(by Ben Goldfarb)

Another month, another really interesting read thanks to nonfiction book club. I didn’t know anything about road ecology before reading this, but Goldfarb does a great job of introducing the topic and walking readers through the effects of roads on different kinds of animals in different places, chapter by chapter. There are a lot of roads – “some forty million miles” of them, according to this book’s introduction. That’s “three thousand tons of infrastructure for every human, nearly a third of an Eiffel Tower per person,” and of course that has an impact on animals (and on people). Roadkill is a big problem, but not the only problem: there’s pollution, and habitat fragmentation, and the noise of traffic. Roads can disrupt the migrations of mule deer and salmon and monarch butterflies, and the mating activities of toads and salamanders. Highways contribute to asthma in cities bisected by freeways, where the neighborhoods closest to the roads tend to be communities of color (which is not an accident). Goldfarb travels widely to learn about these things up close: in one chapter he’s in Brazil with a team of researchers studying anteaters; in another he’s talking to volunteer wildlife carers in Tasmania about the orphaned wombats and other marsupials they rescue from road accidents. He talks to Native American activists in the Pacific Northwest and to US Forest Service employees in Idaho. This book is packed with facts without being dry: I appreciated the clarity of Goldfarb’s writing but also his tone, with its moments of humor (there was definitely a Princess Bride joke in there re: rodents of unusual size) and its moments of lyricism (particularly when he’s describing the landscape). Road ecology is complex, and I think Goldfarb does a good job of acknowledging and explaining that complexity, while also coming back to a key point: roads are made by people, and the way they were designed and built in the past doesn’t have to be the way that we continue to design and build them.






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