Man Swarm

Overpopulation is one of the biggest problems ever faced by mankind. With limited resources such as edible food and clean water, our society needs to greatly curb our population. In Ethiopia, the average woman has 8.5 children, while typically only one child can be fed. In the non-fiction book, “Man Swarm,” Dave Foreman takes the reader through an in-depth conversation about overpopulation. First, he introduces the topic and puts our population growth into context, and it’s quite ghastly. After introducing the historical context, he discusses the topic of “carrying capacity” and the relevant damages inflicted by humans. Lastly, he explains what can be done and presents his own solution to the environmental problem of immigration to the United States. Throughout the entirety of the book, Dave Foreman backs up his arguments with highly convincing, concrete scientific evidence.

Dave Foreman was able to powerfully affect my view on overpopulation. He did this through use of creative arguments, easy to understand context, and the incorporation of hard facts. An interesting point Dave makes is that immigration to the United States is absolutely terrible for our earth. As Americans have a bigger carbon impact than any other nation in the world, immigration to the United States only increases overall greenhouse gas impact even further. In another example, Dave indulges in some interestingly disturbing facts. He states,  “Overall, each one of us in the U.S. burps more CO2 and other greenhouse gases than do folks in any other country in the world, and we are each burping more every day.” (48) Not only did Dave include unusual facts about overpopulation, but he also used lots of context throughout the book. For example, “This is where we get matchups such as one American having as much impact as seventy Nigerians or thirty-five Indians.” (99) Additionally, Dave used the context of money to further his point, “Based on a ‘social cost’ of carbon dioxide of $85 a tonne, the report estimates the climate cost of each new Briton over their lifetime at roughly £30,000 ($63,240).” (46) Dave also exposes the “cornucopian” mindset, which is basically the idea that technology will solve our problems and overpopulation is nothing to worry about. Dave Foreman delves into the “cornucopian” mindset and explains why it’s wrong on many different levels.

My level of understanding on the topic of overpopulation greatly increased as I read Dave Foreman’s book. In addition to understanding the harms of overpopulation directly and indirectly, I have been able to think about my personal decisions, such as leaving lights on and taking hot showers, which affect the world I’m living in. Dave Foreman goes over the top with this book (in the best way possible) and explains everything there is to be explained about the issue of overpopulation.

This book is an absolute must read for anyone with any interest, big or small, in the environment. Every time I read this book, I was taken aback by Dave Foreman’s creative habits in supporting his arguments in addition to his incorporation of science and research. This was a very powerful piece that will stick with me. To put the cherry on top, this book is a short read that is written in an easy to understand manner, and it’s sure to enlighten and entertain!


Annihilation of Nature

“The main purpose of this piece is to bring to light the many animal extinctions taking place on Earth.”

First, the authors set the scene by describing Earth’s relationship with the universe and then illustrating the history of life on Earth, dating back to one billion years ago. They provide a brief history of humans (Homo sapiens), which especially focuses on the different industrialization eras that took place around the world. Eventually, the book catches up51603hN9yuL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_ to the present as they contemplate the extinction of modern animals. After spending much time analyzing the extinction of many birds and mammals, the autho
rs discuss the significance of these extinctions. The main purpose of this piece is to bring to light the many animal extinctions taking place on Earth. A handful of solutions are proposed in the final pages of the book.

Several different literary (as well as visual) techniques were used throughout the book, some good, others less effective. Most notably, there were over one hundred photos of wildlife included in the book. The pictures carried great significance and made the text more powerful. However, the few pages that were without any photos were nearly unbearable, as the large chunks of text were quite overwhelming. Even so, the book included important facts on animal extinction when necessary, which proved to be effective. Furthermore, the description of wildlife tragedies were especially influential For example: In [the whale’s] stomach it had a golf ball, surgical gloves, duct tape, miscellaneous plastic fragments, a pair of sweatpants, and twenty plastic bags, among other trash. Plastic cannot be digested and simply clogs the gut, causing death not directly but indirectly, through starvation and disease.” (83) This graphic description leaves readers with a vivid, powerful image and a lasting impression. On another note, I began to notice awkward wording in a handful of instances. For example, the author refers to the Bonobo species as “our sexy living relatives.” Additionally, sometimes the authors seemed to demonize the human race as a whole, rather than pointing out a specific group responsible for poor environmentally sound decisions. Ultimately, the authors make powerful use of certain techniques to illustrate the sad stories of extinction throughout history.

This piece was certainly successful in providing readers with an above average understanding of bird and mammal extinction. I learned many different things, ranging from the importance of biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest to the illegal hunting of elephants for the ivory trade. The use of photography amidst well-written, evocative text throughout the book created an inviting environment to learn and sympathize.

Deranged Poaching in Africa

The Last Savanna by Mike Bond offers many perspectives through an unusual storyline, which includes the point of views of Somali poachers, Commandos, and the animals that are hunted.

Ryan Rusiecki

The Last Savanna by Mike Bond offers many perspectives through an unusual storyline, which includes the point of views of Somali poachers, Commandos, and the animals that are hunted. Ian Macadam, a former SAS officer, is asked by one of his longtime friends to join a dangerous mission. What makes this decision hard for Macadam is that his wife, Dottie, who is a struggling alcoholic, threatens to leave for her home in London if he goes. On the other hand, his friend has saved his life more than once, which makes Macadam feel obligated to go on the life-threatening mission. After lots of personal reflection, Macadam decides to do just that.

The story is told from the perspective of two groups: the Somali poachers who are doing whatever they can to survive and a group of Commandos who are out to kill the illegal poachers. The groups see one another as the enemy. The book begins with some factual evidence and slowly progresses into a full-on narrative. At times, the story is incredibly dark as it describes the slaughtering of many animals and people. Aside from the two groups, there is a romantic subplot which focuses on Macadam and Rachel, an archaeologist and ex-lover. Mike Bond wants to educate his readers on the ongoing conflicts that exist among the African people and he does this by sharing dark moments and painting gruesome pictures.

However, at some points in the novel, it is difficult to understand what Mike Bond is trying to get across. Mike Bond  has actually worked in Africa and is therefore well-versed on the topics at hand. However, he is not an elephant nor a tiger, and he is not a Somali poacher. Because of this, some risk exists when writing from these perspectives.

The start of the novel starts out as a traditional non-fiction piece as it includes factual information about Africa. In a friendly argument between Macadam and Nehemiah, Nehemiah explains, “Ten years ago Kenya had three hundred thousand elephants. Now we have five thousand. We had five thousand rhino. Now we have a few left, in chain-link enclosures protected by guards.” (68) This evidence provides the reader with clear, concise information that is simple to understand. It allowed me to see the issues taking place in Africa. As the novel continues, Mike Bond explains the troubles of Africa in a more creative style, making it harder for the reader to understand in an objective manner. This is something that bothered me throughout most of the novel.

Mike Bond makes use of extremely powerful descriptions of feelings within the novel to get his points across. This tactic increased my interest and even left me jaw-dropped a handful of times. His word choice is very powerful. At some points it felt as if I were actually there. At the end of a hunting scene midway through the book, the narrator describes the mood as, “In the smell of cordite and powder and blood, and in the sudden silence after the shooting, Warwar felt nauseous but empty, as if he had already thrown up everything.” (106) This particular excerpt shows how Mike Bond takes emotions to the next level. Instead of bleakly saying, “felt nauseous,” he makes the mood that much more powerful, “felt nauseous but empty, as if he had already thrown up everything.” Mike Bond’s creativity with emotions persists throughout the book and makes the story much more enjoyable.

This particular novel is the most creative, artistic non-fiction piece I have read to date. Thus, it was a very interesting read. The beginning of the novel provided me with some hard facts that allowed me to understand the “facts and figures” aspect of the issues in Africa. As the novel progressed, Mike Bond shifted his style; less facts and more emotions. This provided me with an emotional understanding of the problems taking place in Africa which is just as important as the factual knowledge. “Africa is a fever. For Africa there’s no chloroquine. No matter if you leave it, it’s engraved in your blood.” (56)

The Spirited Reader: Introduction

This blog will feature reviews of nonfiction books that focus on the environment.

By Ryan Rusiecki

Ryan attends Bard College and has strong interests in photography and environmental studies. Before Bard, he attended Horace Greeley High School and participated in the school newspaper and ran a club that screened environmental documentaries. He also interned at the Chappaqua Farmers Market which increased his interest in sustainability and allowed him to meet Maxine. With this blog he hopes to spread knowledge about our ever changing earth and encourage others to live with more sustainable habits.

Refer to his website to view his photography work.