The Fate of Nature Rediscovering Our Ability to Rescue the Earth

Charles Wohlforth

Picador

0312572972

9780312572976

Trade Paperback

448 Pages

$21.00

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Award-winning author Charles Wohlforth sets forth on a wide-ranging exploration of our relationship with the world. In The Fate of Nature, he draws on science, spirituality, history, economics, and personal stories to reveal answers about the future of that relationship.

Wohlforth delves into the highs and lows of our treatment of the natural world detailing what has happened to Alaska's vast wilds, rocky coasts, and shifting settlements. Since the first encounter between Captain Cook's crew and the Alaskan Natives in 1778, there have been countless struggles between people who have had different plans for the region. Some have hoped to preserve Alaska as they found it, while others aimed to create something new in its place.

Incidents such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill may seem like cause for despair. In the face of such profound tragedies, Charles Wohlforth has found heartening developments in the science of human altruism. This new understanding of what causes humans to cooperate and act conscientiously may be the first step toward taking the actions necessary to preserve an environment that has already been altered drastically in our lifetime.

A clear-eyed, original work of research, reportage, and philosophical reflections, The Fate of Nature gives us a chance to change the way we think about our place in society and the world at large.

REVIEWS

Praise for The Fate of Nature

“In his thoughtful and felicitous new book, The Fate of Nature, Charles Wohlforth presents an inspired view of humankind’s future.”—Anchorage Daily News

"A terrific if somewhat polemical book."—Knight Science Journalism Tracker

“The Fate of Nature is an important and compelling read. Wohlforth develops critical, unexamined issues about our relationship to nature through the vivid characters and magnificent landscapes of coastal Alaska. You’ll be intrigued, and you may be changed.”—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

"Intellectual, philosophical and packed with feeling, Wohlforth's hopeful arguments for preserving our natural world are also practical and ring true as a bell, a gentle pause in the noise that often takes the place of civilized debate on the topic."—BookPage

“An immense book that confronts the biggest question we’ll ever face: Do we humans have it in us to square with nature before it’s too late?”—Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us

“The great question—to be settled in the next few decades—is whether 'human nature' will force us to wreck our planet, or whether it will turn out to be the saving grace. Charles Wohlforth doesn't make assumptions—he makes sense. And hopeful sense at that!”—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

"An ambitious and big-hearted book, The Fate of Nature contains lessons we all need to learn. It should be read by everyone who cares about the oceans and the many lives—human or otherwise—that depend on them."—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe

"No one does a better job of bringing the real Alaska to life than Charles Wohlforth. In The Fate of Nature, he has combined compelling story-telling with a provocative contribution to our national environmental debate. I don’t agree with everything Charles has to say, but his eye-opening book is an invaluable read for anyone who cares about my state and our planet and wants to leave it better than we found it."—Senator Mark Begich, Alaska

“The hidden truths in The Fate of Nature gradually come into focus through the adventures, stories, and exhilarating experiences conveyed with masterful grace and deep understanding of ancient wisdom and modern realities by Charles Wohlforth.  A must-read for all who care about securing an enduring future for humankind within the natural systems that sustain us.”—Sylvia A. Earle, Explorer in Residence, National Geographic

"Wohlforth anchors his second innovative and capacious inquiry into the challenges of environmentalism, following The Whale and the Supercomputer (2004), to the Gulf of Alaska, a place of glorious natural diversity and painful history. Gathering together an enormous harvest of stories and discoveries, Wohlforth considers the consequences of Captain John Cook's hasty visit to the gulf in 1778, the Russian conquest of coastal Alaska, which was 'ecological rather than geographic,' the crash of the herring fisheries, and the cruel fates of the region's indigenous peoples. But Wohlforth believes that our 'consuming nature' is balanced by the impulse to understand and cherish the living world, which is borne out in his compelling profiles of whale biologist Eva Saulitis; Geerat Vermeij, a blind evolutionary scientist who discovered an arms race among crustaceans; and various environmental heroes. An eyewitness to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, Wohlforth also writes incisively about our urgent need for a new business ethos. Inclusive, complex, and resolute, Wohlforth's environmental history is rich in newly mined facts, galvanizing interpretations, and shocking disclosures. By analyzing competition and evolution, culture and economics, habits of living and of mind, science and suffering, Wohlforth brings a truly ecological perspective to the global debate over how to protect the biosphere."—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

"Los Angeles Times book prize winner Wohlforth (The Whale and the Supercomputer) considers whether modern society has the ability and the will to stop destroying the natural world in the rush to fulfill ever-expanding desires. He looks at cultural imperatives, psychological drives, and economic systems to understand our behavior and whether we can change in order to save the planet. Once again Wohlforth makes the issues discussed more relevant to readers by linking stories from the past and present—of individual and corporate greed, government control, and private and public ownership . . . [T]he stories are fascinating—the section on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Wohlforth's insightful conclusion make excellent reading . . . [T]his will interest readers concerned with modern consumption and environmental conservation."—Betty Galbraith, Washington State University Library, Library Journal
 
"Are we, by nature, like hermit crabs, wearing discarded snail shells as armor against other hermit crabs, whom they attack in hopes of getting a better shell? This wide-ranging book confronts the competitive paradigm to contend that stronger than our greed and materialism, most of us feel a connection to other people, to animals and wild places, and when we're faced with a choice between meaning and material gain, we prefer fairness and the bonds of the heart over getting ahead. Wohlforth, L.A. Times Book Prize winner (The Whale and the Supercomputer) and lifelong Alaskan, takes readers on a heart-wrenching journey through the tumultuous history of the state and its fragile land and seascape, from the complex, mysterious culture of killer whales through the clash of Native worldview and Hobbesian self-interest with the arrival of Europeans, the origins of the conservation movement and its ongoing battle with development, and the devastating Valdez oil spill. Wohlforth concludes, optimistically, provocatively, but convincingly, that stepping off the material treadmill isn't denial, it's freedom."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

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CHARLES WOHLFORTH is a lifelong Alaska resident and author of The Whale and the Supercomputer, winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize, as well as many other books and articles about nature, history, politics, and travel in the North. An avid cross-country skier, Wohlforth lives during the winter in Anchorage with his wife, Barbara, and their four children. In summer they live off the grid on a remote Kachemak Bay shore reachable only by boat. Wohforth began his career as a reporter for a small-town newspaper. As a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News he worked months in the field covering the Exxon
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Charles Wohlforth

  • Charles Wohlforth is a lifelong Alaska resident and author of The Whale and the Supercomputer, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, as well as many other books and articles about nature, history, politics, and travel in the North. An avid cross-country skier, Wohlforth lives during the winter in Anchorage with his wife, Barbara, and their four children. In summer they live off the grid on a remote Kachemak Bay shore reachable only by boat. Wohforth began his career as a reporter for a small-town newspaper. As a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News he worked months in the field covering the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
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