Select one of the keywords
Dancing at the Dead Sea: Tracking the World's Environmental Hotspots    by Alanna Mitchell order for
Dancing at the Dead Sea
by Alanna Mitchell
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alanna Mitchell, an award-winning environmental reporter, takes us on a tour of regions all over the world (and at extremes of climate), which are of critical concern to the global environment - the dwindling Red Sea and Azraq Oasis in Jordan, Madagascar, Banks Island in the High Arctic, Suriname in South America, Iceland, the Galapagos Islands, and the boreal forest of northern Canada. Along the way she asks assorted experts whether mankind is an ultimately suicidal species, muses about the 'shelf life' of homo sapiens, and refers to eminent paleontologist Richard Leakey's warnings of a 'Sixth Extinction'. Mitchell discusses the Victorian reaction to Darwin's publication of the theory of evolution, which was in direct conflict with accepted 'legends' (rooted beliefs of the times), drawing a parallel with the difficulty that society has in accepting current serious environmental warnings ('Darwin Round Two').

The author introduces us to her journeys in Jordan, dancing on the rapidly shrinking Red Sea, and assessing the potential of the 'resurrection' of the ancient aquifers of Azraq Oasis (she reminds us that 'fossil water is finite' not only in desert regions but all around the world). Mitchell moves on to search for lemurs in Madagascar, whose inhabitants are steadily denuding the island of its ancient forests, destroying their own future in exchange for desperately needed firewood. Mitchell wonders if all mankind are like the Malagasy, blindly assuming that 'if we keep walking we will find another tree'. High above the Arctic Circle, on Banks Island, the author hears from Inuvialuit who are recording effects of global climate change in the thinning and shrinking of northern sea ice, and in shifting of seasons. Mitchell finds hope in Suriname's Amazon rainforest (which is almost entirely intact, due to its government's cooperation with conservation efforts) and in Iceland's research into 'harnessing the mythical energy of hydrogen'. She also dives in Galapagos, where she ventured to consult Darwin's 'oracle'. Finally, Mitchell returns to her own family roots to ponder the fate of the boreal forest in northern Canada.

On the last pages of Dancing at the Dead Sea, Alanna Mitchell asks 'Will we ever learn?' Despite the book's disturbing content, I appreciated the author's sharing her tour of 'Environmental Hotspots', and hope that humanity can learn, and succeed in extending not only its own shelf life, but also that of diverse species with whom we are privileged to share the planet.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Travel books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews