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A lifelong backpacker, Michael Lanza knows our national parks like the back of his hand. As a father of two, he hopes to share these special places with his kids. But he has seen firsthand the changes wrought by global warming and understands what lies ahead: melting glaciers, disappearing species, and inundated coastlines. To Lanza, it feels like the house he grew up in is being looted. Painfully aware of the ecological—and spiritual—calamity that global warming will bring to our nation's parks, Lanza is ...
A lifelong backpacker, Michael Lanza knows our national parks like the back of his hand. As a father of two, he hopes to share these special places with his kids. But he has seen firsthand the changes wrought by global warming and understands what lies ahead: melting glaciers, disappearing species, and inundated coastlines. To Lanza, it feels like the house he grew up in is being looted. Painfully aware of the ecological—and spiritual—calamity that global warming will bring to our nation's parks, Lanza is determined to show his children these wonders before they have changed forever.
He takes his nine-year-old son, Nate, and seven-year-old daughter, Alex, on an ambitious journey to see as many climate-threatened wild places as he can fit into a year: backpacking in the Grand Canyon, Glacier, the North Cascades, Mt. Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and along the wild Olympic coast; sea kayaking in Alaska's Glacier Bay; hiking to Yosemite's waterfalls; rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park; cross-country skiing in Yellowstone; and canoeing in the Everglades.
Through these adventures, Lanza shares the beauty of each place, and shows how his children connect with nature when given "unscripted" time. Ultimately, he writes, this is more their story than his, for whatever comes of our changing world, they are the ones who will live in it.
2012 National Outdoor Book Award for Outdoor Literature Honorable Mention
“The season’s must-read new memoir about bringing up adventure kids in the age of climate change.”
—Outside Magazine’s Raising Rippers blog
"This is a terrific blend of adventure...and ecological forecasting (and forewarning) that aptly conveys the passion of a devoted outdoorsman, and serves as a wake-up call to the state of our planet."
“Intriguing premise; decent execution—certainly of interest to environmentalists and other eco-minded readers.”
“Michael Lanza braids a story of family, wilderness, and climate that's at once heartwarming and terrifying. I envy his kids for the incredible year they spent exploring America's finest wild places. And I mourn that they—and my own daughter—will have to endure the devastating consequences of our heating planet. Lanza makes abundantly clear that our children deserve better than the legacy we’re leaving them.”
—John Harlin, author of The Eiger Obsession: Facing the Mountain that Killed My Father
“I grew up in a national park, worked in twelve others and have visited well over two hundred of them. Their values, for people like me, often are taken for granted. In this wonderful book, Michael Lanza’s children learn and experience what is most important about our national parks – the necessity to leave them ‘unimpaired for future generations’ – and why.”
—Bill Wade, Chair, Executive Council, Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park
“Delightful … a fresh and engaging way to tell the climate change story.”
—Laura Helmuth, senior science editor, Smithsonian
“Wilderness adventurers like Lanza are the advance scouts of global warming, bringing back firsthand testimony from pristine landscapes that powerfully corroborates what climate scientists are telling us about our changing planet. But this eyewitness report is much more than an impassioned polemic: it’s also an entertaining collection of backcountry anecdotes—surprise encounters with grizzlies, anxious moments on glaciers and wild coastlines, jaw-dropping views from remote summits—that bring climate change to life in a way that’s more palpable and persuasive than any data chart. Above all, Before They’re Gone is a fetching love letter to Mike’s wife, children, and friends and to the wild places he treasures as only a hiker, climber, and explorer can.”
—Jonathan Dorn, editor in chief, Backpacker
Prologue: Inspiration xi
Chapter 1 Deepest Earth 1
Chapter 2 How Does the Water Go Up the Mountain? 19
Chapter 3 The Distant Rumble of White Thunder 37
Chapter 4 In the Long Shadow of "The Mountain" 55
Chapter 5 Along a Wild Coast 73
Chapter 6 The Backbone of the World 89
Chapter 7 If a Tree Falls 107
Chapter 8 Searching for Dr. Seuss 125
Chapter 9 The End of Winter 141
Chapter 10 Going Under 159
Posted September 29, 2013
I was expecting to read a travelogue, an accounting of an adventurous family who decided to spend a year together hiking in national parks & mountains. I wanted to learn about his family, how they decided where to go, their preparations, & how their kids enjoyed (or perhaps didn't always enjoy) the time outdoors. He does include those details, but then he abruptly changes to scientific information re: global warming, how landscapes have & could change, scientific studies. I agree the author should give his opinion & provide examples from his previous hikes to support his arguments, but this information was dropped into the middle of the narrative & interrupted the flow of the story. The book could have been better edited, instead organizing the chapter(s) together that recounted information about a specific hike or location, what happened during their family travel time, the landscape. Then the scientific information could have been grouped together (either at the beginning or the end of the book).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2012
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Before They're Gone is equal parts travel journal, personal memoir, and environmental reality check. Author Michael Lanza's year long quest to share with his children the now most threatened parks in America is both bittersweet, and heartwarming. Liberally sprinkled with memories of past treks, scientific data, and the simple pleasures of a parent spending time with his kids. Michael's detailed, and often times humorous, writing makes you long to be relaxing in the shade of lodgepole pines in the Rocky Mountains, or watching the sun set in the Everglades, right alongside them. To me, Before They're Gone is proof that even though our environment is changing, and not for the better, we can still celebrate, enjoy, and hopefully preserve, what we have left.