On Extinction: Book summary and reviews of On Extinction by Melanie Challenger

On Extinction

How We Became Estranged from Nature

by Melanie Challenger

On Extinction

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Book Summary

Realizing the link between her own estrangement from nature and the cultural shifts that led to a dramatic rise in extinctions, award-winning writer Melanie Challenger travels in search of the stories behind these losses. From an exploration of an abandoned mine in England to an Antarctic sea voyage to South Georgia's old whaling stations, from a sojourn in South America to a stay among an Inuit community in Canada, she uncovers species, cultures, and industries touched by extinction.

Accompanying her on this journey are the thoughts of anthropologists, biologists, and philosophers who have come before her. Drawing on their words as well as firsthand witness and ancestral memory, Challenger traces the mindset that led to our destructiveness and proposes a path of redemption rooted in our emotional responses. This sobering yet illuminating book looks beyond natural devastation to examine why and what's next.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. [A] beautifully written, moving, and important book." - Publishers Weekly

"A formidable inquiry into why the marvels of nature and the distinctiveness of cultures are constantly imperiled." - Kirkus Reviews

"It's to be hoped that this beautiful, troubling book will encourage more people to regain their interest in the outside world: the planet we both belong to and seem curiously driven to destroy." - The Observer

"Challenger's privilege is great, her courage exemplary, and no one could doubt her passion. This book is an urgent attempt to understand how we got into this mess, and how we might go forward, knowing that we are capable of causing, and of feeling, great loss. Assiduous editing might have helped, because while Challenger has a good eye and a nice turn of phrase, there is a piling up of references that seems born more of anxiety than erudition." - The Guardian UK

"A book which eloquently explores the unhallowedness of species extinctions and which also depicts humanity's resultant bereftness: their loss is ours." - Jay Griffiths, author of Wild: An Elemental Journey

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Melanie Challenger is the author of an award-winning first collection of poems, Galatea, and co-author, with Zlata Filipovic, of Stolen Voices, a history of twentieth century conflict compiled through war diaries. During her research for On Extinction, she was a Fellow of the AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity at University College London and International Fellow at the British Antarctic Survey for International Polar. Her work was also a recipient of the British Council Darwin Awards.

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