Knopf. Mar. 2019. 592p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780394585826. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780525656210. NAT HIST
OrangeReviewStarLopez is a natural philosopher in an almost literal sense, sharing his observations on the natural world and how different cultures have made sense of it and one another. His ruminations take us on a peripatetic journey around the globe and across the sweep of time with major sections of the book set on the Antarctic ice, the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, a small island in the Canadian arctic, the Galapagos, Australia, and the coast of Oregon. Each setting provides the fodder for a discursive meditation on his personal travels, the landscape and local ecology, humankind's impact on the environment, and the painful effects of histories of colonialization on indigenous populations. A recurrent theme is the role of elders in a culture, not as mere repositories of institutional knowledge but as nonlinear thinkers who draw on their cultural past to see new ways of solving problems based on empathic listening and letting go of assumptions.
VERDICT While not a memoir or travelog, this first-person account is ideal for anyone who likes nature writing that also manages to bring philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and history to bear with a personal guide. [See Prepub Alert, 9/24/18.]

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