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On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from…

On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature (edition 2012)

by Melanie Challenger

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493360,562 (3.5)7
How do we think about the things we have lost? How can we use what we know about extinctions - cultural, biological and industrial - to reconnect with nature? When the gigantic bones of mammoths were first excavated from the Siberian permafrost in the eighteenth century, scientists were forced to consider a terrifying possibility: many species that had once flourished on the Earth no longer existed. For the first time, humans had to contemplate the idea of extinction. From our destruction of the natural world to the human cultures that are rapidly dying out, On Extinction is a passionate exploration of these disappearances and why they should concern us. Challenger asks questions about how we've become destructive to our environment, our emotional responses to extinctions, and how these responses might shape our future relationship with nature. She travels to the abandoned whaling stations of South Georgia, the melting icescape of Antarctica and the Inuit camps of the Arctic, where she traces the links between human activities and environmental collapse. On Extinction is an account of Challenger's journey that brings together ideas about cultural, biological and industrial extinction in a beautiful, thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful book.… (more)
Title:On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature
Authors:Melanie Challenger
Info:Granta (2012), Hardcover, 330 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Newark Center

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On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature by Melanie Challenger (Author)



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Like others, this book was not entirely what I was expecting it to be.

Rather than a wholly philosophical look at modern people's estrangement from nature, this book takes both a wider and more narrow view at the destructiveness of humankind over time. Alternatively this book focuses upon the whaling industry and the mining industry, with brief stopovers for the general way the use of oil has impacted the environment and is changing the Inuit people's way of life. I say this view is narrow, for she focuses primarily by way of visiting various places and interviewing the people there; she digs deep into the histories of singular places and how they have been affected rather than focusing upon the whole. This book is deeper for it does delve into the past, and draws connections between lack of place and connection to nature and rising suicide rates in some places.

This is a beautiful book, poetically written and with the true heart of a Romantic at the center. There is beauty to be found in ruins, and confusion to be found in nostalgia. Too often what we long for is a mixture between what we actually lived and what we imagined. Is that a bad thing? A central focus is the idea that perhaps our nostalgia could be used to better interact with the environment and world around us at large. Is there something in our nature that makes us destructive, or is it the motivations that need to change? Why do we lack an interest in the world around us?

Ultimately few resolutions are reached. Instead, there is simply a message and hope that we will better engage with our own locations and places in the world. Learn the land, learn the animals, and learn to live with it and in it in a different, and non-destructive and greedy way. Instead, take only what you need. Or at least that's what I got out of it.

I'd be curious to hear what others made of it all. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
Library Journal August 2013
  smsulibrary2 | Apr 7, 2014 |
I had certain expectations of this book having read poetry and an essay by Melanie challenger that I thought was excellent. However I took a while to read "Extinction" because I kept losing interest and therefore the thread of what the author is trying to convey. There's much about the history of the whaling industry but I couldn't tell really how this related to the idea of extinction. There are some interesting historical and other stories but the most interesting and engaging ones are the author's personal experiences and observations as she travels to various parts of the world including Cornwall, Whitby and Antarctica.

It is a book about our - or the author's - loss or lack of connection with nature; natural observations do not play a strong part in the book itself.

Some passages are written with beautiful language. It's a book that I feel I should have got more from. ( )
  AlexiFrancis | Mar 23, 2013 |
Showing 3 of 3
A book entitled “On Extinction” carries an extreme burden to prove itself worthy of its own existence. Challenger has staked her book’s right to exist on the strange synthesis of poetry and science. I cannot say if it always works, but I can say that a strangeness is evoked, a strangeness that conveys how, in spite of all our erudition, we walk the earth in the 21st century as in a dream — arms outstretched, eyes closed, the natural landscape dropping away into oblivion after our every footfall.
added by lorax | editNew York Times, Paul Greenberg (Jan 25, 2013)
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