Four-Fifths a Grizzly

A New Perspective on Nature that Just Might Save Us All

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Pub Date 15 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 04 Apr 2022

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What do you think of when you think of Nature?

Prolific author and National Geographic writer Doug Chadwick’s fresh look at human’s place in the natural world. In his accessible and engaging style, Chadwick approaches the subject from a scientific angle, with the underlying message that from the perspective of DNA humans are not all that different from any other creature. He begins by showing the surprisingly close relationship between human DNA and that of grizzly bears, with whom we share 80 percent of our DNA. We are 60 percent similar to a salmon, 40 percent the same as many insects, and 24 percent of our genes match those of a wine grape. He reflects on the value of exposure to nature on human biochemistry and mentality, that we are not that far removed from our ancestors who lived closer to nature.

He highlights examples of animals using “human” traits, such as tools and play. He ends the book with two examples of the healing benefits of turning closer to nature: island biogeography and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. This book is a reflection on man’s rightful place in the ecological universe. Using personal stories, recounting how he came to love and depend on the Great Outdoors and how he learned his place in the system of Nature, Chadwick challenges anyone to consider whether they are separate from or part of nature.

The answer is obvious, that we are an indivisible from all elements of a system that is greater than ourselves and should never be neglected, taken advantage of, or exploited. This is a fresh and engaging take on man’s relationship to nature by a respected and experienced author.

What do you think of when you think of Nature?

Prolific author and National Geographic writer Doug Chadwick’s fresh look at human’s place in the natural world. In his accessible and engaging style...

A Note From the Publisher

Douglas H. Chadwick is a wildlife biologist who carried out research on mountain goat ecology and social behavior atop the Rockies for years and has assisted other scientists studying harlequin ducks, wolverines, grizzly bears, and whales. He is also a natural history journalist who has produced 14 popular books and hundreds of magazine stories. Many of his articles have been for the National Geographic Society on subjects from snow leopards high in the Himalayas to lowland rainforests and the underwater kingdoms of coral. A founding Board member of the Vital Ground Foundation, a conservation land trust (, Chadwick serves as well on the Board of the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation, which supports wildlife research and community-based conservation programs throughout the world (

Douglas H. Chadwick is a wildlife biologist who carried out research on mountain goat ecology and social behavior atop the Rockies for years and has assisted other scientists studying harlequin...

Advance Praise

Four-Fifths a Grizzly is the best sort of science education: we are ushered on a delightful, personal journey into the ecosphere—which includes us—and come out the other side with an unshakable sense of wonder at the planet, and with renewed inspiration to put the profoundness of it all into action.”– Broughton Coburn, bestselling author of Mountain Without Mercy

“If this book were only beautifully written and gloriously illustrated, that would already be a lot to recommend it. But it also taught me a huge amount and offered threads of hope. It is a transfixing read.” – Dame Alison Richard, anthropologist, conservationist and former Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University

“ET needed to phone home. So do we all. We need to get in touch with our ultimate Mom because we too often forget our place in the cosmos. That’s a big reason for the trouble we make. This book has the number to call. It also has humor, humility, and eloquent storytelling. It is five-fifths important.”– William deBuys, author of The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss

“I have long been curious about the collapse of civilizations. Why do they collapse? What are the commonalities between them? Why do we humans make the same mistakes over and over again leading toward our own destruction? I think Doug Chadwick’s book addresses one of the central misconceptions we have about our relationship to nature - We humans are a part of the circle of life, not found in the center but rather as part of the whole. Chadwick hones in on this simple yet fundamental fact – history will repeat itself if we’re not willing to understand that everything is connected to everything else.” – Kris Tompkins, founder of Tompkins Conservation, American conservationist, and former CEO of Patagonia

“What sets Four-Fifths a Grizzly apart from other books on the place of humankind in nature are the remarkable, and abundant, first hand adventure stories. Whether he’s breathlessly reporting on the challenges for the mountain goat of life on a precipice in the Rockies, or on the unruliness of the swarming ants from the Australian bush, or on the surprised expressions of the chimpanzees he stumbled upon during an expedition to the Congo, you can be sure that Douglas Chadwick has seen it himself.” – Mark W. Moffett, ecologist, explorer, and author of The Human Swarm and Adventures Among Ants

“Doug Chadwick enchants our brains with his field-hardened observations of nature in the raw and our hearts through his meditations on what a wild strawberry can tell us about our place in the cosmos. With quirky but deeply insightful prose, marvelously complemented by carefully curated photographs, he serves up both a feast for the eyes and a life-changing insight into who we really are. Four-Fifths a Grizzly is a career-capping tour de force by one of the world's great natural science writers.” – Harvey Locke, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas task force leader and co-founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

“Douglas Chadwick is among my favorite nature writers in the world today. Whether it is a short article in the National Geographic, a coffee table book about the magnificent Rockies or a full-length tract on the fate of wild elephants, he can bring nature alive through sparkling prose while being scientifically accurate. In this rare volume, Chadwick ventures far more deeply and widely than before into the world of science: He succeeds brilliantly in portraying how animal biology works from microscopic to macro-ecological scales. A superb, educative and compelling read.” – Ullas Karanth, tiger conservation expert and former director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s India Program

“Doug Chadwick has a way of distilling a large amount of knowledge and explaining it in a way that both the public and scientists can appreciate. Without shying away from the challenges humans face, he provides a hopeful message of our kinship with all life, and the sorts of approaches needed to work towards a better future.” – John Hechtel, bear biologist

"In Four-Fifths a Grizzly, Chadwick shows us that the human experience and the natural world are not merely irrevocably intertwined but that they are, in fact, one and the same. Full of intrigue, wisdom, jaw-dropping stories, heart-break and despair, inspiration and entertainment, this book often reads like a novel and leaves the reader with the one powerful tool we humans will need to combat the challenges that lie ahead - hope." – Rachel Langer, life and leadership coach

Four-Fifths a Grizzly is the best sort of science education: we are ushered on a delightful, personal journey into the ecosphere—which includes us—and come out the other side with an unshakable...

Marketing Plan

National media appearances including, print, online, radio & podcasts

Readers & Teachers Guides available 

Audiobook forthcoming from Penguin Random House 

Virtual Author Events:

Country Bookshelf - June 15, 6:30pm PT / 9:30pm ET

Tattered Cover Bookstore - June 16 at 5:30pm PT / 8:30pm ET

Patagonia - June 22 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

Book Passage - July 13 at 5:30pm PT / 8:30pm ET

National media appearances including, print, online, radio & podcasts

Readers & Teachers Guides available 

Audiobook forthcoming from Penguin Random House 

Virtual Author Events:

Country Bookshelf - June...

Available Editions

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ISBN 9781952380143
PRICE $27.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Truly eye-opening, easy to follow and with some of the most gorgeous photographs I’ve seen, this book talks about the interconnectedness between all life on earth (and, maybe, beyond). Animals or plants, we all have so much DNA in common that it’s mind blowing. I enjoyed reading about the author’s experiences working for National Geographic and his encounters with some of my favorite “cousins” (I love bears!) As an animal lover, it’s heartwarming to see the compassion that he shows towards all creatures, and how he discusses conservation, extinction and possible solutions without ever being judgmental or preachy. Some parts were a little too technical for me, but most of the content was clear enough that I ended up grasping it. Whatever I missed, there’s always the gorgeous pictures.
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/ Patagonia!

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This book was not what I thought it would be, therefore I may not be the best reviewer. The book has a lot of information and opinions on evolution and the pre-history of mankind with dates, statistics, and suppositions about that period of time. This is not something that interests me. However it has lots of good points and information on our relationships with the animal kingdom. It also extols the virtues of letting your kids play out in the dirt, spending time in nature, moving our bodies, and encourages us to treat animals, from microscopic to gigantic, with the proper respect and care. For these things I am grateful. The author depicts many examples of symbiotic relationships between different types of living creatures and also describes animals playing for the sake of entertainment and relating to others outside their species. It is a more fact heavy and textbook-like account then I thought it would be. Thank you to NetGalley for the advance read copy.

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Interesting book of animals, including us, and interactions and planet destruction. Sustainability is possible, but at times we make it harder than it has to be. I liked reading about his encounters with bears especially, and made me think about our world, which is always a good thing. At times skimmable, but enough there to satisfy a variety of readers. Would recommend.

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The title of this book comes from thinking about the fact that humans and grizzly bears share at least roughly 80% of the same DNA, making us in some sense 4/5ths identical to a grizzly bear. Douglas Chadwick, a biologist and photographer, has put together these pictures, stories and information about life on our planet. There are 13 main chapters, discussing different aspects of the natural world and humans place within it.

There are many, many beautiful and exotic pictures throughout the book; from an octopus with transparent skin, to a river full of hippos, to a beautiful blue beetle, to a green single-celled organism seen magnified under a microscope. These pictures really help inspire wonder and appreciation for the beauty of nature.

In the Introduction, Chadwick explains his early fascination with discovering the microscopic world, and how using his microscope got him thinking about different forms of life. In the first chapter, he describes an uneventful encounter with a grizzly bear in the wild. Chadwick's sense of humor really makes this book fun to read, and the tone is more conversational than a textbook. There are interesting comparisons early on in this book, as humans are compared to other species in terms of how similar their DNA is.

Chadwick goes on to discuss human population growth, and the effects this has had on the other species on the planet. He reviews the human microbiome, and the different types of organisms that live inside us. Later chapters describe the benefits of living in more natural settings, the devastation of poaching, and the need to protect ecosystems like our ocean habitats.

The overall message seems to be, that humans should feel more like a part of life on this Earth, instead of feeling separate from the rest of the environment. Chadwick passes along this message with a unique type humor and enthusiasm, and includes some wonderful pictures as well. This was a fun one to read, and I will look for more from this author in the future.

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One of the quotes that author Douglas Chadwick provides in a later section of his new book Four-Fifths a Grizzly is from another book, The Twelves Steps to Happiness by Joe Klass: “The truth shall set you free . . . but first it will piss you off.” And this fit me as I read through about 70% of Four-Fifths a Grizzly and decided that me and my temper needed a break. Chadwick and his facts didn’t upset me as much as realizing how completely oblivious human beings are and continue to be even after being faced with a virus that restructured our world and climate change and the decimation of ecosystems all around us. So, anyway, my best intentions of reviewing this book nearer to its publication date failed.

Douglas Chadwick, a wildlife biologist, author, and contributor to National Geographic, is a very personable writer with a dry wit that works well as he discusses the relationship of human beings to nature. He informs the reader that humans are nature and nature is us. We are inextricably linked to everything around us via shared DNA. The number of organisms inside and outside of us just might make your skin crawl. Heh.

The first part of the book brings to light our place on earth, how our being human and doing what humans do has affected the world, how accidental introductions of species can decimate an area–such as the rat stowing away on ships and thriving on islands on which it has no predator and then its annhilating vulnerable species. And, what can be done to try to reverse that destruction. (Yes, thankfully there are biologists out there trying to turn things around.)

Chadwick does present a lot of facts, most of which I found interesting and alarming (“of every ten wild animals that roamed Earth half a century ago, only three stand in their place today”) and sometimes disheartening–and some created a white noise in my head, but that was me and the feeling of being back in Sophomore biology class–but he has an irrepressible optimism that shines through and provides hope.

As a nature writer, Chadwick has had the opportunity to participate in many interesting studies ( like grizzlies and whales!) and provides some anecdotes and observations here to off-set specifics about mitochondria.

When I finished reading this book, I felt like I had just received a call-to-action–not that I hadn’t felt one before, but there’s something about being presented with so much evidence that makes you feel the urgency; as if droughts, melting glaciers, and wildfires hadn’t accomplished that.

“Knowing what we know now, it would be good for a species that names itself sapiens–Latin for “wise”–to start choosing smarter paths forward. If we can quite congratulating ourselves for being exceptional creatures long enough to embrace a more realistic vision of what human nature actually is, that would count as a very promising and much healthier change of trajectory.

I could quite easily continue to discuss this book but instead I’ll just leave you with this: I highly recommend this one for nature lovers as well as anyone who cares about our place in the natural world and what we can do to conserve and protect our world.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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The title of this book, Four-Fifths a Grizzly, is a reference to how humans share 80% of our DNA with grizzlies. In this book, Douglas Chadwick introduces us to a way of looking at nature and our relationship to it.

Chadwick is also the author of The Wolverine Way and Growing Up Grizzly, both excellent books. He shares his perspective on nature and wildlife in a delightful way. Both the writing and the photos are top-notch. Humans may not be the top of the food chain and we need to understand our place in nature if we are to reverse the damage caused by many years of our ignorance of the way things work in the natural world. The author takes us on a deep look at how we can make the world a better place for all life. His stories come from his experiences, and that stands out throughout the entire book. When he writes about a grizzly encounter, he has lived it!

One thing that really stands out to me is that he doesn’t get preachy, but guides the reader by showing us the natural world and giving us a different perspective. I enjoyed the author’s writing style. The photos are amazing! But, I think the message is the more important part of this book. We humans need to start to learn our place in nature. We should figure things out before it’s too late. We all know the climate is changing, glaciers are melting, coral reefs are dying, wildlife is going extinct, and pollution (especially plastics) is out of hand. So, we need to pay attention to the authors that are trying to bring this to our attention. We need to heed the call to action and do something about it, before it’s too late to preserve anything at all.

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Four-fifths a Grizzly is a book about a lot of different biology topics including grizzly bears. It is quite heavy on facts and less so on narrative. Might be good reading for entry level biology students to be introduced to biology topics in a novel way.

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This book was a little too science forward. The author did have a sense of humor in writing at times but a lot was scientific names and facts. I appreciated the different sections and all the photos but this wasnt designed to be read on a tablet so the picture captions would just show up in the middle of paragraphs

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