NYT Commentary Traces History of Thought Regarding Extinction
"Species die. It has become a catastrophic fact of modern life. On our present course, by E.O. Wilson’s estimate, half of all plant and animal species could be extinct by 2100 — that is, within the lifetime of a child born today. Kenya stands to lose its lions within 20 years. India is finishing off its tigers. Deforestation everywhere means that thousands of species too small or obscure to be kept on life support in a zoo simply vanish each year."
So writes Richard Conniff, nature writer and author of The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth, in the recent article "Lost and Gone Forever" in the New York Times.
With global warming and other devastating environmental trends making headlines on a daily basis, consider sharing this article with the young people in their lives. Discuss it. Engage them in a conversation. Scientific topics like evolution and extinction touch a broad spectrum of disciplines--religion, philosophy, history, politics, art. Ask young people questions: Why might we be looking at an earth with no lions and no polar bears? Can kids imagine a time when the concept of extinction was "unthinkable?" Do kids consider evolution and extinction to be controversial or sound scientific concepts? How do kids think extinction affects them now and in the future? What does extinction have to do with religion? Why are--or why aren't--politicians interested in environmental issues? What other scientific concepts are currently deemed controversial? How can literary works (such as Tennyson's quoted poem) help us understand the concepts and consequences of evolution and extinction?
Help Young People Dig Deeper!
Conniff notes in the article, "Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington puzzled over [unusually large] teeth when they turned up again in the Hudson and Ohio River valleys."
Children's book author Barbara Kerley tells the story of Thomas Jefferson's passionate interest in fossils in "Jefferson's Monstrous Bones," an article in the art and literature anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. The article begins, "When Thomas Jefferson rode into Philadelphia in March 1797 to be sworn in as vice president, he hauled a strange load in his wagon. Bones. Monstrous bones."
Be sure to read the entire article in Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. And be sure to check out artist Brian Selznick's accompanying, "Bones on the Floor," pictured above.
Our White House is a project of The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance designed to encourage young people to read more about America’s rich history and culture; to think more about America’s future; to talk more about our nation’s leadership; and to act on their own beliefs and convictions, ensuring this great democratic experiment will survive and thrive. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough introduces this creative tour de force, in which 108 renowned authors and illustrators have donated their poetry, prose, and art to help advance the cause of young people’s literacy and historical literacy. The illustrations, essays, short stories, presidential letters, personal reflections, and historical accounts in Our White House inform and entertain, offering a window on more than 200 years of American history.
Our White House is available in both hardcover and paperback. The new paperback edition features a NEW poem by Nikki Grimes about President Obama’s inauguration!