256 pages, 13 b/w photos
In The Edge of Extinction, Jules Pretty explores life and change in a dozen environments and cultures across the world, taking us on a series of remarkable journeys through deserts, coasts, mountains, steppes, snowscapes, marshes, and farms to show that there are many different ways to live in cooperation with nature. From these accounts of people living close to the land and close to the edge emerge a larger story about sustainability and the future of the planet. Pretty addresses not only current threats to natural and cultural diversity but also the unsustainability of modern lifestyles typical of industrialized countries. In a very real sense, Pretty discovers, what we manage to preserve now may well save us later.
Jules Pretty's travels take him among the Maori people along the coasts of the Pacific, into the mountains of China, and across petroglyph-rich deserts of Australia. He treks with nomads over the continent-wide steppes of Tuva in southern Siberia, walks and boats in the wildlife-rich inland swamps of southern Africa, and experiences the Arctic with ice fishermen in Finland. He explores the coasts and inland marshes of eastern England and Northern Ireland and accompanies Innu people across the taiga's snowy forests and the lakes of the Labrador interior. Pretty concludes his global journey immersed in the discrete cultures and landscapes embedded within the American landscape: the small farms of the Amish, the swamps of the Cajuns in the deep South, and the deserts of California.
The diverse people Pretty meets in The Edge of Extinction display deep pride in their relationships with the land and are only willing to join with the modern world on their own terms. By the examples they set, they offer valuable lessons for anyone seeking to find harmony in a world cracking under the pressures of apparently insatiable consumption patterns.
"Jules Pretty is a great environmental scientist who is also a great environmental humanist. This book is a treasure. It chronicles the tragic loss of cultures and their ecologies, but it also chronicles a world of steadfast commitments and reasoned hopes. The writing is full of delightful turns of phrase, finely wrought rhythms, and moments of passion and surprise. It is also full of the fascinating people Pretty has met in a lifetime of travel, painted with sensitivity and insight. Pretty speaks throughout to the local and the transcendent, the nonmodern and the modern, the past and the future. The Edge of Extinction is a sublime elegy to the wonders we are losing. Read it. Think on it. Then act on it."
– Michael M. Bell, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Community and Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of An Invitation to Environmental Sociology
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