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  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘Silent Spring’

Hundreds of Millions of Birds Have Gone Missing

Posted by Richard Conniff on November 5, 2016

All the earth & sky no longer loud with skylark's voice.  (Photo: Arterra/UIG via Getty Images)

All the earth & sky no longer loud with skylark’s voice. (Photo: Arterra/UIG via Getty Images)

by Richard Conniff/Takepart.com

You might think that what happened to the passenger pigeon couldn’t happen today. We know better than to allow a species with a population in the billions to dwindle away to nothing over the course of a few decades, don’t we?

Sadly, no. In fact, it’s not just one species this time. It’s an entire world of migratory songbirds—turtledoves, skylarks, cerulean warblers, wood thrushes, yellow-breasted buntings, and many more—on flyways touching every continent.

The sort of industrial-scale hunting that wiped out the passenger pigeons a century ago is once again part of the story: For instance, a study early this year estimated that hunters and trappers, mostly in the eastern Mediterranean, are illegally taking 11 million to 36 million birds each year for food, the pet trade, and sport. Likewise, hunting of entire flocks in China has caused a 90 percent decline in populations of yellow-breasted buntings, once common across Eurasia but now more easily found on the dinner plates of the nouveaux riches.

But while the scale of this needless killing is shocking, the bigger problem for migratory birds, according to a new analysis published in the journal Science, is

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Posted in Conservation and Extinction, Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

No, Rachel Carson Was Not a Mass Murderer

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 10, 2015

My latest for Yale Environment 360:

Any time a writer mentions Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring or the subsequent U.S. ban on DDT, the loonies come out of the woodwork. They blame Carson’s book for ending the use of DDT as a mosquito-killing pesticide. And because mosquitoes transmit malaria, that supposedly makes her culpable for just about every malaria death of the past half century.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, devotes an entire website to the notion that “Rachel was wrong,” asserting that “millions of people around the world suffer the painful and often deadly effects of malaria because one person sounded a false alarm.” Likewise former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn has declared that “millions of people, particularly children under five, died because governments bought into Carson’s junk science claims about DDT.” The novelist Michael Crichton even had one of his fictional characters assert that “Banning DDT killed more people than Hitler.” He put the death toll at 50 million.

Carson-w-book-1-340It’s worth considering the many errors in this argument both because malaria remains an epidemic problem in much of the developing world and also because groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, backed by corporate interests, have latched onto DDT as a case study for undermining all environmental regulation.

The first thing worth remembering is that it wasn’t Rachel Carson who banned DDT. It was the very Republican Nixon Administration, in 1972. Moreover, the ban applied only in the United States, and even there it made an exception for public health uses. The ban was intended to prevent the imminent extinction of ospreys, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles, our national bird, among other species; they were vulnerable because DDT caused a fatal thinning of eggshells, which collapsed under the weight of the parent incubating them. But the ban did nothing to stop Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation and Extinction, Environmental Issues, Fear & Courage | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »