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.
"In the midst of ecological crisis, Preston brings genuinely good news: a few of our fellow species are not only thriving, but demanding that we do better by the rest of life on Earth."
– Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts
"What a joy this book is! Fascinating, intelligent, pragmatic, and moving. Preston's tenacious beasts show us how to live with nature and claim a more hopeful future for our planet."
– Isabella Tree, author of Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm
"[A] page-turning account [...] Many animals headed for extinction are recovering nicely, writes science writer and teacher Preston, who delivers a satisfying account of a dozen successes without minimizing the difficulties involved [...] Traveling the world, Preston interacted with researchers, activists, and Indigenous people working to restore animals to their former ecosystems, most of which now contain far more humans than before [...] Rare, well-delivered positive news about animals and the natural world."
– Kirkus Starred Review
"Preston shows that many species that once seemed doomed have posted surprising recoveries. All they ask is a fighting chance to survive; all I ask is that you read this book."
– Carl Safina, author of Becoming Wild and Beyond Words
"With grace and good cheer, Tenacious Beasts recounts the messy, fitful recovery of iconic creatures and the conservation approaches making their return possible. Preston offers vital insight to preserve biodiversity on our troubled, glorious planet."
– Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter
"Preston has achieved something remarkable: a fascinating synthesis of storytelling and science, reporting and philosophy to probe wildlife–human successes, distilling from them an understanding of how they were made possible by shifts in human perspectives."
– Peter Stark, author of Astoria: Astor and Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire
"A captivating and astute understanding of how wild animals conduct their lives."
– Rick McIntyre, author of The Alpha Wolves of Yellowstone series
"Pragmatic and inspirational, Tenacious Beasts celebrates the species that "exist in the same bewildering net of life and time as we do," yet are rebounding."
– Foreword Reviews
"The surprisingly intimate accounts of species bouncing back from the brink of extinction serve as glimmers of hope against the backdrop of climate despair. This will hearten nature lovers."
– Publishers Weekly
"Preston writes with the goal of highlighting promising partnerships, building on lessons learned from animals themselves, and questioning long-held beliefs about wildlife and conservation. VERDICT This makes for an excellent recommendation to readers searching for thoughtful but hopeful books on the future of nature."
– Library Journal Starred Review