Please note: not to be confused with the book by William Stolzenburg by the same title
In this volume of collected travel and environmental journalism, Stanley travels from Exmoor to Ecuador, India to Istanbul, and across many other routes. He is charged at by mountain gorillas, encounters pandas, tigers, blue-footed boobies and the elusive blue whale. Dauntless, he climbs Kilimanjaro, catches cold at the Glastonbury festival, tracks down his ancestors in Turkey and meets legendary environmentalists such as Jane Goodall. Behind the infectious Johnson humour, there lies the deep passion of a man who has spent his life in search of wild places and wild animals, and is committed to their defence. Reading this book, it is impossible not to catch the thrill.
Stanley Johnson is one of the unsung champions of the environment, having been travelling and campaigning for wildlife since he made his first expedition in his gap year, following the route of Marco Polo. He has worked for the European Commission as Head of their Prevention of Pollution division, was awarded the Greenpeace Prize for Outstanding Services to the Environment in 1984 and in the same year won the RSPCA Richard Martin Award for services to animal welfare. He is currently a trustee of the Gorilla Organization and an Ambassador for the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species.
"Take this book to bed or on a journey, but do read it. A series of short travel pieces, written over the past decade and spinning from Bhutan to Antarctica, Kamchatka to Exmoor, they can be read at a sitting or last thing at night,or at any time there is a spare moment. Each one is a Johnson gem, giving enough insight, humour and passion to lighten any day. Stanley Johnson is a rare bird who has led the life of his choice and made the world a better place in the process. His joie de vivre and enthusiasm shine through, and reading this book is the closest thing to spending time in Stanley's company.
Relatively few books make me laugh out loud, but I defy anyone to get through this one without at least one involuntary guffaw. However, as in life, the humour is often close to tears. He begins with a telling vignette of a visit to an extremely remote Indian tribe in Brazil whose future is threatened by a new road being carved through pristine forest and heading for the Pacific. He ends with a hopeful wildlife story from Namibia about lions (he does love his big cats). In between, he meets an astonishing variety of people who, in diverse ways, are striving to save the world.
I expected to suffer from "disaster fatigue" as I read story after story of Stanley's first-hand experiences of endangered wildlife, people and places, but I didn't. He manages to make each incident in this series of encounters he's had in all the best remaining wild places on Earth fascinating, frightening and funny at the same time. When I finally put down this unputdownable book, I found myself much better informed about all the disasters facing life on earth, and at the same time hopeful that, with people such as Stanley around, there`s still some hope."
- Robin Hanbury-Tenison, Country Life, 18-07-2012