This is a strikingly thought-provoking book about how the forces of evolution and extinction have shaped the living world, and the part that humans play therein. These elegant and penetrating essays speak to some of our most fundamental questions about the human and animal worlds, and confirm Grady’s standing as one of our foremost literary science writers.
About the author
Wayne Grady is the general editor of this series of literary anthologies devoted to the world's natural wonders. One of Canada's foremost popular science writers and the winner of three Science in Society awards from the Canadian Science Writers' Association, he is the author of twelve nonfiction books on such diverse adventures as hunting dinosaurs in the Gobi Desert, investigating global warming at the North Pole, and discovering the wild in an urban metropolis. His books include the bestselling Tree: A Life Story, written with David Suzuki, and Bringing Back the Dodo. His most recent book is the award-winning The Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region. He lives near Kingston, Ontario.
Excerpt: Bringing Back the Dodo: Lessons in Natural and Unnatural History (by (author) Wayne Grady)
Generally speaking, in these essays I seem to be constantly alarmed at our tendency to ignore or deny the degree to which we are part of the natural world. I believe it is true that, as J.F. Blumenbach, the nineteenth-century founder of anthropology, first observed, we are “the most perfect of all domesticated species.” Many of these essays are ruminations about what that means. But we have not taken nature out of ourselves — even the most domesticated cat eats, drinks, breathes, hunts, hosts fleas, and reproduces — rather, we have taken ourselves out of nature. To our cost. In many of the essays I try to remind us of the fact that when we destroy a segment of nature — by cutting down a forest to make a road, or killing wild animals for sport, or even ridding ourselves of pests and parasites — we destroy an essential part of ourselves. When we tamper with nature, by altering an organism’s genetic makeup to produce a new plant or animal, or bypass sexual reproduction through cloning or gene splicing, when we remove a species from or add a species to an ecosystem, we are interfering with a process that has evolved on its own, and which has taken us into account, for millions of years, and about which we know next to nothing. It ought to be a sobering thought that, when most of us encounter a bear in the forest, the bear knows more about us than we know about it.
I am not, however, a polemicist by nature. My inclination is simply to point out what we’re doing as a species, place that action in some kind of natural context, and occasionally ask why we persist in doing it. If the voice sometimes sounds plaintive, or incredulous, or impatient, well, that is often the voice of the essayist. An essay is a pearl that began with an irritating grain of sand.
“These essays are witty, warm and wise.”
— Edmonton Journal
“It’s a pleasure to be party to Wayne Grady’s ruminations.”
— Vancouver Sun