Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Original Conservation Story

I read this book about a month ago and was spurred to dig it back out. What sparked me to write a segment on it was a speaker I heard tonight. I attended a National Geographic Live evening and Don Johanson was the speaker. Never heard of him? Me neither – but he was the paleoanthropologist who discovered Lucy, australopithicus afarensis. Lucy, I’d heard of. The discussion followed the evolution of man and the variations of former man, including, naturally, chimpanzees. Fascinated by the similarities between man and chimp, I intend to pick up one of Jane Goodall’s books….which led me to thinking about Dian Fossey.

You’ve heard of Dian Fossey before but have you heard of her friend Joan Root? Early conservationist? Murdered in her own home? Neither had I. The story of her life and death is told in Wildflower, an unassuming, yet engrossing book by Mark Seal. Part Nat Geo article, part mystery tale that even Hollywood would be hard pressed to come up with. Seal goes to great lengths to research this relatively short 209 page book. It is packed with the expeditions she makes, expeditions in the wild and in her own heart. Seal got in touch with Joan’s ex-husband, traveled to Africa, and even interviewed the man widely believed to be the murderer. This was no armchair researched tome.

Heady filmmakers, lucrative rose business, an at-risk natural landscape rife with wildlife, a tenuous passionate romance ending in an unsolved murder make this true story feel much like a Hollywood film with twists at every turn. Call me non-academic, but I find non-fiction particularly interesting to read when it reads like a novel. I find myself attracted to stories about people living off the grid. In today’s world, it is also interesting to find conservation stories that existed before Al Gore. Concern for the sustainability of the environment is not new. This is one story to prove that. I intend to strike out to find more. Dian Fossey’s Gorillas in the Mist will find itself onto my bookshelves soon.

Any other early conservation stories to recommend Fishies?

Check out the Introductions to Lake Naivasha to see what Root was so passionate about saving: