Whale Song

"Perhaps no other animal sound on the planet has a comparably powerful effect on the contemporary environmental imagination," writes Margret Grebowicz in Whale Song, her enchanting contribution to Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series. Grebowicz, an associate professor of philosophy at Goucher College, investigates what whale song has meant to humans since it was first recorded in the 1950s. 

These "songs," which are really whales' means of communicating with each other, so moved human listeners, writes Grebowicz, that they helped launch the modern-day environmental movement, as well as a proliferation of international anti-whaling laws. But today, she continues, the songs' meaning extends far beyond the "politics of killing whales."

One of her most interesting insights is that whales and dolphins seem to be equally interested in learning about us. Their fascination, however, will diminish in concert with our growing dependence on smart phones and social media: "it's reasonable to assume that intelligent creatures would not wish to talk to creatures that talk to each other without saying anything."

But instead of despairing, Grebowicz posits that whales inspire us to do better. Weaving throughout Whale Song is the notion that their strong bonds with each other--whales' familial ties are among the strongest among mammals--remind us of the importance of face-to-face communication. Beautifully written and often deeply moving, Whale Song is more than a fascinating examination of ocean life--it's a balm for the soul. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor

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