View from the Heart: Bayou Country Ecology

A View from the Heart: Bayou Country Ecology
by June C. Kennedy

(Illus.; photographs by Dennis Siporski)
Blue Heron Publishing, Inc.


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This book's title is very descriptive of its illuminating contents. For six decades, the author, a barrier island resident, has been a naturalist who knows how to articulate the ingredients and status of a rich wetland region. While Kennedy focuses on the Louisiana wilderness, her educational message is highly relevant for the global community. She writes well, providing easily understood models of chemical cycles, food chains and webs, and human perturbations of wildlife habitat, offering succinct revelations about the life-styles of many species, and expressing a personal environmental philosophy that warrants attention by everyone--especially residents of coastal areas. She has witnessed the impact of the petroleum industry on Louisiana's swampy wetland since the 1930s. The legacy of "black gold" oil production reflects serious damage to the area's rich "green gold" ecosystems. The intrusion of salt water, land subsidence, and toxic wastes have affected the local environment. Much remedial energy and funding are now required to save and restore this valuable natural resource. The public needs to know how to preserve habitats effectively, an imperative that involves understanding existing ecosystems. Nature's laws "can be bent, but not broken." We must read and heed them, or Homo sapiens will saw off the branch of the tree of life upon which the dominant species sits. Ecosystems are maintained through biodiversity. They are showcases that ensure the survival of resident species dependent upon the existence of others. The life cycle function in which "death feeds life" ranges from the flow of solar energy to plankton, algae, and detritus through a complex food web that must not be destroyed by human intervention. Unfortunately, productive natural habitats are often damaged by economic activities and hazardous chemical infusions. Kennedy also devotes attention to beaches and the ocean. Fishermen are correctly referenced as the top predators in the food chain who must modify the motivation for short-term profit with biological wisdom by not destroying their capital base through overfishing. The author's effective use of epigrams drawn from the bibliography highlights the important emotional side of the conservation issue. Her illustrations, supplemented with black-and-white photos by Dennis Siporski, are outstanding in quality and substance. This attractive book is a good buy that will delight general readers wanting to learn the fundamentals of wetland ecosystems.

--Reviewed by Jack DeForest in Science Books and Films, 28/3 (April 1992), p. 95.