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The Ragged Edge of the World: Encounters at the Frontier Where Modernity, Wildlands, and Indigenous Peoples Meet

Overview

A noted environmental writer relives his experiences of how earth's far corners have yielded to or resisted modernity.

For forty years Eugene Linden has explored global environmental issues in books and for publications ranging from National Geographic and Time to Foreign Affairs. Linden's diverse assignments have brought him to ragged edges of the globe, the sites where modernity, tradition, and wildlands collide. A money and ideas from the West have seeped into places like ...

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The Ragged Edge of the World: Encounters at the Frontier Where Modernity, Wildlands and Indigenous Peoples Meet

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Overview

A noted environmental writer relives his experiences of how earth's far corners have yielded to or resisted modernity.

For forty years Eugene Linden has explored global environmental issues in books and for publications ranging from National Geographic and Time to Foreign Affairs. Linden's diverse assignments have brought him to ragged edges of the globe, the sites where modernity, tradition, and wildlands collide. A money and ideas from the West have seeped into places like Polynesia, the Amazon, and the Arctic, Linden has witnessed dramatic transformations. Even in the Ndoki, celebrated as the most pristine and isolated rainforest in Congo, the impact of the outside world now intrudes in the form of dust blowing in from the north and loggers encroaching from all other directions.

In the Ragged Edge of the World, Linden recounts his adventures at this slippery and fast-changing frontier-Vietnam in 1971 and 1994, New Guinea and Borneo, pygmy forests and Machu Picchu, the Arctic and Antartica, Cuba and Midway Island-charting onrushing social and environmental change. An elegy for what has been lost and a celebration of those cultures resilient enough to maintain their vibrancy. Linden's new book captures the world at a turning point and offers an intimate look at creatures and cultures as they encounter and try to adapt to globalization.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Award-winning environmental journalist Linden (The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations) has spent 30 years reporting on the impact of modern environmental stressors on wildlands and traditional communities around the globe. Here he relates how some cultures resist while others succumb to modern pressures. Traveling to the rain forests of Borneo and to the Amazon, the Antarctic, and Africa, Linden provides firsthand accounts of cargo cults in New Guinea, practices of Pygmy tribes in Africa, and conservation efforts in Cuba—some of which show positive responses to deforestation and loss of habitat for wildlife, while others reveal the downward spiral to extinction for rain forests and many animal species. He highlights cultural extinction as much as environmental devastation to habitats. VERDICT Linden provides an original look at globalization and its impact on various cultures and species throughout the world. Anyone interested in global environmental issues will find this book informative. Highly recommended for its readability and content.—Gloria Maxwell, Metropolitan Community Coll.-Penn Valley, Kansas City, MO
Kirkus Reviews

A veteran journalist recalls his travels through the world's dwindling wild places.

Linden (The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations, 2006, etc.) has spent 30 years chasing environmental stories forTime, National Geographic and the New York Times on the remote frontiers of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, where traditional cultures and modernity meet. "I never imagined that my visits to the ragged edge of the world were a farewell tour," he writes. Amid tiny glimmers of hope, he chronicles the worldwide loss of ecosystems and cultures. Thousands of indigenous tribes manage to live on in the face of an onslaught by consumer society, but their cultures wither and die. In Polynesia, for instance, modernity has wiped out ways of life that tied Polynesians to the sea and one another. In many societies, indigenous shamans can no longer compete with the technological magic of the consumer society. Perhaps saddest of all, writes Linden, tribes that decide they do not enjoy living in the market economy cannot return to their former life in the wildlands because the forests, animals and rituals that sustained them have disappeared. Each chapter focuses on a specific place, including New Guinea, where modernity arrived after World War II; war- and epidemic-ridden sub-Saharan Africa; and Antarctica, where global warming is unfreezing time and harming creatures. The author notes that modern tourists begin appreciating some cultures just before they disappear—e.g., the continuing flocking of New Age seekers to Machu Picchu, which supposedly sits atop a giant crystal. One day, writes Linden, humankind may wake up to the disastrous consequences of capitalism's "skewered incentives" to reap short-term profits. In the meantime, some form of traditional culture endures in distant places where tribes hang on and the local ecology retains continuity with the past.

A well-rendered but disheartening tale of a life's work documenting the "human and animal detritus left behind in the aftermath of the advancing armies of the consumer society."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670022519
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/17/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Eugene Linden is an award-winning journalist and the author of The Parrot’s Lament, The Future in Plain Sight, Silent Partners, and other books on animals and the environment. He has consulted for the U.S. State Department, the UN Development Program, and he is a widely traveled speaker and lecturer. In 2001, Yale University named Linden a Poynter Fellow in recognition of his writing on the environment.  He lives in Nyack, New York, and Washington, D.C.

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