|A WINDOW ON ETERNITY
A Biologists's Walk through Gorongosa National Park
Edward O. Wilson
Piotr Nasrecki (photographs)
David Cain (maps)
Jessica Yu (DVD)
New York: Simon & Schuster, April 2014
The sacred mountain of Gorongosa rises in primacy above the lower end of the Great Rift Valley, near the center of Mozambique. It was in this region, two million years or so ago, that our ancestors diverged from other primates on their way to becoming us: globe-trotting, resource-wasting modern Homo sapiens.
Dr. Wilson came to this land in 2011.1 There he met Greg Carr, an American businessman who was instrumental in establishing Gorongosa National Park. It was no cakewalk. A 16-year civil war broke out after Mozambique won its independence from Portugal in 1975, and the rebels used the wildlife around the mountain as a food larder. After that, commercial poachers took over. Most of the area's big-game species were pushed close to extinction. But gradually, thanks to Greg Carr's team and the people of Mozambique, life rebounded. Today the park holds one of the richest troves of biodiversity in the world.
Dr. Wilson is a latecomer to this particular triumph. But he has been a champion of ecological restoration throughout his 84 years. In this book he shows us the marvelous variety of life in Gorongosa, from insects to elephants. Piotr Nasrecki's photographs are a brilliant supplement to the text. It is a very worthwhile account of how local involvement, plus some experienced guidance, can bring back the natural wealth of an area while improving the lives of people who live there.
Beyond this, however, there is a greater message. It is that humanity as a whole will find itself far richer when it realizes that the immense variety of other species sharing this planet is not just an entertaining subject for PBS nature shows but a legacy whose worth we are still unable to calculate — a living fabric in which we are one thread, and which, by rending it, we may doom ourselves. Let us rather, as Dr. Wilson urges, make an enduring commitment to set aside some portion of the planet's lands and seas where that natural endowment of riches can continue to thrive — thereby guaranteeing for both it and ourselves a window on eternity.
The writing is lyrical (and nearly free of errors), the 56 color photographs are excellent (and their subjects are fascinating), the message is vital (and inspiringly delivered.) The book contains an index and includes a bonus DVD. Top marks and a keeper for sure.