Synopses & Reviews
An award-winning ecology writer goes looking for the wilderness we’ve forgotten
Many people believe that only an ecological catastrophe will change humanity’s troubled relationship with the natural world. In fact, as J.B. MacKinnon argues in this unorthodox look at the disappearing wilderness, we are living in the midst of a disaster thousands of years in the making—and we hardly notice it. We have forgotten what nature can be and adapted to a diminished world of our own making.
In The Once and Future World, MacKinnon invites us to remember nature as it was, to reconnect to nature in a meaningful way, and to remake a wilder world everywhere. He goes looking for landscapes untouched by human hands. He revisits a globe exuberant with life, where lions roam North America and ten times more whales swim in the sea. He shows us that the vestiges of lost nature surround us every day: buy an avocado at the grocery store and you have a seed designed to pass through the digestive tracts of huge animals that have been driven extinct.
The Once and Future World is a call for an “age of rewilding,” from planting milkweed for butterflies in our own backyards to restoring animal migration routes that span entire continents. We choose the natural world that we live in—a choice that also decides the kind of people we are.
An award-winning ecology writer goes looking for the wilderness we've lost, providing an eye-opening account of the true relationship between humans and nature.
Every place has an understory, the place that existed before the first human footfall. Even the wildest backcountry might be a ghost of some earlier version of itself. In The Once and Future World,
J. B. MacKinnon goes looking for that world untouched by human hands. He revisits a globe exuberant with life, where lions roam North America and twenty times more whales swim in the sea, and looks forward to a world where nature is once again a formidable presence in our lives.
Along the way, the author discovers that the environmental crisis we face today has been well under way for hundreds of years. Ours is now a “ten percent world”—a planet with one-tenth its former natural abundance. MacKinnon brings a new perspective to such iconic narratives as the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the collapse of Easter Island, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. By tracing our longstanding pattern of denial and self-delusion when it comes to the vanishing wilderness, MacKinnon helps us to see more clearly our true role in shaping the nature around us. We choose the natural world that we live in—a choice that also decides the kind of people we are.
About the Author
Journalist and author J.B. MACKINNON coined the term "the 100 Mile Diet," and his book Plenty is widely considered a catalyst of the local foods movement. His essays on natural history have appeared in Orion, Reader's Digest, and other magazines. He is based in Vancouver, Canada.
Table of Contents
The Nature of the Problem 1
1. Illusions of Nature 3
2. Knowledge Extinction 16
3. A 10 Percent World 33
4. The Opposite of Apocalypse 47
The Nature of Nature 67
5. A Beautiful World 69
6. Ghost Acres 81
7. Uncertain Nature 96
8. What Nature Looks Like 112
Human Nature 127
9. The Maker and the Made 129
10. The Age of Rewilding 142
11. Double Disappearance 163
12. The Lost Island 182
Selected Bibliography 217