________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 19 . . . . May 21, 1999

cover Twixt Heaven and Earth.

Donna Caruso (Director). Joe MacDonald (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
48 min, VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9197 171.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Betsy Fraser.

*** /4

This video is about the damage that human actions can do to one species. In this case, the species is the Swainson's hawk, a raptor that has graced western Canada for thousands of years. It migrates up to 11,000 km twice a year, and its status affects a whole hemisphere, from Saskatchewan to the pampas of Argentina. It is in danger in both areas from changes to its environment. This video attempts to explain these dangers, illustrating them by graphic means.

      The video starts with its narrator, Dr. Stuart Houston, banding the legs of hawk chicks on the Saskatchewan prairie. The light of these hawks in their Northern nesting grounds is dire as the number of suitable trees decreases annually, with up to 70% of nests failing. Numbers of Swainson's hawks stand at less than half of 1987 populations.

      Some time is spent explaining how science has increased the amount of knowledge about this species: two years of data gathered using satellite radio telemetry, which is demonstrated, has given scientists more information than 70 years of bird banding. The story is picked up again as thousands of hawks gather in the pampas of Argentina, where the hawks face a very different sort of danger.

      Swainson's hawks are called "grasshopper hawks" in Argentina, after their main food. The video covers the horrifying results of pesticide used by farmers to eradicate the grasshoppers. It shows a pile of 700 of the 5,000 birds killed as a result of pesticide use in 1997. This is a very effective illustration of the dangers of pesticide, but the image should be taken into consideration by teachers intending to use this video in classes of younger children. Changes and cooperative ventures between governments, nature conservatories and the drug company that produced the pesticide are used as a final note of hope for the future of these birds. The video ends with the hawks returning once again to Saskatchewan, to the delight of Dr. Houston.

      This video is very clear and precise, without the use of complicated jargon or terminology. The concentration on this one indicator species serves as a warning about the possible future for other species. This video would serve as a valuable illustration for a discussion about ecology, endangered species or changing biospheres.


Betsy Fraser is a librarian with Calgary Public Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364