Featured book: Tenacious Beasts

In Tenacious Beasts, author Christopher Preston presents an inspiring look at species that are defying the odds and teaching important lessons about how to share a planet

The news about wildlife conservation is dire—but against this bleak backdrop, there are also glimmers of hope and crucial lessons to be learned from animals that have defied global trends toward extinction: bears in Italy, bison in North America, whales in the Atlantic. These populations are back from the brink, some of them in numbers unimaginable in a century. 

Author Christopher Preston.

But how did this happen? What shifts in thinking did it demand? In crisp, transporting prose, Christopher Preston reveals the mysteries and challenges at the heart of these resurgences in his book Tenacious Beasts.

Drawing on compelling personal stories from the researchers, Indigenous people, and activists who know the creatures best, Preston weaves together a gripping narrative of how some species are taking back vital, ecological roles. Each section of the book—farms, prairies, rivers, forests, oceans—offers a philosophical shift in how humans ought to think about animals, passionately advocating for the changes in attitude necessary for wildlife recovery.

“Emboldened foxes and fjords full of whales tell us something,” Preston writes. “The recoveries create glimmers of hope and bring complicated challenges. We need, in short, a new way to think about animals.”

While Tenacious Beasts does tell a story of hope, Preston does not delude readers into believing that the situation isn’t urgent. Amongst the shocking statistics shared in the book, Preston writes:

  • Over the last century, wildlife populations have declined 20 percent. 
  • Since industrialization, over 900 species have become extinct. 
  • Currently, at least a million species are threatened with extinction—many of those having less than a thousand individual specimens currently on the planet. 

“The collapse is almost certain to get worse,” he adds. “The signs of human dominance are everywhere.” 

We see the signs in changing land (three-quarters of ice-free land and two-thirds of the oceans have been transformed by human activities); we see them in reallocations of resources (seventy percent of the world’s fresh water is devoted to crop and livestock production); and we see them in rapid loss of those resources (soil is eroding one hundred times faster than it is being built). 

Still, there is hope for a future where humans and animals can once again coexist. The path there will not be easy, but Preston urges readers to be optimistic. “As earth has done repeatedly in the past,“ he predicts, ”life will bounce back.”

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