Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Maddalena Bearzi

Maddalena Bearzi is the President and Co-founder of the Ocean Conservation Society and is a visiting scholar in the Departments of Anthropology and Biological Sciences, at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has studied dolphins and whales in California and different parts of the world. Her new book, with Craig B. Stanford, is Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins.

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
David Orr’s book Earth in Mind is a “must read” for those of us who feel our planet is becoming totally unsustainable or for those who doesn’t know enough about the environmental issues facing us in the near future.

Population growth, fisheries collapse, forest shrinkage, species extinction, temperature rise and many other issues are pushing the natural carrying capacity of Planet Earth to the limit. The emerging question is “how can we live sustainably?”

"A sane civilization" writes Orr, "would have more parks and fewer shopping malls; more small farms and fewer agribusinesses; more prosperous small towns and smaller cities; more solar collectors and fewer strip mines; more bicycle trials and fewer freeways; more trains and fewer cars; more celebration and less hurry; more property owners and fewer millionaires and billionaires; more readers and fewer television watchers; more shopkeepers and fewer multinational corporations; more teachers and fewer lawyers; more wilderness and fewer landfills; more wild animals and fewer pets. A sane civilization would not advocate unending economic growth at the expense of all planetary life.”

Is this just "utopian thinking” on Orr’s part? Many might think so but in Orr’s opinion "No! In our present circumstances it is the only realistic course imaginable. We have tried utopia and can no longer afford it." Orr words explore the relationship between educational, economic and ecological systems, offering intelligent solutions and, at the end, taking a critical look at how we see ourselves in nature and how we need to change that view if we are to survive.
About Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins, from Publishers Weekly:
Endowed through evolution with large brains, the great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) and the cetaceans (dolphins and whales) are second only to humans in intelligence. In this delightful and intriguing book, dolphin specialist Bearzi and primatologist Stanford discuss the similarities between these groups. Both use tools, have sophisticated means of communication and cooperation, solve problems innovatively, transmit cultural traditions to the next generation and are able to imitate others. Like humans, apes and dolphins form complex social networks, and they are capable of deception and manipulation.
Visit Maddalena Bearzi's website.

--Marshal Zeringue