Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness [NOOK Book]

Overview

We've been meeting bears in the wilderness, and in our dreams, since the dawn of human history. Celebrated in art and myth since we began drawing on the walls of caves, they cast a long shadow over our collective subconscious. Wherever bears endure, they are an indicator of the health of their ecosystem. Their decline-some to the edge of extinction-foretells a bigger story: that of our planet's peril.
In a series of remarkable journeys, Brian Payton travels the world in search ...
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Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness

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Overview

We've been meeting bears in the wilderness, and in our dreams, since the dawn of human history. Celebrated in art and myth since we began drawing on the walls of caves, they cast a long shadow over our collective subconscious. Wherever bears endure, they are an indicator of the health of their ecosystem. Their decline-some to the edge of extinction-foretells a bigger story: that of our planet's peril.
In a series of remarkable journeys, Brian Payton travels the world in search of the eight remaining bear species. Along the way, he confronts poachers in the jungles of Cambodia, witnesses the cruelty of the bear bile trade in China, and delves into the politics of panda sex. From the reclusive spectacled bears of Peru to the man-eating sloth bears of India, Payton captures the power and beauty of these fascinating creatures while exploring their unique place within very different cultures. Vivid characters, exotic landscapes, and deft storytelling make for an unforgettable trek down the braided path of bear and human history.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Beginning with a dream in which he teaches a bespectacled bear to read, journalist and novelist Payton (Hail Mary Corner) chronicles eight worldwide adventures he took to see a variety of bears in their natural habitat and understand their "political, economic, and cultural environments," delivering an extremely satisfying and sometimes provocative read. His accounts of his travels always present engrossing information on a range of topics, such as the politics of Chinese panda preservation, the squalid living conditions of the endangered Cambodian sun bear and the struggle to protect the Italian brown bear from the results of financial mismanagement at national parks. Each chapter is nicely structured and displays investigative skill; Payton's concern for environmental issues never gets in the way of his reporting. His final chapter on the American brown bears of the Colorado Plateau stylishly concludes with a moving meeting with a Navajo medicine man, who helps Payton understand that his dream and his subsequent travels are signs that he has a responsibility to tell his stories in respectful acknowledgment of the "the spirit of the bear." B&w illus. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Canadian journalist and novelist Payton takes a globe-spanning tour of bears' habitats to see how they're faring. Not particularly well, he finds. If bear grounds are sufficiently remote (the Canadian far north), or if the animals are seen as a lure for eco-tour money (the polar bears of Churchill, Manitoba), or if they're adequately protected (the black bears of the Eastern United States), then populations are spared the greatest threats: habitat destruction, human encroachment and hunting. Life for the sloth bear of India, Payton discovers, is more precarious. Its domain is fast diminishing, as is that of China's giant panda. Though local traditions declare the mountain habitat of Peru's spectacled bear to be the preserve of the gods, keeping encroachment at bay, the bear is nonetheless heavily poached. So is the sun bear of Cambodia, whose paws are considered a delicacy. But Cambodia presents Payton with a vexing conservation question: "Just how far are we willing to go?" He sees desperately poor people trying to survive; the only land available is sun-bear turf. "I feel ashamed," he writes, when his comfortable concern for bears collides with such human misery. Yet he is also aware of the sanctified cultural place held by bears, even in places where aggressive bears routinely kill people. Such reverence is not new. The paintings and bear skulls in France's Chauvet Caves, subject of an especially resonant chapter on the bear as mythological force, suggest an ancient link between bear and human. The flip side of the question Payton raised earlier is exposed. Bears were once viewed as closely related to humans, as intermediaries with gods, as gods themselves: "Will their final role," heasks, "consist of serving as a nostalgic reminder of a part of ourselves we no longer understand?" Bears need protection now, this astute natural history/travelogue asserts, but so do the wretched of the earth. (b&w illustrations)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596918757
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 12/11/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • File size: 933 KB

Meet the Author

Brian Payton's work has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Globe and Mail, and Canadian Geographic. He is the author of the novel Hail Mary Corner. He lives with his wife in Vancouver.
Brian Payton's work has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Globe and Mail, and Canadian Geographic. He is the author of the novel Hail Mary Corner. He lives with his wife in Vancouver.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : a sleuth of bears 1
1 Under the Mahua tree : Chhattisgarh, India 9
2 National treasures : Sichuan, People's Republic of China 51
3 The blessed curse of Chaparri : Department of Lambayeque, Peru 91
4 Laws of the jungle : Kingdom of Cambodia 117
5 Waiting for winter : Manitoba, Canada 163
6 A shepherd's tale : Lazio & Abruzzo, Italy 195
7 The skull chamber : Ardeche Gorges, France 227
8 Cure for the mountain sickness : Colorado Plateau, United States of America 247
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