One of the real privileges of having written a book is getting to talk to people I wouldn’t ordinarily have the occasion to meet, and recently I had a great time conversing with Charles Heller, host of the radio show Liberty Watch. Charles likes guns and hates the federal government, and feels that this whole climate change thing has been debunked. Otherwise, what a sweetheart! On his website he endorses our conversation as “this is what radio can be without the shouting,” and I concur. He also did me the favor of writing this very articulate and nuanced review of my book, below. You can listen to our conversation here: http://www.libertywatchradio.com/listen
Review by Charles Heller:
Mary Ellen Hannibal is a book editor, author, and environmental researcher. The book is about an initiative to unite “biodiversity corridors” via the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada, but it is far more than that. It seeks to tell the story of the damage man has done to nature via development, and especially roads as well as climate change, to wildlife, habitat, and ecosystems.
Hannibal’s claim is that, “human development has made islands out of our largest nature reserves, stranding the biodiversity within them.” She introduces readers to a monumental effort to unite those regions, the brainchild of scientist Michael Soule, who is a contemporary of Paul Erlich (The Population Bomb) and E.O. Wilson. NGO’s and private citizens, as well as some universities are involved in this effort. Many of the pieces of “The Spine of The Continent,” sound remarkably similar to the United Nations “Agenda 21,” especially in relation to “biodiversity corridors.”
Soule is the creator of the “Wildlands Network,” an organization which attempts to link other wildlife advocates into coalitions to solve the problems they perceive with the management of the environment. Hannibal spent a lot of time with Soule for research of this book.
The book is a serious study of the topic, albeit from the left, but fairly probative of several issues, taking two and a half years of research and writing to accomplish this tome. Though you may well learn some sesquipedalian (Latin for a foot and a half) words in this book, Hannibal breaks down the terms of scientific art to “shirt sleeve English,” as her career in book editing and her BA in English cause her to do.
Surprisingly, the environmental side of this work is not in opposition to the “hook and the bullet,” in wildlife management, and there are some rather stunning examples of creative cooperation in the book between ranchers, NGO’s, and state and federal wildlife management agencies. One of the examples of that is the “High Lonesome Ranch,” run by attorney and wildlife conservationist Paul Vahldick. The author spent time at that ranch doing research not only of the topic, but also of the researchers themselves. She observed some of the scientists, hunting. Yes, some of them are hunters, surprising to some.
Clearly, Hannibal’s love of nature come through her work, but not in a way that overpowers or subtracts from her narrative – rather, it enhances that narrative in a way that informs and fills in what might otherwise be gaps in the readers’ understanding of the work. She weaves in an underlying assumption that global warming is a problem (referring to it as “climate change”) but surprisingly does not seem to include any evidence about scientific proof either of the cause, or the controversy on the topic. One supposes that it would have been a much longer book, were that the case.
While Hannibal clearly has her bias about environmental issues, it does not detract from the fact that the reader could learn a lot about the issues from reading it. If nothing else, it might serve as something of a road map (now becoming a quaint term in and of itself, in the era of GPS) to an understanding of how the other side thinks. It might also be something of an unwitting manual of what pedagogies for the property right side, to oppose, and with which it might seek common ground.
Despite the author’s lean, she is no ideologue, neither unaware nor deaf to points of view other than her own. There is no bombast in “Spine of The Continent,” only a lot of research and background on an important issue. An interview of her is located at http://i.b5z.net/i/u/1219065/m/11_18_25_Mary_Ellen_Hannibal_FTP_49.53.mp3, for the readers’ enjoyment.