184 pages, no illustrations
Acclaimed naturalist Alex Shoumatoff issues a worldwide call to protect the drastically endangered rainforests of Borneo
In his eleventh book, but his first in almost two decades, seasoned travel writer Alex Shoumatoff takes readers on a journey from the woods of rural New York to the rain forests of the Amazon and Borneo, documenting both the abundance of life and the threats to these vanishing Edens in a wide-ranging narrative.
Alex and his best friend, Davie, spent their formative years in the forest of Bedford, New York. As adults they grew apart, but bonded by the "imaginary jungle" of their childhood, Alex and Davie reunited fifty years later for a trip to a real jungle, in the heart of Borneo. During the intervening years, Alex had become an author and literary journalist, traveling the world to bring to light places, animals, and indigenous cultures in peril. The two reconnect and spend three weeks together on Borneo, one of the most imperiled ecosystems on earth. Insatiable demand for the palm oil ubiquitous in consumer goods is wiping out the world's most ancient and species-rich rain forest, home to the orangutan and countless other life-forms, including the Penan people, with whom Alex and Davie camp. The Penan have been living in Borneo's rain forest for millennia, but 90 percent of the lowland rain forest has already been logged and burned to make way for vast oil-palm plantations. Among the most endangered tribal people on earth, the Penan are fighting for their right to exist.
Shoumatoff condenses a lifetime of learning about what binds humans to animals, nature, and each other, culminating in a celebration of the Penan and a call for Westerners to address the palm-oil crisis and protect the biodiversity that sustains us all.
"Seasoned travel and environmental journalist Shoumatoff offers an in-depth and intimate chronicle of the threats big business imposes on the planet's fragile biodiversity."
"Alex Shoumatoff is a pure gonzo naturalist, the love child of Bruce Chatwin and Hunter Thompson. The Wasting of Borneo is an important book about human greed, climate change, and animism (among many other serious matters), and a head-spinning trip to the furthest reaches of the known world."
– Russell Banks, author of The Sweet Hereafter
"Like all major authors, Shoumatoff's eloquent narrative is informed by the seminal landscapes that have shaped his life, the perspectives from which his engaging encounters with the natural world are revealed. The Wasting of Borneo affirms what occurs when humanity – because of its lethal consumerism – abandons its loving connection to and reverence for that which sustains it, a subject forcefully conveyed as the fragile voice of the natural world dashes toward an eerie silence."
– Bernie Krause, author of The Great Animal Orchestra
"Alex Shoumatoff has written a book that, while providing serious discussions and statistics concerning the destruction of Borneo's ancient tropical rain forests, is nonetheless an entertaining romp through the jungle. Shoumatoff intersperses hilarious anecdotes with such skill that they detract in no way from his clear and powerful depiction of one of the greatest conservation tragedies of our time. A great read!"
– Biruté Mary Galdikas, author of Reflections of Eden
"As often in his long and valuable career, Alex Shoumatoff has made visible a part of the world that too few of us pay attention to. This is a vital landscape and culture, imperiled by consumer demand for hundreds of products; the story should not be ignored."
– Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
"Shoumatoff's book will make you experience both animals and nature with all your senses. Smell and sound may be more important than vision. Perceive animals in a new way."
– Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Thinking in Pictures
"Weaving in lifetimes' worth of adventures and experiences, Alex Shoumatoff tells the sad tale of Borneo, whose rich indigenous cultures, majestic forests, and stunning wildlife have been decimated by unrelenting demand for bulk commodities like timber and palm oil. Through colorful anecdotes and stories from orangutan conservationists, passionate activists, and tribal leaders, Shoumatoff personalizes these losses, making Borneo's tragedy relevant to us all."
– Rhett A. Butler, founder of the conservation news web site Mongabay.com
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Alex Shoumatoff has been a staff writer for the New Yorker, and a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, Outside, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, and Onearth, and he has written more than 120 long magazine pieces. His previous books include The Mountain of Names, In Southern Light: Trekking Through Zaire and the Amazon, African Madness, and The World Is Burning. In 2001 he founded DispatchesFromTheVanishingWorld.com to raise consciousness about the planet’s fast-disappearing biocultural diversity.