Monday, November 4, 2019

"On the Backs of Tortoises"

New from Yale University Press: On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galapagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden by Elizabeth Hennessy.

About the book, from the publisher:
An insightful exploration of the iconic Galápagos tortoises, and how their fate is inextricably linked to our own in a rapidly changing world

The Gal├ípagos archipelago is often viewed as a last foothold of pristine nature. For sixty years, conservationists have worked to restore this evolutionary Eden after centuries of exploitation at the hands of pirates, whalers, and island settlers. This book tells the story of the islands’ namesakes—the giant tortoises—as coveted food sources, objects of natural history, and famous icons of conservation and tourism. By doing so, it brings into stark relief the paradoxical, and impossible, goal of conserving species by trying to restore a past state of prehistoric evolution. The tortoises, Elizabeth Hennessy demonstrates, are not prehistoric, but rather microcosms whose stories show how deeply human and nonhuman life are entangled. In a world where evolution is thoroughly shaped by global history, Hennessy puts forward a vision for conservation based on reckoning with the past, rather than trying to erase it.
Elizabeth Hennessy is a geographer and assistant professor of history and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is on the steering committee of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment.

--Marshal Zeringue