Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday book Review

A few years ago I had the honor of meeting David Suzuki author of “The Big Picture”. He was in town as part of a lecture series and I was his driver during his stay. Not one for small talk I asked him; as one of Canada’s most recognizable geneticists, what he thought of the recent developments (at that time) about the role non-encoding DNA might have regarding gene expression. We had just pulled up at a stop light, and he turns to me and says “we don’t understand shit about genetics” implying that we have only just started unraveling the mystery behind the blueprint for all life on earth.

His no nonsense way of answering that question reflects his writing style, though absent of the course language I should stress. “The Big Picture” is a series of essays about a range of topics circling the central theme of the book. It reminds me of Stephen Jay Gould only with out the stuffy feel of a book being written from a wing back chair surrounded by leather bound volumes and expensive scotch.

While some of the topics chosen seem a little rudimentary to someone reading for years on such material, it does provide brilliant and current examples for those of us who have tired of trotting out old standards every time we get into a conversation with some unfortunate individual who actually still doubts the anthropogenic nature of global climate change, or doesn’t understand why it is important to save the animals that don’t look cute pictured on a tee-shirt.

If you have any friends or relatives that live in a community where environmentalism is a bad word tantamount to job killer, this is the perfect gift. Accessible science for the masses.

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