The Edge of Extinction

  • The Edge of Extinction book coverPublisher: Cornell University Press
  • First published: Nov 20th 2014
  • ISBN: 978-0-8014-5330-4

“Without my journey
And without this spring
I would have missed this dawn.”
Masaoka Shiki (1856-1902)

“There is nothing like this book, and it will be widely read and well-regarded.” Bill McKibben

“The Edge of Extinction is a wise, wide-ranging and open hearted journey.” Jay Griffiths

“There is deep sadness on almost every page of this remarkable book. But also great beauty. And an exhortation to look and look again at the living world.” Douglas Christie

“The Edge of Extinction is a sublime elegy to the wonders we are losing. Read it. Think on it. Then act on it.” Michael Bell

In The Edge of Extinction, Jules explores life and change in a dozen environments and cultures across the world, taking us on a series of remarkable journeys through deserts, coasts, mountains, steppes, snowscapes, marshes, and farms to show that there are many different ways to live in cooperation with nature. From these accounts of people living close to the land and close to the edge emerge a larger story about sustainability and the future of the planet. The book addresses not only current threats to natural and cultural diversity but also the unsustainability of modern lifestyles typical of industrialized countries. In a very real sense, Jules discovers, what we manage to preserve now may well save us later.

Jules’ travels take him among the Māori people along the coasts of the Pacific, into the mountains of China, and across petroglyph-rich deserts of Australia. He treks with nomads over the continent-wide steppes of Tuva in southern Siberia, walks and boats in the wildlife-rich inland swamps of southern Africa, and experiences the Arctic with ice fishermen in Finland. He explores the coasts and inland marshes of eastern England and Northern Ireland, and accompanies Innu people across the taiga’s snowy forests and the lakes of the Labrador interior. He concludes his global journey immersed in the discrete cultures and landscapes embedded within the American landscape: the small farms of the Amish, the deep South swamps of the Cajuns, and the deserts of California.

The diverse people Jules meets in The Edge of Extinction display deep pride in their relationships with the land and are only willing to join with the modern world on their own terms. By the examples they set, they offer valuable lessons for anyone seeking to find harmony in a world cracking under the pressures of apparently insatiable consumption patterns of the affluent.


Preface: Previously

10° West of Dateline: Sea-Coast: Ngai Tahu, Aotearoa (New Zealand)
62° West of Dateline: Mountain: Huangshan, China
64° West of Dateline: Desert: Murujuga (Burrup), Australia
86° West of Dateline: Steppe: Tuva, Russia
150° West of Dateline: Snow: Karelia, Finland
158° West of Dateline: Swamp: Okavango, Botswana
179° West of Dateline: Marsh-Farm: East Anglia, England
186° West of Dateline: Coast: Antrim Glens, Northern Ireland
240° West of Dateline: Snow: Nitassinan, Labrador, Canada
262° West of Dateline: Farm-City: Amish Country, Ohio, USA
271° West of Dateline: Swamp: Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana, USA
296° West of Dateline: Desert: Timbisha (Death Valley), California, USA

Dreaming of The Day After