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Why Renegade Naturalist Doug Peacock's New Book About the Pleistocene Is a Must Read for Surviving Today

To better understand our changing climate, "In the Shadow of the Sabertooth" takes us back thousands of years to the earliest residents of this continent.

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This entry made me squeamish, recalling a hike I took with Peacock in Yellowstone and the raft he wanted to build from dead saplings and nylon cord to paddle across Yellowstone Lake to save a day of walking. I had nightmares, hearing the screams of Boy Scouts as they drowned in that lake, after huge wind-driven waves swamped their canoes. I managed to talk him down off of that idea, but he's yet to let me forget it.

Most of that hike (and many others I've had in wilderness ) could have taken place in the Pleistocene. That's the beauty and value of wilderness. It's where we were born and where, Peacock asserts, "our own organic consciousness evolved". Peacock believes that we must fight "to protect the wild; wilderness will buy us the kind of time geo-engineering never could or will." By wandering in the wilderness "from whence we came, that original homeland that carved the human mind..." we might also discover that those same survival tools that kept our ancestors safe (from cold and raging rivers, a pack of dire wolves, Pleistocene lion, or short-faced bear) will work against the modern monsters we've created with that same mind.


If not, so be it. I'll be fine now that I know three key things: how to defend myself against marauding mammals with a long pointed stick, the dull end braced against the ground; that bones from fresh carcasses are combustible and burn hot in a fire; and eating a stew of tasty  Amanita phalloides mushrooms might be a pleasurable way to die.

Whether we crumble into a massive heap, adapt, or miraculously dodge the slow moving climate bullet, will depend not just on scientists, economists, politicians, and preachers, but on those who can connect us to a past when we faced monsters and survived. We need story-tellers like Peacock who are scanning the horizon, sniffing the air (being sure to avoid carcasses) while imagining our way forth.

Brooke Williams' conservation career spans thirty years, most recently with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. He has an MBA in Sustainable Business from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. He’s a freelance journalist with four books including Halflives: Reconciling Work and Wildness, and dozens of articles.

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