Bringing Back the Dodo: Lessons in Natural and Unnatural History


234 pages
ISBN 0-7710-3504-7
DDC 304.2





Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.


It’s hard to find time to think deeply about the important things.
Like why we seldom eat carnivores or how eyeballs evolved. Or why
starlings out-survive crested mynahs in British Columbia. Or whether we
should be able to patent a mouse.

Fortunately Grady is on the job. He’s thinking about these and other
puzzlers from the zone where science butts up against nature, and asking
the questions that make our exploration of such issues a little more

In essays developed from columns originally written for Explore
magazine, Grady thinks about man’s cruelty and stupidity toward
animals, and how little we really understand about nature. We don’t
know enough about ecosystems, he says, to understand the long-term
impact of human tinkering, yet we tinker. We attempt ecological
restoration without knowing what that might mean down the road. We want
to control nature, but at the same time we want to heal the rift between
ourselves and nature.

Grady deals in abstract concepts, then makes it very specific and vivid
with examples, such as the role of parasites (just how long is a
tapeworm?), or things you never suspected about penguins, or ripping
apart coyotes for “fun.”

Dogma and technology, the fronts for religion and science, are key
players in human–nature issues, he says. But do we know what these are
really doing? Ethics (religion) aside, considering what technology can
do with DNA and cloning, just how dead is the dodo?

The essays are thought-provoking and, generally, lively reading. There
are some lovely, delicate touches of humour sprinkled throughout,
providing a nice relief from the mind-stretching scientific vocabulary.
The collection concludes with a gentle exploration of the definition of
home: Do animals and humans share the concept of home? Is this where we
can find common ground, where the healing can begin?


Grady, Wayne., “Bringing Back the Dodo: Lessons in Natural and Unnatural History,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024,