Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Grizzly Manifesto by Jeff Gailus

In his impassioned plea "In Defence of the Great Bear," journalist Jeff Gailus makes the plight of Alberta's endangered grizzlies clear. There are fewer than 700 remaining in Alberta. Logging and the oil industry bring in money to the province - grizzlies do not. Parks Canada appears to be more interested in tourism than in wilderness preservation. Measures to protect bears from traffic on roads and railway tracks could be implemented, but they are not. Housing developments take priority over wildlife corridors.

Greed and politics seem an insurmountable barrier for conservationists, yet Gailus offers the inspirational example of Yellowstone Park, where there were only 200 grizzlies left in 1975. After concerted bear conservationist efforts for 30 years, there are now about 600 grizzlies in the Yellowstone area. Learning more about these magnificent animals is worthwhile and may help to sway their future fate in Canada.

The book design is unusual; a small-format hardcover with a cartoon grizzly on the front, dressed in camouflage vest and hat, wearing aviator sunglasses and holding a rifle. Maybe this (and the camouflage endpapers) will appeal to hunters, who can be significant allies in conservation efforts. I find the image rather off-putting, plus it doesn't connect with the serious nature of the text. Also, the elaborate script font used on the cover and for the chapter headings seems more appropriate for wedding invitations than nature writing. Ignore these, however, and you'll find an informed and spirited manifesto within the covers.

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