Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Finding Wilderness in the Nature We've Made

by J.B. MacKinnon

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-544-10305-4
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

An earnest but diffuse look at what we mean when we talk about nature and the natural world and why what we think about nature is important.

To understand how to sustain life on this planet, one must first understand the past, writes Canadian freelance journalist MacKinnon (Dead Man in Paradise, 2007, etc.). His exploration of the past is largely anecdotal, filled with stories featuring elephants, grizzly bears, wolves, bison, whales and creatures no longer found on Earth. Often, these are tales of unintended consequences, demonstrating what happens when humans tamper with Mother Nature. The decline of species has been so devastating, writes the author, that today, nature is only 10 percent of what it once was. MacKinnon cites Easter Island as an example of a once richly forested land that is now desolate and barren, and he asks whether that example of social and ecological collapse occurring in only a few hundred years is the future we have been creating for ourselves for millennia. (Or, is the endurance of the Easter Islanders, surviving on rat meat in their ruined ecosystem, one that should give us some measure of hope for our own survival?) The author writes that since millions of the world’s population now live in urban areas, most people are unfamiliar with nature and are, therefore, unaware of its significance. It is clear that he would like to increase awareness and make people see that nature and human nature are intertwined: “We shape the world and it shapes us in return.”

An intriguing but uneven perspective on rewilding. If the image of a bit of lichen clinging to the slopes of a single mountain appeals to you as an apt metaphor for life on planet Earth, this book is for you.