An award-winning ecology writer goes looking for the wilderness we’ve forgotten
Many people believe that only an ecological catastrophe will change humanity’s troubled relationship with the natural world. In fact, as J.B. MacKinnon argues in this unorthodox look at the disappearing wilderness, we are living in the midst of a disaster thousands of years in the making—and we hardly notice it. We have forgotten what nature can be and adapted to a diminished world of our own making.
In The Once and Future World, MacKinnon invites us to remember nature as it was, to reconnect to nature in a meaningful way, and to remake a wilder world everywhere. He goes looking for landscapes untouched by human hands. He revisits a globe exuberant with life, where lions roam North America and ten times more whales swim in the sea. He shows us that the vestiges of lost nature surround us every day: buy an avocado at the grocery store and you have a seed designed to pass through the digestive tracts of huge animals that have been driven extinct.
The Once and Future World is a call for an “age of rewilding,” from planting milkweed for butterflies in our own backyards to restoring animal migration routes that span entire continents. We choose the natural world that we live in—a choice that also decides the kind of people we are.
About the Author
Journalist and author J.B. MACKINNON coined the term "the 100 Mile Diet," and his book Plenty is widely considered a catalyst of the local foods movement. His essays on natural history have appeared in Orion, Reader's Digest, and other magazines. He is based in Vancouver, Canada.
"A graceful volume reminiscent of Annie Dillard's classic Teaching a Stone to Talk. It's a beautifully written meditation on natural history and memory, full of new revelations about familiar landscapes and species." —The New York Times Book Review"[MacKinnon's] goal here is to break down distinctions of nature as something apart from us, and his case is buttressed not only by a wealth of scientific investigation but also by some of the best writing about the outdoors that you’ll find anywhere." —The Daily Beast"Ultimately empowering…There is still the potential for an ethical relationship with the nonhuman world—a new appreciation for the ‘novel ecosystems’ we mistake for nature." —Gizmodo"An urgent meditation on the alternately symbiotic and confounding relationship of humanity and the natural world…That understanding of human life as vulnerable and intertwined with the planet may not be a practiced one for many, but MacKinnon makes a passionate case for its necessity." —Chicago Tribune"A re-enchantment with the natural world may be a necessary prerequisite to the changes we must make to keep that natural world more or less intact. This is deep and lovely thinking and writing." —Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist "This book should make your blood run cold; or boil with furious rage against the despoilers of our planet. But perhaps all is not yet lost. MacKinnon tells us that the crisis in the natural world is not yet fatal…but it’s waiting. And then he tells us most convincingly what we can and must do to stop the rot. This is a handbook for those who hope to see the Earth, and Man, remain alive together." —Farley Mowat, author of Never Cry Wolf"MacKinnon pinpoints a necessary shift in our reckoning with nature, writing eloquently of the need for a more authentic interaction between human beings and the natural world." —Bernd Heinrich, author of Winter World, Mind of the Raven, and Life Everlasting"In The Once and Future World, J. B. MacKinnon shows us that while wilderness as we know it may be gone forever, wildness can still be recovered, and it is time to get to work." —George Dyson, author of Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe"MacKinnon is an eloquent guide through landscapes wild and tame. He takes the reader backwards through evolutionary time and forward into a delicate and unknown future. I devoured this book in a day and closed its covers marveling at our planet's incredible abundance. Natural history at its best." —Charlotte Gill, author of Eating Dirt"This book is a delight. MacKinnon shows us afresh the world we thought we knew through a kaleidoscopic lens of startling facts, illuminating insight and flat-out wonderful writing." —John Vaillant, author of The Tiger"Remarkable, beautifully written and important…[MacKinnon] doesn’t pull any punches about the current state of the planet." —National Post"One of those rare reading experiences that can change the way you see everything around you, recommended for anyone interested in anything that lives and breathes…In essence, [The Once and Future World] is a love story, maybe the oldest one: between humankind, conscious and curious, and the stuff that grows around us, invoking and sustaining our desires, informing our ideas of who we are." —The Globe and Mail"The Once and Future World is vital reading." —Toronto Star