Read Nijhuis if you want to understand the conservation movement and its key figures. A dense but deeply important read, Beloved Beasts depicts the triumphs without papering over the racism and colonialism that have always been deeply intertwined with the movement. Recommended By Emily B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A vibrant history of the modern conservation movement — told through the lives and ideas of the people who built it.
In the late nineteenth century, as humans came to realize that our rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving other animal species to extinction, a movement to protect and conserve them was born. In Beloved Beasts, acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the movement’s history: from early battles to save charismatic species such as the American bison and bald eagle to today’s global effort to defend life on a larger scale.
She describes the vital role of scientists and activists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson as well as lesser-known figures in conservation history; she reveals the origins of vital organizations like the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund; she explores current efforts to protect species such as the whooping crane and the black rhinoceros; and she confronts the darker side of conservation, long shadowed by racism and colonialism.
As the destruction of other species continues and the effects of climate change escalate, Beloved Beasts charts the ways conservation is becoming a movement for the protection of all species — including our own.
"From the origin of the concept of species through the CRISPR revolution, Beloved Beasts is at once thoughtful and thought-provoking — a crucial addition to the literature of our troubled time." Elizabeth Kolbert
"Beloved Beasts is the definitive history of the conservation movement, in all its turbulent, passionate, problematic glory. It shines a bright and unsparing light on environmentalism’s most influential hidden figures, and breathes new life into Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and other heroes you thought you knew. The centuries-long campaign to protect our fellow creatures finally has the literary epic it deserves." Ben Goldfarb
"In a bravura turn, Michelle Nijhuis shapes three hundred years of conservation history into one riveting tale. Beloved Beasts brims with surprise, compelling characters, and opportunities for introspection about the motley human effort to catalogue, celebrate, and protect the other inhabitants of our planet." Elena Passarello
"What a lovely, timely book. Michelle Nijhuis’s deeply mined research and wholehearted compassion for her subjects — human and animal alike — are evident on every page." John Vaillant
"If ‘attention is prayer,’ as Simone Weil suggests, then Michelle Nijhuis’s carefully observed Beloved Beasts is a benediction bestowed not so much upon the men and women who carry out the work of species conservation but upon the very act of living in conversation with the more-than-human world." Elizabeth Rush
"Nijhuis’s comprehensive survey is sure to delight nature enthusiasts and those concerned with disappearing species." Publishers Weekly
Watch the Powell’s virtual event with Michelle Nijhuis and Elena Passarello!
About the Author
Michelle Nijhuis is a project editor at the Atlantic, a contributing editor at High Country News, and an award-winning reporter whose work has been published in National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine. She is coeditor of The Science Writers' Handbook and lives in White Salmon, Washington.