Reviews of Rescuing the Planet by Tony Hiss

Rescuing the Planet

Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth

by Tony Hiss

Rescuing the Planet by Tony Hiss X
Rescuing the Planet by Tony Hiss
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2021, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2022, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

An urgent, resounding call to protect 50 percent of the earth's land by 2050--thereby saving millions of its species--and a candid assessment of the health of our planet and our role in conserving it, from the award-winning author of The Experience of Place and veteran New Yorker staff writer.

Beginning in the vast North American Boreal Forest that stretches through Canada, and roving across the continent, from the Northern Sierra to Alabama's Paint Rock Forest, from the Appalachian Trail to a ranch in Mexico, Tony Hiss sets out on a journey to take stock of the "superorganism" that is the earth: its land, its elements, its plants and animals, its greatest threats--and what we can do to keep it, and ourselves, alive.

Hiss not only invites us to understand the scope and gravity of the problems we face, but also makes the case for why protecting half the land is the way to fix those problems. He highlights the important work of the many groups already involved in this fight, such as the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and the global animal tracking project ICARUS. And he introduces us to the engineers, geologists, biologists, botanists, oceanographers, ecologists, and other "Half Earthers" like Hiss himself who are allied in their dedication to the unifying, essential cause of saving our own planet from ourselves.

Tender, impassioned, curious, and above all else inspiring, Rescuing the Planet is a work that promises to make all of us better citizens of the earth.

Getting to Half

On a cold, buckety boat ride early one morning near the top of North America, through a forest that looked endless and only kept on getting bigger, I got to thinking that maybe Henry David Thoreau was only half right when it came to his famous and still-ringing cry that "in Wildness is the preservation of the World." Yes, wildness is the answer, but people are missing. Given the state of the planet, if Thoreau were around today, I imagine he'd go the next step and say that "in the People of the Wild is the preservation of the World." Because it is going to take a lot of people to preserve what's still wild, to restore what was once wilder, and to remedy a great calamity in the world.

As a direct result of humanity's destructive actions on the landscape, 1 million species of plants and animals are likely to go extinct, many within the next few decades. A 2019 global assessment, 1,500 pages long, compiled over three years by 145 scientists from fifty countries, makes ...

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Reviews

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Hiss takes the clever approach of making a fairly abstract, seemingly unrealistic goal more concrete by introducing readers to scientists, naturalists and activists who are already helping to achieve it in a variety of landscapes and locations. Perhaps most ambitious is the group to whom Hiss first introduces us, an inspiring coalition of First Nations Dene leaders ("First Nations" is a Canadian term referring to a grouping of indigenous peoples, including the Dene), scientists and environmental activists working to preserve the critically important boreal forests of northern Canada and Alaska, using their unique knowledge and viewpoints to integrate human settlement and vast regions of undeveloped territory for animals and plants...continued

Full Review (947 words).

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(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

Wall Street Journal
Inspiring...An upbeat and engaging account of the remarkable progress being made to preserve vast wild spaces for animals to roam...Hiss is an indefatigable reporter and graceful writer, traversing the continent to observe the animals being saved and profile their saviors. [He] tells a good story, whether he's describing his traipses through the wild or chronicling the history of the conservation movement.

Booklist (starred review)
Hiss' deeply elucidating and inspiriting chronicle is a keystone resource...[He] reports with zest, fluency, and measured optimism on [why] it is necessary to conserve entire intact ecosystems to sustain the besieged biosphere...maps the rousing history of ecological science and portrays an array of colorful 'extinction preventers' past and present.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
With its combination of passion, inspiration, and rigor, this makes a good companion to Bill Gates' How To Avoid a Climate Disaster. Excellent natural history and more optimistic than usual.

Library Journal (starred review)
An exceptional work that is highly recommended as a cohesive explanation of how small local projects can be pieces of larger efforts.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A]n illuminating look at movements aiming to head off mass extinction...Hiss creates a sense of hope with lyrical descriptions and immersive portrayals of various programs across the continent...This eye-opening survey will leave readers inspired.

Author Blurb Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
Tony Hiss has not just captured the possibility of large-scale conservation, he's understood that it needs to be connected with human beings. The idea of Indigenous Protected Areas that he describes is one of those prospects—simultaneously radical and obvious—that might give us a fighting chance in the decades ahead!

Author Blurb Sheldon Whitehouse (U.S. Senator, Rhode Island)
Rescuing the Planet vividly explores the past, present, and future of our relationship with the wilderness. Hiss crafts a strong argument for action in the face of mass extinction.

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Beyond the Book

Waverly Oaks

Waverly Oaks by Winslow Homer When I picked up Tony Hiss's Rescuing the Planet, I expected to find stories about great forests and vulnerable wetlands and vast mountain landscapes. I definitely did not expect to encounter a story about my own town of Belmont, Massachusetts, an inner suburb of Boston. But that's exactly what happened when I started reading Hiss's narrative about the conservation success story of the Waverly Oaks (literally just down the street from my house) and the broader movement they inspired.

Located between Belmont and neighboring Waltham, Beaver Brook Reservation is home to a playground and a splash park, and is also a popular place to walk dogs. It was established as a state park in 1893, largely to protect a stand of 22 white oak trees ...

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