Edges of the Civilized World: A Journey in Nature and Culture

Edges of the Civilized World: A Journey in Nature and Culture

by Alison Hawthorne Deming, Deming
     
 

Troubled by tensions that inevitably arise when civilization intrudes upon wild regions, Alison Hawthorne Deming set out to answer questions that had long been on her mind. By what do we measure our progress as a civilization? In the absence of vast frontiers, can we manage our ever-increasing numbers? How can we strike a balance with a natural world that we threaten… See more details below

Overview

Troubled by tensions that inevitably arise when civilization intrudes upon wild regions, Alison Hawthorne Deming set out to answer questions that had long been on her mind. By what do we measure our progress as a civilization? In the absence of vast frontiers, can we manage our ever-increasing numbers? How can we strike a balance with a natural world that we threaten by our very presence? To find answers, she visited and lived in some of the most remote regions of our continent - southern Mexico, the Bay of Fundy, the islands in the Sea of Cortez - the edges of our crowded world. In places where fishing and logging are depleting the sea and land, and farmland has been handed over to developers, Deming sensed the pressures that tourism exerts on communities reluctantly willing to promote their regions' natural beauty, But what she also found was a fragile optimism that a new way of life may be created - one that reconciles the conflicts between the advance of civilization and the need to preserve our shrinking wilderness.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From the great-great-granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne comes a collection of eloquent, lyrical, meditative essays that weigh the high costs of civilization, particularly upon the natural world. Seeking ways to heal what she sees as our wounded relationship with nature, ourselves and the planet, Deming (Temporary Homelands) spent a year traveling to pristine spots, fragile refuges from the pressures of consumerist development. Among the exotic places she visited were ex-frontier towns perched in Colorado's Rockies; Seal Island, a bird sanctuary in the North Atlantic where puffins, auks and arctic terns nest; the Pacific Northwest; Hawaii; Punta Chueca, a parched, hungry Seri Indian village in Mexico's Sonoran Desert; Canada's Bay of Fundy; and villages and Zapotec ruins in Mexico's Oaxaca Valley. These far-flung travels enabled Deming not only to experience a sense of community she found missing back home (a 10th-generation New Englander, she has transplanted herself to Arizona, where she feels more connected with the power of the continent, its landscape and people), but also to catch glimpses of a hidden, spiritual side of reality that she feels is suppressed by our self-devouring civilization. One essay warns of the potential dangers of commercial eco-tourism; another ambitiously seeks common ground between poetry and science as ways to grasp the cosmos. Combining a naturalist's graceful precision with a cultural anthropologist's perceptiveness, her travelogue is punctuated with luminous epiphanies, as when she visits five forested mountaintops in Mexico, where the entire population of monarch butterflies living east of the Rockies spends the winter. Author tour; U.K., translation and dramatic rights: Curtis Brown Ltd. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
Poet Deming (Temporary Homelands, 1994) heads selectively for sundry outbacks in the hope of tapping wisdom from them on the prospects for our wild and open lands.

From the Publisher
"Eloquent, lyrical, meditative...Combining a naturalist's graceful precision with a cultural anthropologist's perceptiveness, her travelogue is punctuated with luminous epiphanies." —Publishers Weekly

"[Deming is] a writer of skillful means and economy."—Kirkus Reviews

"[Deming is a ] gifted poet and essayist."—Booklist

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312195434
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
10/28/1998
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.71(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

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