26 July 2014

My Review of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction by Joel Greenberg

One must be careful when reviewing a book as Mr. Greenberg's. A Feathered River is an often grizzly account of the viciousness of how humanity drove a species to extinction. The research is thorough; the writing itself is gripping. That said, If you've picked this book up you're probably an animal lover if not a birder; if so this makes this book a necessary if very difficult read.

Mr. Greenberg writes of all of the creative ways we killed these birds; shooting, netting, even rocks and fire; as Mr. Greenberg writes, often our greatest creativity as a species occurs when coming up with new ways of killing. The species that numbered a billion in the 1860's was just about extinct by 1900.

We may look upon an older society that robbed us of this beautiful animal with contempt and judgment; we may read in horror as people shot into the air for no purpose other than to hurt other animals for no seemingly no reason at all. And yet, this would be the easy and superficial lesson to learn. Rather we should look at the crimes what we're currently committing. Our popular worship of bacon and other types of meat, our thirst for the latest iPhone while raping the earth of its natural resources, our obsession for water in a plastic bottle that pollutes, for example may all be looked upon with similar horror by future generations. Indeed, worldwide pollution and habitat destruction is occurring at a rate far worse than the late 19th century. While admittedly not the book's primary subject, I do wish Mr. Greenberg would be more forceful in tying the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon to today's environmental crisis.

Admittedly, I read this book only because of a book club selection; otherwise I would've skipped the depressing subject. However, I think it's a necessary reminder of our responsibility as stewards of our planet. Read this book and you will never look at a Mourning Dove or even a "lowly" Rock Pigeon the same way again.