A few years ago I drove my son to the waterfront village of Port Alice on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island to take up his summer job as an engineer in the local pulp mill. We had settled him into his new digs and I was preparing to return to Vancouver when the real estate agent who’d been showing us around gave him the most important piece of advice he would receive all summer. “When you see deer below the road,” she said, “watch out, the cougar are in town.” My son survived his summer in Port Alice, but since then several cougar attacks have occurred in the area, one of which is described in detail by Terry Glavin in his new book, Waiting for the Macaws (Viking Canada). One chapter of the book, which is about extinctions natural and cultural, is devoted to the Vancouver Island cougar, an animal that is both dangerous and endangered. More people in North America are being attacked and killed by cougars than ever before, and cougar sightings are also on the rise. That means there are more cougars, right? Wrong: their numbers are actually declining, and Glavin explains the apparent paradox while he takes the reader on a dizzying tour of North American prehistory. Cougars are just one of the animals Glavin deals with in his absorbing book. He also writes about whales, tigers, taimen, mithuns and a menagerie of other animals—including macaws. It is a book about extinctions, but it is mainly a book about the ideas humans have about nature and their place in it. Glavin’s writing style can be described as environmental noir: muscular, unsentimental, plain-spoken, but green. He is not a purveyor of Doomsday Lit, books that forecast the end of the world as we know it. Instead, in all the slaughter and mayhem, he finds reason to be optimistic—though after closing this book, the reader may be hard pressed to understand how.