November 06, 2013
Their Fate Is Our Fate by Peter Doherty
What do birds have to do with global warming, or swine flu, or other alarming occurrences in our world? A lot actually. Doherty explains just how our avian friends are linked to the health of the world and what we can tell from their reactions to it.
In nineteen chapters, this book covers a myriad of different topics relating to health of birds and health of humans. The use of sentinel birds is explained (ever wonder why there are sometimes chickens on golf courses?), what can be derived from studying embryos, Bird Flu, Bugs, the Hawaiian wipeout, cancer, metal detection, and global warming are just some of the topics covered. There are also extensive notes from the author on different topics and a list of Latin binomials for common bird names. The author also provides further reading, references, and other assorted information.
This is a science heavy book and is not for pleasure reading. Not being experienced in the sciences there were several key medical phrases that I had to do an internet search on just to figure out what the author was talking about. While it is written in relatively easy to understand language, unless you were a science major, there are some things that just can't be put into layman terms. An example sentence from this book would be "Inspired by Rosalind Franklin's X-ray crystallographic pictures (see Chapter 9), which Jim sighted (unbeknown to Rosalind) during the course of a visit to Maurice Wilkins at King's College, London, Watson and Crick built the iconic physical model that shows binary pairings of the deoxyribose nucleic acis (DNA)-adenine-thymine (AT) and guanosine-cytosine (GS)-can assemble as a double helix (pg.123)." This is how the book is written and if that sentence isn't too your liking you probably shouldn't pursue reading it. If it instead piqued your interest, go for it! There's a wealth of knowledge to be had. My only complaint about the writing itself would be the occasional name dropping by the author, but the sporadic additions of humor more than make up for it.
So do you learn about birds in this book? To an extent. It's actually more about diseases and bugs and things that happen to birds rather than learning about any one individual bird itself. Which is good, because it sets out to explain what birds have to do with health and I think it follows that topic quite well. I was surprised and intrigued by all the different topics because I thought it would primarily be about viruses. So the added information on global warming and heavy metals was a bonus. And since it's all presented as science, with references to back it, I was able to feel confident that the information being presented was correct since I am definitely not an expert in the field. I volunteer at a bird rescue and am passingly familiar with some diseases in waterfowl, but found that this book helped me learn more than I ever thought existed. And it made me want to learn more.
A very informative book and while it is high-level, it's something that makes you aspire to learn more, even if you don't quite understand it all on the first read through. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in viruses, birds, and science.
Their Fate Is Our Fate