An inspiring look at wildlife species that are defying the odds and teaching important lessons about how to share a planet.
The news about wildlife is dire – more than 900 species have been wiped off the planet since industrialization. Against this bleak backdrop, however, there are also glimmers of hope and crucial lessons to be learned from animals that have defied global trends toward extinction. Bear in Italy, bison in North America, whales in the Atlantic. These populations are back from the brink, some of them in numbers unimaginable in a century. How has this happened? What shifts in thinking did it demand? In crisp, transporting prose, Christopher Preston reveals the mysteries and challenges at the heart of these resurgences.
Drawing on compelling personal stories from the researchers, Indigenous people, and activists who know the creatures best, Preston weaves together a gripping narrative of how some species are taking back vital, ecological roles. Each section of the book – farms, prairies, rivers, forests, oceans – offers a philosophical shift in how humans ought to think about animals, passionately advocating for the changes in attitude necessary for wildlife recovery.
Tenacious Beasts is quintessential nature writing for the Anthropocene, touching on different facets of ecological restoration from Indigenous knowledge to rewilding practices. More important, perhaps, the book offers a road map – and a measure of hope – for a future in which humans and animals can once again coexist.
Christopher James Preston lives and writes in Missoula, MT. A native of England, he has lived three decades in the U.S. where he is energized by wildlife and large landscapes. In addition to his current work as a college professor, he has worked as a commercial fisherman, a tool librarian, and a backcountry Park Service Ranger.
His first book, Grounding Knowledge, was a philosophical exploration of the power of place. Saving Creation, his second, was a biography of Holmes Rolston III, the "father of environmental ethics". In 2018, he wrote the award-winning The Synthetic Age. The book catalogues how powerful emerging technologies are actively replacing nature with an artificial world. It has been translated into six languages.
Tenacious Beasts: Wildlife Recoveries that Change How We Think About Animals is his most significant work yet. He looks at a range of recovering species and asks how they are changing attitudes towards wildlife. He travelled to recovery sites in several countries and interviewed scientists, wildlife advocates, and native people about returning bison, wolves, humpback whales, Marsican bears, sea otters, and others. With each species, he finds an important lesson that was hidden for the century they have been away.
In the academic arena, Preston has published extensively on climate engineering, synthetic biology, wilderness, and the new epoch of the Anthropocene. He is a recognized expert on the ethics of solar radiation management and on the use of biotechnology for conservation.
To recharge his batteries, he is a mountain biker and a skier.