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New Books in Animal Studies
71 minutes | 7 days ago
Rory Kress, "The Doggie in the Window: How One Dog Led Me from the Pet Store to the Factory Farm to Uncover the Truth of Where Puppies Really Come From" (Sourcebooks, 2018)
When journalist Rory Kress met Izzie, she didn’t think twice before bringing her home. She found the twelve-week-old wheaten terrier in a pet shop and was handed paperwork showing Izzie had been born in a USDA-licensed breeding facility—so she couldn’t be a puppy mill dog, right?But a few years later, as Rory embarked on her own difficult journey to become a mother, her curiosity began to tug at her. Sure, Izzie was her fur baby, but who was her dog’s real mother, and where was she now? And where did Izzie pick up her strange personality quirks? Like so many people, Rory had assumed the young puppy was a clean slate when she bought her. Those questions led Rory—with Izzie by her side—on a nationwide investigation, the first of its kind. From a dog livestock auction to the laboratory of one of the world’s leading animal behavioral scientists all the way up to the highest echelons of the USDA, they sought answers about who we’re trusting to be the watchdog for our pet dogs.The Doggie in the Window (Sourcebooks, 2018) is a story of hope and redemption. It upends the notion that purchased dogs are a safer bet than rescues, examines how internet puppy sales allow customers to get even farther from the truth of dog breeding, and offers fresh insights into one of the oldest bonds known to humanity. With Izzie’s help, we learn the real story behind the dog in the window—and how she got there in the first place.Rory Kress is a journalist and a national Emmy Award-winning television producer. She has reported on Iraqi refugees in Jordan coping through rollerblading, surrogate mothers giving birth to American babies in India, the cultural awakening of Jewish youths in Poland, and the conversions of Hispanic Americans to Islam in New Jersey. She was the news producer for NBC's Today Show and is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Princeton University. She lives in Denver with her family and her dog, Izzie.Mark Molloy is the reviews editor at MAKE: A Literary Magazine.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/animal-studies
66 minutes | 8 days ago
Teya Brooks Pribac, "Enter the Animal: Cross-Species Perspectives on Grief and Spirituality" (Sydney UP, 2021)
For centuries, science has largely dismissed the idea that animals experience complex emotions, despite the fact the most humans who’ve spent time in the company of animals would argue otherwise. While research on animal subjectivity is expanding, we still know relatively little about the complexities of non-humans’ emotional lives.Teya Brooks Pribac’s new book, Enter the Animal: Cross-Species Perspectives on Grief and Spirituality, published this year by Sydney University Press, examines the scientific and cultural discourse surrounding animal grief and spirituality. Her interdisciplinary approach combines scientific research with a discussion of psychology and attachment theory, and argues for commonalities of experience shared by many—if not all—living creatures.Brooks Pribac is an independent researcher in the area of animal studies, with a particular interest in cross species grief as well as spirituality as a bodily-focused, non-denominational engagement. She lives in the rural Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, Australia.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/animal-studies
55 minutes | 9 days ago
Timothy Beatley, "The Bird-Friendly City: Creating Safe Urban Habitats" (Island Press, 2020)
Timothy Beatley is the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, where he has taught for over twenty-five years. His primary teaching and research interests are in environmental planning and policy, with a special emphasis on coastal and natural hazards planning, environmental values and ethics, and biodiversity conservation. He has published extensively in these areas, including the following books: Ethical Land Use; Habitat Conservation Planning: Endangered Species and Urban Growth; Natural Hazard Mitigation; and An Introduction to Coastal Zone Management. In recent years much of his research and writing has been focused on the subject of sustainable communities and creative strategies by which cities and towns can reduce their ecological footprints, while at the same time becoming more livable and equitable places. His books that explore these issues include Biophilic Cities, Resilient Cities, and Blue Urbanism (Island Press).In The Bird-Friendly City: Creating Safe Urban Habitats (Island Press, 2020), Timothy Beatley, a longtime advocate for intertwining the built and natural environments, takes readers on a global tour of cities that are reinventing the status quo with birds in mind. Efforts span a fascinating breadth of approaches: public education, urban planning and design, habitat restoration, architecture, art, civil disobedience, and more. Beatley shares empowering examples, including: advocates for “catios,” enclosed outdoor spaces that allow cats to enjoy backyards without being able to catch birds; a public relations campaign for vultures; and innovations in building design that balance aesthetics with preventing bird strikes. Through these changes and the others Beatley describes, it is possible to make our urban environments more welcoming to many bird species.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/animal-studies
57 minutes | 15 days ago
Stuart Rees, "Cruelty or Humanity: Challenges, Opportunities and Responsibilities" (Policy Press, 2020)
Stuart Rees's Cruelty or Humanity: Challenges, Opportunities and Responsibilities (Policy Press, a Bristol University Press imprint, 2020) exposes politicians' fascination with cruelty in their deliberations about policies. Through empirical analysis, human stories and poetic commentary, he identifies non-destructive exercise of power, courageous public action and compelling humanitarian alternatives as the key to achieving a future in which dignity and equality flourish.Documenting case studies from around the world, the book exposes politicians’ cruel motives and the resulting outcomes. Using first-hand observations and insights from international poets, the work argues for courageous action to support non-violence in every aspect of public and private life for the survival of people, animals and the planet.Stuart Rees is Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney and a human rights activist in several countries. He is regarded as one of Australia’s most consistent campaigners for justice.Bede Haines is a solicitor, specialising in litigation and a partner at Holding Redlich, an Australian commercial law firm. He lives in Sydney, Australia. Known to read books, ride bikes and eat cereal (often). email@example.com.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/animal-studies
84 minutes | 23 days ago
Rick McIntyre, "The Reign of Wolf 21: In the Valley of the Druid King" (Greystone Books, 2020)
Today I talked to Rick McIntyre about the first two books of his ongoing The Alpha Wolves of Yellowstone series.The first book we discuss, The Rise of Wolf 8: Witnessing the Triumph of Yellowstone's Underdog, introduces us to the wolves of Yellowstone National Park.Yellowstone National Park was once home to an abundance of wild wolves—but park rangers killed the last of their kind in the 1920s. Decades later, the rangers brought them back, with the first wolves arriving from Canada in 1995. This is the incredible true story of one of those wolves. Wolf 8 struggles at first—he is smaller than the other pups, and often bullied—but soon he bonds with an alpha female whose mate was shot. An unusually young alpha male, barely a teenager in human years, Wolf 8 rises to the occasion, hunting skillfully, and even defending his family from the wolf who killed his father. But soon he faces a new opponent: his adopted son, who mates with a violent alpha female. Can Wolf 8 protect his valley without harming his protégé?The second book we discuss, The Reign of Wolf 21: The Saga of Yellowstone's Legendary Druid Pack, continues the story.In this compelling follow-up to the national bestseller The Rise of Wolf 8, Rick McIntyre profiles one of Yellowstone’s most revered alpha males, Wolf 21. Leader of the Druid Peak Pack, Wolf 21 was known for his unwavering bravery, his unusual benevolence (unlike other alphas, he never killed defeated rival males), and his fierce commitment to his mate, the formidable Wolf 42. Wolf 21 and Wolf 42 were attracted to each other the moment they met—but Wolf 42’s jealous sister interfered viciously in their relationship. After an explosive insurrection within the pack, the two wolves came together at last as leaders of the Druid Peak Pack, which dominated the park for more than 10 years. McIntyre recounts the pack’s fascinating saga with compassion and a keen eye for detail, drawing on his many years of experience observing Yellowstone wolves in the wild. His outstanding work of science writing offers unparalleled insight into wolf behavior and Yellowstone’s famed wolf reintroduction project. It also offers a love story for the ages.Rick McIntyre has spent more than fifty years watching wolves in America’s national parks, twenty-five of those years in Yellowstone, where he has accumulated over 100,000 wolf sightings and educated the public about the park’s most famous wolves. He has spoken about the Yellowstone wolves with 60 Minutes, NPR, and CBC, and he is profiled extensively in Nate Blakeslee’s American Wolf and in international publications. He lives in Silver Gate, Montana.Mark Molloy is the reviews editor at MAKE: A Literary Magazine.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/animal-studies
77 minutes | a month ago
Carol J. Adams, "The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory" (Bloomsbury, 2015)
Today I talked to Carol J. Adams about two of her classic texts that have recently been republished.The first book we discuss, first published in 1990, is The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, a landmark text in the ongoing debates about animal rights. In the two decades since, the book has inspired controversy and heated debate. The Sexual Politics of Meat argues that what, or more precisely who, we eat is determined by the patriarchal politics of our culture, and that the meanings attached to meat eating are often clustered around virility. We live in a world in which men still have considerable power over women, both in public and in private. Carol Adams argues that gender politics is inextricably related to how we view animals, especially animals who are consumed. Further, she argues that vegetarianism and fighting for animal rights fit perfectly alongside working to improve the lives of disenfranchised and suffering people, under the wide umbrella of compassionate activism.The second book we discuss, first published in 2004, is The Pornography of Meat. For 30 years, since the publication of her landmark book The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol J. Adams and her readers have continued to document and hold to account the degrading interplay of language about women, domesticated animals, and meat in advertising, politics, and media. Serving as sequel and visual companion, The Pornography of Meat charts the continued influence of this language and the fight against it. This new edition includes more than 300 images, most of them new, and brings the book up to date to include expressions of misogyny in online media and advertising, the #MeToo movement, and the impact of Donald Trump and white supremacy on our political language. Never has this book--or Adams's analysis--been more relevant.Carol J. Adams is the author of numerous books, including The Sexual Politics of Meat, Neither Man nor Beast: Feminism and the Defense of Animals, and The Pornography of Meat. She is the co-editor of several pathbreaking anthologies, including most recently Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth (with Lori Gruen). Her work is the subject of two recent anthologies, Defiant Daughters: 21 Women of Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat and The Art of the Animal: 14 Women Artists Explore The Sexual Politics of Meat, in which a new generation of feminists, artists, and activists respond to Adams' groundbreaking work.Mark Molloy is the reviews editor at MAKE: A Literary Magazine.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/animal-studies
48 minutes | a month ago
Barbara J. King, "Animals' Best Friends: Putting Compassion to Work for Animals in Captivity and in the Wild" (U Chicago Press, 2021)
As people come to understand more about animals' inner lives-the intricacies of their thoughts and the emotions that are expressed every day by whales and cows, octopus and mice, even bees-we feel a growing compassion, a desire to better their lives. But how do we translate this compassion into helping other creatures, both those that are and are not our pets? Bringing together the latest science with heartfelt storytelling,Animals' Best Friends: Putting Compassion to Work for Animals in Captivity and in the Wild (University of Chicago Press, 2021) reveals the opportunities we have in everyday life to help animals in our homes, in the wild, in zoos, and in science labs, as well as those considered to be food. Barbara J. King, an expert on animal cognition and emotion, guides us on a journey both animal and deeply human. We meet cows living relaxed lives in an animal sanctuary-and cows with plastic portals in their sides at a university research station.We observe bison free-roaming at Yellowstone National Park and chimpanzees confined to zoos. We learn with King how to negotiate vegetarian preferences in omnivore restaurants. We experience the touch of a giant Pacific octopus tasting King's skin with one of his long, neuron-rich arms. We reflect on animal testing as King shares her own experience as the survivor of a particularly nasty cancer. And in a moment all too familiar to many of us, we recover from a close encounter with two spiders in the home.This is a book not of shaming and limitation, but of uplift and expansion. Throughout this journey, King makes no claims of personal perfection. Though an animal expert, she is just like the rest of us: on a journey still, learning each day how to be better, and do better, for animals. But as Animals' Best Friends makes clear, challenging choices can bring deep rewards. By turning compassion into action on behalf of animals, we not only improve animals' lives-we also immeasurably enrich our own.Barbara King is Emerita Professor of Anthropology at William & Mary. You can follow her on Twitter @bjkingape and find her work at www.barbarajking.comSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/animal-studies
46 minutes | a month ago
Juno Salazar Parreñas, "Decolonizing Extinction: The Work of Care in Orangutan Rehabilitation" (Duke University Press, 2018)
Decolonizing Extinction: The Work of Care in Orangutan Rehabilitation (Duke University Press, 2018) presents a multi-species ethnography of orangutans and humans that probes the shared susceptibilities of both species in the face of future extinction. In a series of provocative chapters, the book interweaves intimate entanglements in the workings of an orangutan rehabilitation centre with reflection on the work of care that draws on queer theory and feminist conceptions of welfare. By centralizing such rehabilitation efforts, the book reveals the contradictions inherent in such a system. The practice of rehabilitation, it shows, is underpinned by violence. Parreñas demonstrates the colonial origins of such an approach to conservation biology and how care within enclosures traps both humans and endangered primates alike. As such, we should urgently question how we could divest ourselves from the need for security that is dependent on cruelty and seek instead a decolonial era of co-existence which welcomes and finds joy in our moments of brief, mutual vulnerability.In this conversation, we discuss models of orangutan care, coerced copulations, the concept of “arrested autonomy” and how we as a species could love better.Juno Salazar Parreñas is an assistant professor at the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University. Her research interests centre on human-animal relations and the institution of environmental justice. This book received the 2019 Michelle Z. Rosaldo Prize, biennially awarded by the Association for Feminist Anthropology for a first book as well as honourable mentions for the 2019 New Millennium Prize, the 2019 Diana Forsythe Prize and the 2020 Harry Benda Prize from the Association for Asian Studies.For more on orangutans in Borneo, check out the following:SSEAC Interview with conservation scholar Dr. June Rubis here.NBN Interview with historian Prof. Robert Cribb here.Faizah Zakaria is an assistant professor of Southeast Asian history at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. You can find her website at www.faizahzak.com or Twitter @laurelinarien.Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/animal-studies
58 minutes | a month ago
Tom Philpott, "Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It" (Bloomsbury, 2020)
Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020) is an unsettling journey into the disaster-bound American food system, and an exploration of possible solutions, from leading food politics commentator and former farmer Tom Philpott.More than a decade after Michael Pollan's game-changing The Omnivore's Dilemma transformed the conversation about what we eat, a combination of global diet trends and corporate interests have put American agriculture into a state of "quiet emergency," from dangerous drought in California--which grows more than 50 percent of the fruits and vegetables we eat--to catastrophic topsoil loss in the "breadbasket" heartland of the United States. Whether or not we take heed, these urgent crises of industrial agriculture will define our future.In Perilous Bounty, veteran journalist and former farmer Tom Philpott explores and exposes the small handful of seed and pesticide corporations, investment funds, and magnates who benefit from the trends that imperil us, with on-the-ground dispatches featuring the scientists documenting the damage and the farmers and activists who are valiantly and inventively pushing back.Resource scarcity looms on the horizon, but rather than pointing us toward an inevitable doomsday, Philpott shows how the entire wayward ship of American agriculture could be routed away from its path to disaster. He profiles the farmers and communities in the nation's two key growing regions developing resilient, soil-building, water-smart farming practices, and readying for the climate shocks that are already upon us; and he explains how we can help move these methods from the margins to the mainstream.Jenny Splitter is an independent journalist covering food, farming, science, and climate.
65 minutes | 2 months ago
James Skillen, "This Land is My Land: Rebellion in the West" (Oxford UP, 2020)
On January 6th, 2021, when right wing supporters of Donald Trump staged an insurrection at the US Capitol building, they were participating in a long tradition of conservative rebellion with its roots in the West. Dr. James Skillen, associate professor of environmental studies at Calvin University, traces those roots in his new book, This Land is My Land: Rebellion in the West (Oxford University Press, 2020). By the late 20th century, the Bureau of Land Management owned and managed huge swaths of some western states. Skillen argues that change in the regulatory environment, with a new emphasis on ecosystem and wildlife management beginning in the 1970s, combined with a groundswell of conservative support to foment armed rebellion against perceived government overreach among ranchers, small-time miners, and other western resource users. When Ammon Bundy and his family staged a takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon in 2014, it was just the latest episode in a series of rebellions across the West, some involving the Bundys themselves, in which federal officials exchanged gunfire with armed Western rebels. In many ways, argues Skillen, Trump’s election in 2016, built on votes in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania, was the culmination of a story that begins in the American West.
25 minutes | 2 months ago
Decolonising Conservation Practices and Research: Seeing the Orangutan in Borneo with Dr June Rubis
Around the world, orangutans are widely recognised as an iconic species for environmental and wildlife conservation efforts. The rainforest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak is one of last remaining habitats of the nearly extinct Bornean orangutan. While conservation efforts have made the region a top priority for protecting orangutans, these efforts often sideline the indigenous peoples who live along the great apes.Dr June Rubis speaks with Dr Natali Pearson about her lifelong work in orangutan conservation, and reflects on mainstream conservation narratives, politics, and power relations around orangutan conservation in Sarawak and elsewhere in Borneo. In describing the more-than-human relations that link the indigenous Iban people and endangered orangutans, Dr Rubis encourages us to rethink our relationship to the environment, and to learn from indigenous knowledge to decolonise conservation and land management practices.June Rubis is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Indigenous Environmental Studies of the Sydney Environmental Institute at the University of Sydney. She researches Indigenous conservation and land management practices from a decolonial perspective, with a particular focus on Malaysian Borneo. Her recent project has focused on the human-environment and human-animal relationships within the multi-scalar forces of conservation in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. She is a former conservation biologist, with twelve years of conservation fieldwork and Indigenous rights issues in Borneo (both Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo), and was born and raised in Sarawak. She is currently the co-chair of "Documenting Territories of Life" programme with the ICCA (Indigenous Communities Conserved Areas) consortium.You can follow June on Twitter @JuneRubis.For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website here.
41 minutes | 2 months ago
Emily Willingham, "Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis" (Avery, 2020)
The fallacy sold to many of us is that the penis signals dominance and power. But this wry and penetrating book reveals that in fact nature did not shape the penis–or the human attached to it–to have the upper…hand.Phallacy looks closely at some of nature’s more remarkable examples of penises and the many lessons to learn from them. In tracing how we ended up positioning our nondescript penis as a pulsing, awe-inspiring shaft of all masculinity and human dominance, Phallacy also shows what can we do to put that penis back where it belongs.Emphasizing our human capacities for impulse control, Phallacy ultimately challenges the toxic message that the penis makes the man and the man can’t control himself. With instructive illustrations of unusual genitalia and tales of animal mating rituals that will make you particularly happy you are not a bedbug, Phallacy shows where humans fit on the continuum from fun to fatal phalli and why the human penis is an implement for intimacy, not intimidation.Emily Anthes is a science journalist and author. Her books include Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts and The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness. Read more about her work at emilyanthes.com or follow her on Twitter at @emilyanthes.
69 minutes | 2 months ago
Matthieu Ricard, "A Plea for the Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion" (Shambhala, 2016)
Today I talked to Matthieu Ricard about two books. The first is A Plea for the Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion (Shambhala, 2016) It is a powerful and wide-ranging indictment of the treatment of animals by humans--and an eloquent plea for animal rights. Every cow just wants to be happy. Every chicken just wants to be free. Every bear, dog, or mouse experiences sorrow and feels pain as intensely as any of us humans do. In a compelling appeal to reason and human kindness, Matthieu Ricard here takes the arguments from his best-sellers Altruism and Happiness to their logical conclusion: that compassion toward all beings, including our fellow animals, is a moral obligation and the direction toward which any enlightened society must aspire. He chronicles the appalling sufferings of the animals we eat, wear, and use for adornment or “entertainment,” and submits every traditional justification for their exploitation to scientific evidence and moral scrutiny. What arises is an unambiguous and powerful ethical imperative for treating all of the animals with whom we share this planet with respect and compassion.The second, co-authored with Jason Gruhl, is Our Animal Neighbors: Compassion for Every Furry, Slimy, Prickly Creature on Earth (Bala Kids, 2020). It offers a story about the fundamental connection between animals and people and how we can treat all of Earth's creatures with compassion and empathy.Furry polar bears, playful sea otters, slow sloths, prickly porcupines, and slimy snakes are just a few of the many animals we share our world with. And even though we might not look the same or have the same needs as our animal neighbors, we have more in common with them than we might think. Our Animal Neighbors introduces children to the importance of treating all animals with the care and compassion they deserve. We all want to experience love, safety, and respect and this book is the first step to instilling those values at an early age. This planet is our home, and we should all be free to live a prosperous life regardless of whether we have hands, hooves, scales, or fur.Matthieu Ricard is a French writer, photographer, translator and Buddhist monk. Ricard received a PhD in molecular genetics from the Pasteur Institute in 1972 before departing his native France to study Buddhism in the Himalayas, eventually becoming a monk of the Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in Nepal. Renowned also as a photographer and translator, he is the author of numerous previous books, including Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and Your World, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill, and, with his father, the late Jean-François Revel, The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life. He dedicates all the income of his work to two hundred humanitarian projects run in the Himalaya by the organization he founded, Karuna-Shechen.Mark Molloy is the reviews editor at MAKE: A Literary Magazine.
56 minutes | 3 months ago
Matthew Gavin Frank, "Flight of the Diamond Smugglers: A Tale of Pigeons, Obsession, and Greed Along Coastal South Africa" (Liveright, 2021)
For nearly eighty years, a huge portion of coastal South Africa was closed off to the public. With many of its pits now deemed “overmined” and abandoned, American journalist Matthew Gavin Frank sets out across the infamous Diamond Coast to investigate an illicit trade that supplies a global market. Immediately, he became intrigued by the ingenious methods used in facilitating smuggling?particularly, the illegal act of sneaking carrier pigeons onto mine property, affixing diamonds to their feet, and sending them into the air.Entering Die Sperrgebiet (“The Forbidden Zone”) is like entering an eerie ghost town, but Frank is surprised by the number of people willing―even eager―to talk with him. Soon he meets Msizi, a young diamond digger, and his pigeon, Bartholomew, who helps him steal diamonds. It’s a deadly game: pigeons are shot on sight by mine security, and Msizi knows of smugglers who have disappeared because of their crimes. For this, Msizi blames “Mr. Lester,” an evil tall-tale figure of mythic proportions.From the mining towns of Alexander Bay and Port Nolloth, through the “halfway” desert, to Kleinzee’s shores littered with shipwrecks, Frank investigates a long overlooked story. Weaving interviews with local diamond miners who raise pigeons in secret with harrowing anecdotes from former heads of security, environmental managers, and vigilante pigeon hunters, Frank reveals how these feathered bandits became outlaws in every mining town.Interwoven throughout this obsessive quest are epic legends in which pigeons and diamonds intersect, such as that of Krishna’s famed diamond Koh-i-Noor, the Mountain of Light, and that of the Cherokee serpent Uktena. In these strange connections, where truth forever tangles with the lore of centuries past, Frank is able to contextualize the personal grief that sent him, with his wife Louisa in the passenger seat, on this enlightening journey across parched lands.Blending elements of reportage, memoir, and incantation, Flight of the Diamond Smugglers: A Tale of Pigeons, Obsession, and Greed Along Coastal South Africa (Liveright, 2021) is a rare and remarkable portrait of exploitation and greed in one of the most dangerous areas of coastal South Africa. With his sovereign prose and insatiable curiosity, Matthew Gavin Frank “reminds us that the world is a place of wonder if only we look” (Toby Muse).Emily Anthes is a science journalist and author. Her books include Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts and The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness. Read more about her work at emilyanthes.com or follow her on Twitter at @emilyanthes.
61 minutes | 3 months ago
Leigh Claire La Berge, "Wages Against Artwork: Decommodified Labor and the Claims of Socially Engaged Art" (Duke UP, 2019)
The last twenty years have seen a rise in the production, circulation, and criticism of new forms of socially engaged art aimed at achieving social justice and economic equality. Leigh Claire La Berge, author of Leigh Claire La Berge, Wages Against Artwork: Decommodified Labor and the Claims of Socially Engaged Art (Duke UP, 2019), speaks with Pierre d'Alancaisez about what she calls decommodified labor — the slow diminishment of wages alongside an increase in the demands of work. Outlining the ways in which artists relate to work, La Berge examines how artists and organizers create institutions to address their own precarity and why the increasing presence of animals and children in contemporary art points to the turn away from paid labor.Leigh Claire La Berge is Assistant Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. She's the author of Scandals and Abstraction (about which she spoke on an earlier episode), and co-editor of Reading Capitalist Realism. She's currently working on expanding her project Marx for Cats, initiated with Caroline Woolard and Or Zubalsky.La Berge's discusses the proliferation of animals in contemporary art starting 45 minutes in the episode. Pierre d’Alancaisez is a contemprary art curator, cultural strategist, researcher. Sometime scientist, financial services professional.
68 minutes | 3 months ago
Kyle Johannsen, "Wild Animal Ethics: The Moral and Political Problem of Wild Animal Suffering" (Routledge, 2020)
Many sentient (or possibly sentient) wild animals follow a reproductive strategy whereby they have large numbers of offspring, the vast majority of which suffer and die quickly or suffer and die slowly. Either way, there is a huge amount of suffering in the wild. And it is a truism in ethics that we have a duty to alleviate or prevent unnecessary suffering. If we could intervene in nature to prevent this suffering, shouldn’t we? In Wild Animal Ethics: The Moral and Political Problem of Wild Animal Suffering (Routledge, 2020), Kyle Johannsen argues that we do have this duty. On his view, the value of unspoiled nature only conflicts with botched interventions, not effective ones, and we already do intervene in ways that help wild animals, such as through rabies vaccinations intended primarily to protect domesticated animals. But through gene editing we could do quite a bit more – create a 3-week window from birth where newborns do not suffer from pain, or even turn carnivores into herbivores. Johannsen, an adjunct assistant professor of philosophy at Queen’s University, offers a savvy and provocative discussion of this relatively neglected issue of animal welfare, along with some recommendations on how we can address it.
53 minutes | 3 months ago
Andrew A. Robichaud, "Animal City: The Domestication of Urban America" (Harvard UP, 2019)
Americans once lived alongside animals. They raised them, worked them, ate them, and lived off their products. This was true not just in rural areas but also in cities, which were crowded with livestock and beasts of burden. But as urban areas grew in the nineteenth century, these relationships changed. Slaughterhouses, dairies, and hog ranches receded into suburbs and hinterlands. Milk and meat increasingly came from stores, while the family cow and pig gave way to the household pet. This great shift, Andrew Robichaud reveals, transformed people’s relationships with animals and nature and radically altered ideas about what it means to be human.Animal City: The Domestication of Urban America (Harvard UP, 2019) illustrates, these transformations in human and animal lives were not inevitable results of population growth but rather followed decades of social and political struggles. City officials sought to control urban animal populations and developed sweeping regulatory powers that ushered in new forms of urban life. Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals worked to enhance certain animals’ moral standing in law and culture, in turn inspiring new child welfare laws and spurring other wide-ranging reforms.The animal city is still with us today. The urban landscapes we inhabit are products of the transformations of the nineteenth century. From urban development to environmental inequality, our cities still bear the scars of the domestication of urban America.Akash Ondaatje is a Research Associate at Know History. He studied at McGill University (B.A. History) and Queen’s University (M.A. History), where he researched human-animal relations and transatlantic exchanges in eighteenth-century British culture through his thesis, Animal Ascension: Elevation and Debasement Through Human-Animal Associations in English Satire, 1700-1820 (https://qspace.library.queensu.ca/handle/1974/27991). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
40 minutes | 3 months ago
Can we Bring Extinct Species Back?: A Conversation with Beth Shapiro
Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? The science says yes. In How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction (Princeton UP, 2020), Beth Shapiro, evolutionary biologist and pioneer in “ancient DNA” research, walks readers through the astonishing and controversial process of de-extinction. From deciding which species should be restored, to sequencing their genomes, to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, Shapiro vividly explores the extraordinary cutting-edge science that is being used—today—to resurrect the past. Journeying to far-flung Siberian locales in search of ice age bones and delving into her own research—as well as those of fellow experts such as Svante Paabo, George Church, and Craig Venter—Shapiro considers de-extinction’s practical benefits and ethical challenges. Would de-extinction change the way we live? Is this really cloning? What are the costs and risks? And what is the ultimate goal?Using DNA collected from remains as a genetic blueprint, scientists aim to engineer extinct traits — traits that evolved by natural selection over thousands of years—into living organisms. But rather than viewing de-extinction as a way to restore one particular species, Shapiro argues that the overarching goal should be the revitalization and stabilization of contemporary ecosystems. For example, elephants with genes modified to express mammoth traits could expand into the Arctic, re-establishing lost productivity to the tundra ecosystem.Looking at the very real and compelling science behind an idea once seen as science fiction, How to Clone a Mammoth demonstrates how de-extinction will redefine conservation’s future.Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at email@example.com.
37 minutes | 4 months ago
Jonathan C. Slaght, "Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl" (FSG, 2020)
The Blakiston’s fish owl is the world’s largest living species of owl, with larger females of the species weighing as much as ten pounds. It lives in the Russian Far East and Northern Japan. It is also endangered: global populations are estimated to be around 1500 owls in total.The story of one conservationist’s efforts to save these owls is told in Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2020), the first book by Jonathan Slaght. The book traces Jonathan’s many trips to the territory of Primorye in the Russian Far East, as part of his research into where the fish owls live and hunt. In the dead of the Russian winter, Jonathan and his Russian compatriots survey the forests, listen for fish owl duets, investigate nests and capture owls in an attempt to learn more about these creatures.Jonathan Slaght is the Russia and Northeast Asia coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, where he manages research projects on endangered species and coordinates avian conservation activities along the East Asia–Australasian Flyway from the Arctic to the tropics. You can follow him on Twitter at @JonathanSlaght.Owls of the Eastern Ice has won widespread acclaim, including being longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction.In this interview, Joanthan and I discuss his research project, and how he turned it into a book. We also delve a little deeper into the ways we think about conservation, and what else needs to be done. You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
62 minutes | 4 months ago
John Hartigan Jr., "Shaving the Beasts: Wild Horses and Ritual in Spain" (U Minnesota Press, 2020)
Wild horses still roam the mountains of Galicia, Spain. But each year, in a ritual dating to the 1500s called rapa das bestas, villagers herd these “beasts” together and shave their manes and tails. Shaving the Beasts is a firsthand account of how the horses experience this traumatic rite, producing a profound revelation about the durability of sociality in the face of violent domination.John Hartigan Jr. constructs an engrossing, day-by-day narrative chronicling the complex, nuanced social lives of wild horses and the impact of their traumatic ritual shearing every summer. His story generates intimate, individual portraits of these creatures while analyzing the social practices—like grazing and grooming—that are the building blocks of equine society. Shaving the Beasts: Wild Horses and Ritual in Spain (University of Minnesota Press, 2020) culminates in a searing portrayal of the inspiring resilience these creatures display as they endure and recover from rapa das bestas.Turning away from “thick” description to “thin,” Hartigan moves toward a more observational form of study, focusing on behaviors over interpretations. This vivid approach provides new and important contributions to the study of animal behavior. Ultimately, he comes away with profound, penetrating insights into multispecies interactions and a strong alternative to humancentric ethnographic practices.Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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