Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (Critical Perspectives on Animals: Theory, Culture, Science, and Law)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A leading figure in the emerging field of extinction studies, Thom van Dooren puts philosophy into conversation with the natural sciences and his ethnographic encounters to vivify the cultural and ethical significance of modern-day extinctions. Unlike other meditations on the subject, Flight Ways incorporates the particularities of real animals and their worlds, drawing philosophers, natural scientists, and general readers into the experience of living among and losing biodiversity.
Each chapter of Flight Ways focuses on a different species or group of birds: North Pacific albatrosses, Indian vultures, an endangered colony of penguins in Australia, Hawaiian crows, and the iconic whooping cranes of North America. Written in eloquent and moving prose, the book takes stock of what is lost when a life form disappears from the world―the wide-ranging ramifications that ripple out to implicate a number of human and more-than-human others. Van Dooren intimately explores what life is like for those who must live on the edge of extinction, balanced between life and oblivion, taking care of their young and grieving their dead. He bolsters his studies with real-life accounts from scientists and local communities at the forefront of these developments. No longer abstract entities with Latin names, these species become fully realized characters enmeshed in complex and precarious ways of life, sparking our sense of curiosity, concern, and accountability toward others in a rapidly changing world.
benefited from its being one of the most cattle-rich countries in the world, from a vulture’s perspective what makes India an ideal place to live is that most of the cows there are not consumed by local people. Hindu reverence for cattle, alongside a more general ethos of ahimsa (nonviolence toward living things), has produced a unique and complex environment in which most Indians do not eat beef and many are vegetarian (although Muslims and a growing number of Hindus do eat animals, including
shape in a land already inhabited by vultures. Together, vultures, people, cattle, and others co-produced a unique environment in which food was made readily available for vultures, and, in turn, people were provided with a reliable and inexpensive means of disposing of the dead—this being particularly important for people who kept an abundance of cattle that they did not eat. In fact, one wonders how the cattle-keeping practices that have emerged in India in company with Hinduism would have
in one another, all reshaped through ongoing patterns of attachment and relationship. LOVED AND LOST PLACES We do not really know how long the penguins have been returning to Manly, although they are widely thought to have been there since well before British settlement of the colony of New South Wales. By the mid-nineteenth century, not too long after this settlement, Manly’s beaches had already become an important recreational site for Sydney’s residents. Initially accessed by ferry, the
(at multiple scales and with a range of significances). In this context, the shoreline is part of what Meredith West and Andrew King (1987) have called an “ontogenetic niche”: the broader biophysical environment of cells, bodies, eggshells, and external environments like shorelines that make reproduction possible at all. As Susan Oyama (2000) notes, with particular relevance for those who tend toward genetically reductive accounts of reproduction: “[T]he niche that the genes ‘are inside of’ is an
Agence France-Presse, October 29. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hXfBY76myTDIuT9ACEa0mIBcoRVw (accessed July 2, 2013). Aitken, G. M. 1998. “Extinction.” Biology and Philosophy 13:393–411. Albus, Anita. 2011. On Rare Birds. Translated by Gerald Chapple. Sydney: New South. Allen, Barbara. 2009. Pigeon. London: Reaktion Books. Allen, Colin, and Marc Bekoff. 1999. Species of Mind: The Philosophy and Biology of Cognitive Ethology. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Allen, David. 2011. “My Life as