mental impairment, reproductive failure, and weakened immune systems. Cone's title is a variation on Silent Spring, Rachel Carson's seminal 1962 book about the dangers of DDT. Tragically, the new matrix of pollutants is far more malignant, and there are no simple solutions in sight. Cone's superb and affecting delineation of the Arctic's chemical crisis and its consequences for us all is galvanizing and necessary. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1St Edition edition (April 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080211797X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802117977
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #620,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In the tradition of Rachel Carson's landmark 1962 book "Silent Spring", author Marla Cone presents "Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic". Cone has been covering environmental affairs for the Los Angeles Times for more than 15 years. She was the recipient of a major grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to conduct a study of the deteriorating Arctic environment. This book is the culmination of two years of work. During this time Marla Cone visited five Arctic countries and met with dozens of scientists from all over the world. What she found out should frighten you and just might break your heart at the very same time. It is a compelling read.

Did you know that women who reside in remote areas of the Arctic have far higher concentrations of PCBs and mercury in their breast milk than do women who live in the major urban areas of the United States, Asia and Europe? Were you aware that entire ecosystems are being wiped out in areas like the Aleutian Islands? And does it disturb you that polar bears residing near of all places the North Pole are suffering the ill effects of contaminants that were manufactured thousands upon thousands of miles away? It all sounds quite preposterous! And it goes without saying that this situation is so unfair to the indigenous peoples who reside in these areas who get little or no direct benefits from the lion's share of these chemicals and compounds.

In "Silent Snow" author Marla Cone does a splendid job in explaining to the reader the who, what, when. where and why of this tragic situation. She points out that much of the mayhem is being caused by DDT and PCB's that were released into the environment in the 1960's and and 1970's. She goes on to discuss as best she can just how these poisons wound up at the top of the world.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The premise of Marla Cone's silent snow is simple: The toxins we place into the environment are drawn north and poision the land and people of the Arctic. Considering that this land is some of the most remote and rugged on the planet, and that the people living in the Artic live a life as close to their ancestral culture and beliefs as any, it's a sad commentary on the western world that we've allowed this to happen.

Ms. Cone presents her story, that of a woman researching the horrific truths behind what scientists are now discovering, in clear, easy-to-read prose. She passes no judgements, though our politicans and corporations have made it far too easy to do so, and she tells the story of the people. Not of stasticis and studies, but of those whose lives are affected by this tragedy.

Her evocative prose paints vivid pictures that made this a "cannot put down" book. Her compassionate voice gives all of us something to ponder, especially as we go about our chemical-fueled lives. Strong writing and a dire message combine to create a book that cannot be missed.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the kind of book every reader should hope to discover. Who would expect the world's worst toxic contamination to be in the Arctic? No, this isn't a rhetorical question. Echoing "Silent Spring" author Rachel Carson, Cone delivers a whirlwind tour of one of the most perplexing environmental disasters in modern times: the pollution of sparsely populated, isolated Arctic regions by organochlorines (DDT and PCBs) and methyl mercury. Cone explores the global voyage of such toxins as they make their way from southern, industrialized countries by mainly hitchhiking on atmospheric and ocean currents before settling on various rungs of the food chain necessary for the survival of the Inuit and other indigenous peoples. Cone does a fine job sifting through scientific data and interpreting the phenomenon with a layman's stark curiosity and wonder. She paints a humane, highly personal portrait of families and wildlife whose lives and communities are directly threatened by the contamination. This Arctic dilemma has global implications. And this book shines a much needed light upon its legacies.
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Format: Hardcover
The premise is simple, and terrible: The toxins we dump into our environment aren't going away any time soon. It's the same conclusion drawn by Rachel Carson in the book that obviously provided a template for this quick and compelling read by Los Angeles Times environmental reporter Marla Cone. The sad spin added by Cone, however, is that some contaminants are finding their way north, drifting on air and ocean currents, and wreaking havoc on a population that has never benefited from the products that create the pollution: the native Arctic peoples.

Cone sets the scientific stage quickly, explaining how contaminants migrate from their source and accumulate in the ocean food web. She then introduces the researchers that first discovered the excessive toxins in the people and animals living in the pristine, natural Arctic. Cone then tells the stories of the Inuit themselves, explaining what she calls the "Arctic Paradox": The only way people can survive in the Arctic is to eat traditional foods, but eating those foods -- whale and seal -- fills their bodies with poisons.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very well written and well researched book regarding the effects of chemicals on all aspects of the arctic. Ms. Cone addresses the impact that chemicals are having on the human and animal health and the environment. She also discusses the life style and heritage of the inhabitants. It is hard to explain a substance lifestyle to someone who has only gotten their food from a super market. Ms. Cone's description is the best I have read.
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