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Nature Environmental Conservation & Protection

Thinking Like a Mountain

by (author) Robert Bateman

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2018
Environmental Conservation & Protection, Essays, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2018
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Nature has been Robert Bateman's inspiration ever since he began painting birds from his bedroom window as a young boy. The wildlife he features in his paintings are expressions of his love and respect for the natural world.

A passionate environmentalist who has devoted his life to documenting the awesome power of nature, Bateman is deeply worried about the state of our planet and the fate of our natural heritage. Whenever he talks about his paintings, he talks about the environmental messages they convey, and those who have heard him speak have clamoured for a book that encapsulates his philosophy.

Thinking Like a Mountain is the result of many years of thinking, talking and writing about the world's growing environmental crisis. Beautifully designed and illustrated with original drawings, it is a gathering of questions, observations and ideas Robert Bateman has drawn from his own life experiences and gleaned from the writings of some of the visionaries who have influenced him.

As Einstein said, "We cannot solve the problems of today with the same thinking that gave us the problems in the first place."Only a profound shift in philosophy, Bateman believes, can save our species from extinction.

Thinking Like a Mountain is printed on 100 per cent ancient-forest-free paper that is 100 per cent post-consumer recycled and has been processed chlorine free.

About the author

Canadian painter Robert Bateman has been featured in exhibits across the globe, opening a permanent exhibition at The Robert Bateman Centre, in Victoria, B.C., in 2013. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1984 and a Member of the Order of British Columbia in 2001. In 2013, he was awarded the Royal Canadian Geographical Society Gold Medal in recognition for his commitment to preserving the Canadian landscape. Bateman’s notable achievements include being named one of the twentieth century’s 100 Champions of Conservation by the U.S. National Audubon Society in 1998 and bestowed the Amnesty International Human Rights Defender Award in 2007. A beloved teacher, avid geographer, and renowned naturalist celebrated for his accessible realist style, Bateman is a Life Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts. He is the bestselling author of fourteen books, including his memoir Life Sketches. He continues to paint and lives with his artist wife, Birgit, in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Visit for more information on Bateman and his art.

Robert Bateman's profile page

Excerpt: Thinking Like a Mountain (by (author) Robert Bateman)

A Day in May

Over the years, I’ve often spoken about one of the most memorable experiences of my childhood, a golden day in May, when I was perhaps ten or eleven. That morning – it must have been a Saturday – I ventured down the steep path into the ravine behind our house, one of many ancient river valleys that provide a tracery of wildness through Toronto’s urban landscape. That ravine held the first forest I got to know; from the time I could walk, I explored it and made it my personal domain. As I grew more interested in wildlife, I began to learn about its inhabitants: the resident birds, raccoons and squirrels. To my fledgling eyes, my ravine seemed impossibly rich and varied.

Because the valley was wet, giant willows flourished there, as did a jungly tangle of fox grapes and Virginia creeper. Each spring, the stream that ran along the foot of the ravine overflowed, leaving pools where tadpoles grew into frogs and painted turtles sometimes swam. In early May, before the canopy leafed in, the forest floor turned into a brilliant carpet of wildflowers: trilliums, hepaticas and trout lilies.

I didn’t know it then, but my private woodland was only a poor remnant of the rich and majestic mixed forests of maple, beech, ash, white pine and hemlock that had covered most of southern Ontario before the Europeans came. And even back in the early 1940s, the plants and animals shared their space with the inevitable ambassadors of Progress. Twice a day, a steam engine belonging to the city’s now long-gone Belt Line railway puffed its way along a track to deliver coal and ice to the residents of North Toronto. But this predictable daily intrusion did not discourage the annual spring visitation of migrating birds.

In my memory, the day dawns sunny, with the promise of unseasonable warmth. As quietly as one of the characters from Ernest Thompson Seton’s Two Little Savages – I devoured Seton’s books from a young age – I creep down to my favourite spot, a bower of wild plum blossoms that gives me excellent views of the branches below, already brushed with spring’s first greenery. There I wait, breathing the rich smells of damp earth and decaying leaves, mixed with plum blossom perfume, and listening to the chirp and chatter of the localbirds – totally at ease in my familiar territory. Time passes without any sense of urgency. The sun rises and the day grows warmer. Then, suddenly, as if at some prearranged signal, the migrants come.

Within the space of less than an hour on that unforgettable morning, I saw legions of migrating warblers, as well as kinglets, a yellow-bellied sapsucker and a ruby-throated hummingbird. It seemed as if every branch of every tree was dripping with birds. If perfect happiness is possible, then this was the day I experienced it.

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