“If wilderness is outlawed, only outlaws can save wilderness.” Edward Abbey
In a collection of gripping stories of adventure, Doug Peacock, loner, iconoclast, environmentalist, and contemporary of Edward Abbey, reflects on a life lived in the wild, asking the question many ask in their twilight years: “Was It Worth It?”
Recounting sojourns with Abbey, but also Peter Matthiessen, Doug Tompkins, Jim Harrison, Yvon Chouinard and others, Peacock observes that what he calls “solitary walks” were the greatest currency he and his buddies ever shared. He asserts that “solitude is the deepest well I have encountered in this life,” and the introspection it affords has made him who he is: a lifelong protector of the wilderness and its many awe-inspiring inhabitants.
With adventures both close to home (grizzlies in Yellowstone and jaguars in the high Sonoran Desert) and farther afield (tigers in Siberia, jaguars again in Belize, spirit bears in the wilds of British Columbia, all the amazing birds of the Galapagos), Peacock acknowledges that Covid 19 has put “everyone’s mortality in the lens now and it’s not necessarily a telephoto shot.” Peacock recounts these adventures to try to understand and explain his perspective on Nature: That wilderness is the only thing left worth saving.
In the tradition of Peacock’s many best-selling books, Was It Worth It? is both entertaining and thought provoking. It challenges any reader to make certain that the answer to the question for their own life is “Yes!”
About The Essential Grizzly: “In this riveting work, the Peacocks convincingly show how America’s greatest carnivore connects Americans to their culture, their history, their humanity, and the values we most treasure.” —Robert R. Kennedy, Jr.
About Walking It Off: “Peacock is a direct literary descendant of Thoreau, with a few genes from Audubon and his mentor, Edward Abbey… His response to the natural world is visceral, intellectual and spiritual at the same time. In this book, he writes about it beautifully, in prose that begs comparison to the best of Peter Matthiessen… His meditations on war and wilderness are painfully apt today, with America fighting new battles abroad, led by an administration that seems to be at war with wilderness at home.” —Phil Caputo, Pulitzer Prize winner for A Rumor of War
National author tour in March 2022
National author tour in March 2022
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
Well, it was certainly worth reading this book, which has the feel of sitting by a campfire with Doug as he tells stories about his life, concerns, and travels. I’ll admit to some bias. I’ve been a fan of the author for decades since his own Grizzly Years was published (I later spent some years living in Yellowstone and hiking alone in grizzly country, and his perspective was helpful), and even earlier via Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang and the days (and nights) of the Earth First! movement. These stories are mostly about wilderness and wildlife, and range from North America to Asia and the Galapagos; from bears to tigers to fish. Friends such as Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, and many more join him on his travels. But my favorite may have been his account of a solo river trip, possibly on the lam from the FBI. He also writes seriously about climate change. The man has led an interesting and important life, and I’m grateful that he shared these parts of it with us. Thanks also to Patagonia and NetGalley for the advance copy.
I was given this book in return for my honest opinion. This book is not my usual cup of tea but I found it immediately intriguing and learned so much in spite of myself. I found it so interesting in just the tracking of these beasts……that’s what they are. Found this so educating in,a fascinating way. I would recommend this book for reading. I think big game hunters in the America would find this is a must read.
"...But the most astounding herd to roam the face of the Earth was the American bison of the Great Plains. The numbers we hear stagger the imagination: sixty million bison at the time of Lewis and Clark; a single group of ten million bison taking several days to cross a great river in Iowa…" What a travesty that paved the way for additional racial cleansing, the removal of Native Americans from their land, and the influx of cattle ranchers that would eventually lead to the decimation of the prairie. It has only been in the last two decades or so when people like the writer Dan O’Brien would reintroduce the buffalo back onto the grassy plains in order to restore the land to its natural state through the grazing bison. "...Our view of seeing ourselves separate from nature is the path that has delivered us to today’s peril. The year 2021 finds us in the middle of the sixth great extinction, largely driven by climate change and entirely caused by human activity…Will human civilization escape the planet’s baking heat? This endangered species list does not include two-legged primates; the hot winds of climate change are coming for us all…" The future does not bode well for human beings. Follow the money and the 1% who can afford to seek an unspoiled planet or devise an ulterior plan to survive what is sure to come. The rest of us will be left to suffer the despicable fate that our human race has made possible instead of protecting our earth, ensuring we have clean air and water, and plants and animals needed so that we might all live in harmony. "...I consider myself responsible for all my companions should an encounter with a white bear grow critical. That was what I agreed to do: walkpoint. The bedrock assumption, never discussed, that keeps my carrying the spear from becoming something other than a campy joke, is that you need to be willing to die…" Doug Peacock has had a lifetime of adventure. His courage and bravery is renowned. His many important friends are a testament to his good nature and love for the land. The knowledge and understanding he has gleaned from living in the wilderness in step with the largest of our predators is respected beyond a measure many of us would ever experience for ourselves. His stories are captivating and undoubtedly true. In his last years he is setting them down so we might learn from him and succeed in some way in helping to protect and preserve what might somehow miraculously be left, if anything. "...This bear, though his coat is black, is a “spirit bear,” a race of coastal mainland bears named for the one in every ten that is born white. The white bears are not albinos; their eyes are dark...A white-phase mother may have three black cubs, or a black-phase mom could have cubs born white, black, and cinnamon. The range of spirit bear, which some experts consider a subspecies of Ursus americanus, extends north to Kaien Island and south to Vancouver Island. Today, most are found on Princess Royal, Gribbell, and Pooley Islands or the adjacent mainland coast…" I would have never been made aware of a “spirit bear” had it not been for Doug Peacock. Sadly they will all be gone as the timber barons continue their onslaught for clear-cutting and destroying the only habitat these bears can prosper in. I remember learning in grade school the term “progress” which is exactly the opposite of what our leaders and innovators are accomplishing. In the decades since WWII we have witnessed the spread of urban blight, mass exodus from the cities to construct new developments, disposable in nature, built from resources already stretched to the limits, and the mountains of garbage and trash, overflowing landfills, and toxic waste threatening the lives we once held sacred. Doug Peacock is another in a too-short list of American treasures. Ignore him at your peril. "...Solitude in wilderness is the easiest escape from the prison of culture and self-importance…For more than four decades, I have done my best to protect wild places, grizzly bears, and other top predators. After this trip, I will head to the North Slope of the Yukon, where polar bears are interbreeding with grizzlies…a dozen feet of sea rise could arrive sooner than the end of the century, as the mainstream press has dangerously underestimated. The rate of climate change is mind-boggling. I am seeking clarity in this madness. Humans have glimpsed the mirror that reflects their own extinction…" To think that the polar bear initially evolved from the grizzly. Wow. And to fully understand the implications as it prepares to evolve again by reverting back through interbreeding. If that is not a sign of climate change then I do not know what can convince us. Perhaps the entire ice shelf being gone, the waters rising to degrees unimaginable to us, and our frantic climb to higher ground in the making. But heat rises and we will appropriately be burned to death because of our ignorance. There is no soft or comforting way in which to say it. And it will happen from the inside out.