Books and Films - 2006 Summer AWI Quarterly
Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good
By Jonathan Balcombe
256 pages; $24.95
Popular books such as The Smile of a Dolphin and films such as March of the Penguins have promoted a new understanding of the emotional lives of animals. Jonathan Balcombe's Pleasurable Kingdom continues down this path and also marks a turning point. Recognizing that animals feel pain has been the lynchpin of the animal protection movement, but Balcombe now presents the other side of the spectrum, drawing our attention to the myriad ways in which animals feel good. He interweaves stories from years of keen observation (especially of birds) with highlights of recent scientific studies, underscoring that these are "creatures who are not merely alive, but living life." Balcombe, who is an animal behavior research scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, places his amusing stories in a context that other books do not. He pushes the envelope by challenging all of us-but most of all scientists, teachers, legislators, farmers and zookeepers-to see that pleasure, like suffering, is part of natural selection. He doesn't just tell us the stories; he tells us why they are important, and in the process, he shows us nature in a completely new light.
Fly Like the Wind
By Bridgette Z. Savage
Buckbeech Studios, 2006
111 pages; $16.98
(Available for purchase online at
In Fly Like the Wind, Bridgette Z. Savage tells a story that has survived for well over a century through oral history. George M. Barrett, a young man growing up in rural Indiana, had a horse named Fly on his father's farm. When Barrett signed up to serve in the local Cavalry during the Civil War, his bond with Fly deepened. The duo had many adventures together, such as escaping capture by Confederate troops by jumping off a cliff and swimming to safety. Fly was so impressive that the army asked to buy her from Barrett at the end of their service, but the young man's ties to his horse could not be broken. Together they returned to the family farm, and Fly lived for many years. Her story spread all over southwestern Indiana, and today her heroism is a local legend. Savage brings light to the horse's point of view in the story, and illustrations are featured alongside their journey. Both children and adults will enjoy this tale of the historic friendship between man and horse.
An Inconvenient Truth
A documentary film focusing on Al Gore's global warming lectures may be the most unlikely-and most important-hit of the year. In his role as a politician, he has been criticized for his inability to relate to the masses, but anyone who sees this film will surely listen up. Global warming is perhaps the biggest threat to the health of our planet, and Gore explains the issue in a way that is both engrossing and easy to understand. The documentary focuses on findings confirmed by leading scientists around the world, presenting charts and projections that make the problem clear: we have perhaps a decade to change our habits, and we need to start now. Intertwined with facts and figures are the history of Gore's personal struggle to protect the environment and gripping images of the effects of climate change thus far. From receding glaciers to fleeing inhabitants of islands ravaged by floods, An Inconvenient Truth presents a reality that is difficult to watch and hard to ignore. The good news is there is hope. The United States is the largest contributor to global warming, but we also have the biggest potential to turn things around. By taking simple steps to become "carbon neutral," we can protect generations of humans and animals to come. For more information about the film and global warming, visit www.climatecrisis.net.