SMITH, Ethan




Oil spills, the deforestation of the Amazon, overfishing. Extinction of species, shrinking wilderness, global warming. It’s easy to get numbed by tidings of eco-doom, but eco-redemption is at hand.

Although Building an Ark: 101 Solutions to Animal Suffering (New Society $27.95) has its share of sad tales of animal abuse and offers dire warnings about the consequences of neglecting nature, the overriding message of Ethan Smith and his co-writer Guy Dauncey is one of hope harnessed to action.

After an introductory section called “A Path Beyond Suffering,” provides a mini-encyclopedia of humanity’s crimes against nature—from the general (regarding animals as property) to the specific (internet hunting, cruise ship sewage)—the authors prescribe remedies grouped mainly according to the numbers of people involved or their occupations.

“Ten Solutions for Individuals” include practising humane pest control, switching to a vegan diet and getting media coverage for animal rights campaigns.

“Five Solutions for Fishers” includes alternatives to longlining and an end to
fish farming, and so on. There are suggested actions for farmers, businesses, cities and governments.

Another section focuses on specific threatened species. Some “solutions” are less concrete than others, and some are arguably facile. Developing nations are urged to “Practise Sustainable Forestry,” “Take a Stand Against International Whaling” and “Listen to the Dalai Lama.”

The final “Ten Global Solutions” are more manifesto than a how-to guide, with such headings as “Unite to End Suffering in Factory Farms” and “Practise -Reverence for Life.” But even these are clearly written with the desire to inspire, not criticize.

Speaking of clear writing, Building An Ark zips right along, with each chapter occupying precisely two pages including illustrations, fact boxes and lists of related materials such as books and websites. It’s easy to read and suitable for readers of high school age and up.

It’s a pity there are only five solutions for schools, but some of these are among the most thoughtful and practical: Creating a humane biology classroom, adopting an endangered animal through an international agency and incorporating animal references throughout the curriculum, from math to art.

In her introduction, zoologist Dr. Jane Goodall says many of these activities will be applied in her foundation’s “Roots & Shoots” programs for children. “Building an Ark will give our (Roots & Shoots) groups so many new ideas,” she writes. “It will help us realize the importance of small actions we can take each day. When billions routinely make these little changes, we shall see big changes.”

Ethan Smith was raised in a remote valley in the West Kootenays, where he was home-schooled on a family farm with no electricity. He now lives in the Gulf Islands.

Founder of the Solutions Project, Victoria-based columnist Guy Dauncey is the author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change, also from New Society. 9780865715660

-- review by Shane McCune

[BCBW 2007] "animals"