1, 2014 marked the centenary of one of the best-documented extinctions
in history—the demise of the Passenger Pigeon. From being the
commonest bird on the planet 50 years earlier, the species became
extinct when Martha, the last of her kind, died at the Cincinnati Zoo.
This book marks the centenary of that tragic event. Built around the
framework of a visit to Cincinnati and the pigeon’s former haunts
in North America's east coast, by author Mark Avery, it tells the tale
of the pigeon, and of Martha, and explores the largely untold story of
the ecological annihilation of this part of America in the years
between the end of the US Civil War and 1900—an unprecedented
loss of natural beauty and richness, as the prairies were ploughed,
swiftly to be replaced by a dustbowl, while the population of Bison
plummeted from around 30 million to just 1,000, the victim of habitat
destruction and indiscriminate slaughter.
engagingly and with an element of travelog as well as
historical detective work, this book is more than another depressing
tale of human greed and ecological stupidity.
It contains an underlying message—that we need to re-forge
relationship with the natural world on which we depend, and plan a more
sustainable future. Otherwise the tipping point will be crossed and
more species will go the way of the Passenger Pigeon. We should listen
to the message from Martha.
A Message from Martha
The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and Its Relevance Today
by Mark Avery
Of Chicago Press, 2013
discuss this title with the Outrider