...he takes his readers on an idiosyncratic and wonderful walk through his joy of nature. Like some of the greatest nature books, from Thoreau’s Walden to Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, it’s a personal book that describes McCarthy’s own journey while at the same time folding his experiences within a broader context ... The Moth Snowstorm is an inspiring book, and I salute McCarthy for his boldness. Rather than the dire, dry statistical projections often heralded to make the case for conservation, he turns boldly to joy — to imagination and emotion.
...this is a profoundly troubling book ... I found joy following McCarthy’s stories, particularly those of the futile attempts to return salmon to the Thames and the tragic loss of sparrows from London ... His personal revelations are moving, and The Moth Snowstorm left me as grief-stricken as any environmental journalist must be.
He’s as approachably learned on his subject as you’d expect a longtime environmental correspondent to be; but his sentences are long and sensuous—great sauntering accumulations of clauses and images, heaving with a poetic yearning to capture the passing abundance of the natural world ... McCarthy is in a state of astonished grief at this situation, and his eloquence and persuasiveness is such that I found myself wondering how any of us manage not to join him there, how we ever manage to think of anything else ... Part of the experience of reading The Moth Snowstorm, for me, mixed in with all the pleasure and anxiety, was a creeping guilt at my own inability to feel such a heightened connection with the natural world.
Michael McCarthy’s powerful, sensitive new book, The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy, [is] a book about the wonders of the natural world and about its decline … Half of his book contributes movingly to the literature of environmental despair. The problems are too deep and systemic for anything more than the most cautious hope...Seeded throughout The Moth Snowstorm is the other half of the book—a study of joy, not loss. McCarthy has set out to write what is, in essence, an environmental theodicy—to account for the existence and purpose of the joy and beauty we feel in the midst of so much loss and despair … But I find ‘defense through joy’ insufficient. Like sustainable development and the commodification inherent in ecosystems services models, it values nature mostly for what it offers us. Ultimately, it’s not radical enough, either as a form of protest or as a philosophical statement.
...much more than a paean to the Earth’s beauty. It is also an elegy for it, and a particularly distressed one at that ... I take no issue with this emotional — and at times, unabashedly spiritual — line of appeal. I do, however, take issue with Mr. McCarthy’s pecking this same note with the assiduousness of the Chinatown chicken ... Mr. McCarthy is certainly a personable companion, prone to bursts of eccentric charm ... Mr. McCarthy has more than enough descriptive power to drive this book. It’s only when the engine overheats that his readers start to squirm.