Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Social Science Cultural

Light at the Edge of the World

A Journey Through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures

by (author) Wade Davis

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Jan 2007
Cultural, Social History, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2007
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Dec 2009
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 15
  • Grade: 10


An international best-seller when first published, this is Wade Davis's portrait of the richness and diversity of the world's indigenous cultures and why they matter to us all.


Davis has travelled the world for more than thirty years, studying the mysteries of sacred plants and celebrating the poetics of culture. His explorations of indigenous life in places as remote and diverse as the Canadian Arctic, the rain forests of Borneo and the Amazon, and the surreal cultural landscape of Haiti have taught him that many of these cultures are in danger of losing their way of life -- a loss that affects humans on a global scale.


In Light at the Edge of the World Davis' looks at the "ethnosphere" -- the diversity of ways of thinking and living that traditional cultures have to teach us about our place in the world, and how we affect one another and our surroundings.

About the author

Wade Davis is professor of anthropology and the B.C. Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. Between 1999 and 2013 he served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and is currently a member of the NGS Explorers Council and Honorary Vice-President of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Named by the NGS as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” In 2014, Switzerland’s leading think tank, the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute of Zurich, ranked him 16th in their annual survey of the top 100 most influential global Thought Leaders.
An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his PhD in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among fifteen indigenous groups in eight Latin American nations while making some 6000 botanical collections. His work later took him to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies, an assignment that led to his writing The Serpent and the Rainbow (1986), an international best seller later released by Universal as a motion picture. In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunavut and Greenland.
Davis is the author of 275 scientific and popular articles and 20 books including One River (1996), The Wayfinders (2009), The Sacred Headwaters (2011), Into the Silence (2011) and River Notes (2012). His photographs have been widely exhibited and have appeared in 30 books and 100 magazines, including National Geographic, Time, Geo, People, Men’s Journal, and Outside. He was the co-curator of The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes, first exhibited at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. In 2012 he served as guest curator of No Strangers: Ancient Wisdom in the Modern World, an exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.
His many film credits include Light at the Edge of the World, an eight-hour documentary series written and produced for the National Geographic. A professional speaker for 30 years, Davis has lectured at over 200 universities and 250 corporations and professional associations. In 2009 he delivered the CBC Massey Lectures. He has spoken from the main stage at TED five times, and his three posted talks have been viewed by 3 million. His books have appeared in 20 languages and sold approximately one million copies.
Davis is the recipient of 11 honorary degrees, as well as the 2009 Gold Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for his contributions to anthropology and conservation, the 2011 Explorers Medal, the highest award of the Explorers Club, the 2012 David Fairchild Medal for botanical exploration, the 2013 Ness Medal for geography education from the Royal Geographical Society, and the 2015 Centennial Medal of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University. His recent book, Into the Silence, received the 2012 Samuel Johnson prize, the top award for literary nonfiction in the English language. In 2016 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.

Wade Davis' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"It's wonderful that this collection of essays is available at a price that makes it accessible to many readers."

Globe & Mail

"Davis is neither naive nor fostering a romantic image of a simple, primeval life. He is asking that we look with a 'broader perspective' at other ways of being in the world."

The Chronicle Herald

Librarian Reviews

Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey Through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures

Wade Davis, one of the world’s leading anthropologists, makes an impassioned plea in words and photographs to preserve the “ethnosphere”—the diversity of cultures inhabiting our planet. He writes about his experiences living in Tibet, the Amazonian rainforest, the Arctic and Haiti. He accompanies the text with breathtaking photographs that portray unique peoples and their equally stunning environment. His rich and detailed accounts are fascinating as he takes the reader along on this intimate journey into the hearts of some of the world’s vanishing cultures.

This is the newly released paper edition.

Caution: This book documents the use of native plants, which act as drugs, to produce altered states by various cultures.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2007-2008.

Other titles by Wade Davis

Related lists