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Engineering Eden

A Violent Death, a Federal Trial, and the Struggle to Restore Nature in Our National Parks

By Jordan Fisher Smith

Foreword by Jack E. Davis

Product details

Published By
The Experiment
Categories
Number Of Pages
408
Publication Date
March 19, 2019
ISBN
9781615195602

Engineering Eden

A Violent Death, a Federal Trial, and the Struggle to Restore Nature in Our National Parks

By Jordan Fisher Smith

Foreword by Jack E. Davis

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Description

Told through the prism of a tragic death in Yellowstone, an epic account of our century-long attempt to control the American wilderness

In 1972, 25-year-old Harry Walker was killed by a bear in Yellowstone. The ensuing civil trial brought to the fore longstanding, high-stakes debates about wilderness management. In this remarkable excavation of American environmental history, acclaimed writer and former park ranger Jordan Fisher Smith weaves the story of Walker’s tragic death into the larger narrative of our attempts to remake wilderness in the name of preservation. Moving across decades and among Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, and Sequoia National Parks, Engineering Eden shows how efforts to manage wilderness are always undone by one fundamental problem: The idea of what is “natural” dissolves as soon as we begin to examine it.

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Review quotes

“An intensely reported, rousingly readable and ambitiously envisioned book . . . This is a book that, while it brims over with descriptions of beautiful places and provides a primer of environmental thought over the past century, weaves together a dramatic court case in Los Angeles, a grizzly-bear attack, and a surprisingly fascinating debate over what constitutes the word ‘natural’ when it comes to national parks, as well as enough characters, complete with back stories, to fill a Leon Uris novel . . . a thrilling read. Like the best visions for parks, it combines the human and the animal, the managed and the natural, the controlled and the wild.” — The Wall Street Journal

“Timely and thoughtful . . . . A vivid account of conflicts within the National Park Service over managing bears and other wild animals—conflicts that contributed to tragic results . . . . Smith’s book will draw you in with his passion, thoughtfulness and first-rate story telling.”Seattle Times

"A dramatic, eye-opening chronicle of the struggle to preserve wilderness while making it accessible to the public . . . A galvanizing storyteller fluent in the conflict between environmental science and politics, Smith brings every player into sharp and indelible focus as he illuminates the urgent issues national parks grapple with as they struggle to wisely manage predators, invasive species, wildfires, and people." —Booklist, starred review

"A searching study of a tragedy and the legal contest that followed it, one that shaped the course of national park policy in the modern age. Is a natural environment modified by humans still natural? It's not just a question for philosophers . . . Smith, who understands that nature is 'a web of complex relations,' tells this complicated story clearly and well. Excellent reading for students of park policy, wildlife management, and other resource issues."—Kirkus Reviews

"This meticulously investigated history of Yellowstone and its wildlife management problems should appeal to fans of Jack Olsen's classic Night of the Grizzlies, as well as to readers interested in the broader issue of how much humans should intervene in nature in order to preserve it."—Library Journal

“A fascinating book about the relationship between humankind and nature. Jordan Fisher Smith illuminates the often embittered arguments what our role in wilderness should be, and has written a vivid historical account that sheds light on our place in nature’s complex web of life.”—Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature

“This is a big, ambitious book about a seemingly small, if horrific event—a grizzly devouring a young man. And Jordan Fisher Smith has succeeded in his ambition. He produced a wonderful book, 'wonderful' not only because of the quality of the writing, but because the book is filled with wondering; Smith uses that horror as a narrative focal point to explore science, policy making, bureaucracy, ego, even the law, and when he explores something he goes deep.” —John M. Barry, author of Rising Tide and The Great Influenza
 
“What is ‘nature’? In a narrative delivered with elegance and vigor, Jordan Fisher Smith shows that our answers to this question have life-and-death consequences, for humans and for the ecosystems in which we live.”—David George Haskell, author of The Forest Unseen
 
Engineering Eden skates gracefully along the thin line between scholarly and popular writing.  Jordan Fisher Smith’s grasp of the science involved in national park and wilderness management is impressive. So is his ability to tell a compelling story in the tradition of John McPhee and Jon Krakauer. The result is a classic, the literary history of America’s relationship to the natural world.”—Roderick Nash, author of Wilderness and the American Mind
 
“In 1972 a Yellowstone grizzly killed a young man; from this tragedy a controversy erupted. Can wildlife be managed with no thought for unintended consequences?  Does the Biblical injunction to dominate the earth and its creatures face evolutionary barriers embedded in the randomness of biological life itself?  With open mind and deft narrative, Jordan Fisher Smith probes what is an intractable challenge to environmental stewardship.”  —Kevin Starr, author of California and Golden Dreams

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Product details

Published By
The Experiment
Categories
Number Of Pages
408
Publication Date
March 19, 2019
ISBN
9781615195602

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