Book review of 'Rewilding the World' by Caroline Fraser

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution

By Caroline Fraser

Metropolitan. 400 pp. $28.50

When it comes to keeping people off your habitat restoration project, one method is pretty much foolproof: land mines. After all, except for random explosives, the Korean DMZ has returned to a pristine state during the 56-year post-war standoff. But that probably isn't a realistic solution for the rest of the planet.

In "Rewilding the World," Caroline Fraser follows individuals who are making bold attempts to save species without resorting to booby traps. But convincing people to give up large tracts of land, set aside longstanding political grudges or let wolves roam through their backyards can require a lot of creativity. Fraser finds conservationists paying Mexican ranchers to shoot jaguars with cameras instead of guns. She travels to South Africa, where politicians are attempting to create a multi-national "super-park." In the American Southwest, she visits with a biologist attempting to decode the language of prairie dogs, which, as it turns out, play a key role in their habitat's water cycle.

"Rewilding is about making connections," says Fraser. "Creating linkages across landscapes and responsible economic relationships between protected areas and people." The process requires unprecedented cooperation among nations, communities and individuals. But environmentalism that involves hard work and diplomacy is a lot less likely to blow up in your face.

-- Aaron Leitko

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