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The Science of Hope by Dr Wiebke Finkler and Scott Davis


In a promotional piece to camera Dr Wiebke said “If I have to summarise this book in one quote then I would just reflect on Eldrige Cleaver’s quote ‘there is no use talking about the problem unless you are talking about the solution.”


This book captures exactly that. In an age of talking about climate change, mass extinction, water levels rising and so forth it is very easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom of it all. In response, Finkler, a lecturer from Otago University, teamed up with Scott Davis - a photographer of the highest class - to present some possible solutions to a world that seems to be tearing itself apart at the seams.


The book starts with the famous quote from celebrated environmentalist Jane Goodall “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall all be saved”. They have certainly chosen their content carefully and successfully. There is an immediate connection with a number of the animals shown in this crafted book: whales, penguins, big cats, sea otters, koalas, monarch butterflies just to name a few. They are the who’s who of the animal world that humans seem to care most about. As you would imagine, the ‘bears’ section begins with the champion of them all, the Panda.


Photographs throughout the book are stunning, they are vibrant and different to the usual collection that one may expect to see. But it is the writing that is really sublime in this book. It is the presentation of these animals in a way that exudes love and attention from Finkler. A marketing lecturer, it is clear that she knows how to use the methods of persuasion to make the reader really care about the plight of these animals, and what we can do to change the dystopian future for many of them.


It is the solutions that are offered that make the difference here. Eco tourism is touted as a bit of a saviour in the case of the bears. Bringing tourist dollars to the places where it is most needed - the habitat themselves - may mean that conservation dollars will follow. It’s all well and good to see video of these polar bears struggling to get purchase on a block of floating sea ice, but think of what seeing it in real life would do to wallets from tourists around the world. It’s a sobering and discomforting thought, but one that does hold water.


The book is wonderful, it really is. As much at home as a coffee table book as it is as a reference guide, this book is a revelation and a celebration of nature in its finest form. It is both a beautifully captured portrait of nature and an uplifting view of what can be if we are willing to take some risks and try something new. If we keep doing what we have always done - as the saying goes - we will keep getting what we have always got. It really is time for a change.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Exisle Publishing