I listened to this title while driving across the traditional homeland of the Navajo, which in some ways made the words more alive than they would be if listened to elsewhere, but even allowing for the dual enchantment of the land combined with the words, Blood and Thunder is a masterpiece. I've subsequently listened to the entire book again, and it was as good as the first time.
One paragraph neatly captures all the flaws in this book. To quote:
"Have we already killed off all big animals that we might kill off? Obviously not. While the low numbers of whales led to an international ban on whaling for commercial reasons, Japan thereupon announced its decision to triple the rate at which it kills whales 'for scientific reasons'. We have all seen photos of the accelerating slaughter of Africa's elephants and rhinos, for their ivory and horns respectively. At current rates of change, not just elephants and rhinos but most populations of most other large mammals of Africa and Southeast Asia will be extinct outside game parks and zoos in a decade or two."
Some of the main conclusions of the book rest on the arguments of this paragraph, and yet it is so weak and sloppy that you can't help but question how weak the rest of Diamond's arguments and conclusions are. Take the whale number argument - Japan takes about 1000 minke whales a year, and the global population is somewhere around 500,000. Japan's commercial whaling is totally repugnant, but based on all the figures I can see, it in no way risks any extinctions.
Similarly, the elephant and rhino extinction hypothesis rests on "we've all seen pictures". Ouch. Maybe the author and his editors were tired once they got to this stage of the book, but to not even try to mingle a bit of science with the hearth-wrenching photos, Diamond lost me totally at this point. 23 years after publication, the rhinos and elephants are still there. According to Wikipedia: "According to the World Wildlife Foundation the population of African elephants in Southern Africa is large and expanding with an estimated 300,000 now roaming the sub-region. Overall, the total population of African elephants is estimated to be around 700,000 compared to the Asian elephant population of 32,000. Large populations of elephants are confined to well-protected areas. However, less than 20% of African elephant range is under formal protection."
Anecdotal evidence is fine, but needs to be backed up by hard science.
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