Today we review a book providing eight succinct biographies of key conservationists - Nature's Allies: Eight Conservationists Who Changed Our World, by Larry Nielsen.
the subtitle suggests, the book consists of eight chapters, each of
which gives a short biography of a highly influential and consequential
conservationist. Some of the eight will be familiar to most everyone,
others not so much. The book brings their stories in roughly
chronological order with respect to their lifespans and periods of
Early chapters deal with well-known conservationists
like John Muir and Rachel Carson, along with Aldo Leopold and Ding
Darling. Despite being more recent, Chico Mendes, Billy Frank, Wangari
Maathai, and Gro Harlem Brundtland may be new names for many people.
provides a succinct review of their upbringings and the events that led
them to become "nature's allies." There are similarities with all -
most spend considerable time roaming in nature during their youth, for
example - but also differences. Unexpectedly, most were very comfortable
meeting new people and working with others (Carson being the notable
exception). All were highly self-motivated and caring of both nature and
humanity. Most of them had a primary focus for their attention: Muir
for the Yosemite valley, Carson for the sea (as well as the more famous
"poison book" about DDT), Mendes for rubber tappers in Brazil, Frank for
Native American fishing rights in the northwest.
Three of the
eight are women, including the last two profiled. Maathai focused
intensely on planting trees with a sustainable ecology in mind;
Brundtland was broader, both in terms of seeking a sustainable world and
her participation in the political process. Where the others were
outsiders working to get insiders attention, Brundtland was
Environmental Minister and then Prime Minister in Norway, which allowed
her to direct a societal appreciation for sustainable growth.
the book is well written and easy to read. It would be great for anyone
wanting quick insights to some key people in the history of