In today’s divisive political climate, where meaningful change is often stalled by partisanship and bureaucracy, it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of environmental challenges like climate change, habitat loss, and disappearing species. But environmentalists are no strangers to opposition, and a look back at their stories may provide the inspiration needed to move forward. In Nature’s Allies (release date February 2, 2017), Larry A. Nielsen, professor of natural resources and former NC State University provost, pens eight riveting biographies of great conservationists. Some famous and some little known, their diverse stories are a model for affecting positive, lasting change for the environment.
The subjects of Nielsen’s profiles—John Muir, Ding Darling, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Chico Mendes, Billy Frank Jr., Wangari Maathai, and Gro Harlem Brundtland—are a refreshing move beyond the mainstream of American conservation. These engaging narratives represent a fuller diversity of contributions, including stories from Africa, South America, and Europe. Nielsen’s biographies also go deeper than the most notable accomplishments of each conservationist. Expertly researched and beautifully written, Nature’s Allies brings each person—their highs and lows, their admirable traits and human weaknesses, their triumphs and failures—to life.
Beyond the value of their accomplishments, these individuals may seem to have little in common. One was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for her commitment to Kenya’s forests; one was murdered for his work protecting Brazil’s forests. One walked thousands of miles on a journey of self-discovery; one seldom left her suburban Maryland home. One directed our attention to the natural rhythms of a small Wisconsin farm; one asked us to consider the entire globe as our backyard. Some took to the streets, others to the airwaves.
But despite their varied personalities, methods, and causes, the conservationists of Nature’s Allies share one powerful thing in common—they all hail from modest backgrounds, and are a testament to the power of one person to bring about extraordinary change. Their stories are not just for environmentalists, scientists, or students. Nature’s Allies is a powerful, engaging read for anyone who wants to be inspired to make a difference.