November 15, 2016 – Join Bear Yuba Land Trust to welcome nationally recognized author Jordan Fisher Smith (Nature Noir) for a reading and discussion of his new Penguin-Random House book Engineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial and the Fight over Controlling Nature.
“We are truly blessed to have such a literary hero in our own backyard. Bear Yuba Land Trust’s book club has long been a fan of Jordan’s work. We are honored to have him share his newest book on Tuesday in such an intimate setting,” said BYLT’s Outreach Coordinator Laura Petersen.
The event will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 at Lucchesi Wine Tasting Room at 128 Mill Street in downtown Grass Valley. Suggested donation is $5. Reservations are not required but seating is limited. Smith’s books, Engineering Eden (print and audiobook) and Nature Noir will be available for purchase during the event.
After a national book tour, Smith’s hometown appearance next week is a special treat for local fans.
“Since June, when the book came out, I’ve traveled through California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama. I haven’t quite equaled my Nature Noir tour—77 book signings and lectures in 13 states—but that total included the second year with the paperback,” said Smith. Dates still pending for the present tour include British Columbia and New York, and a return trip to speak in Alabama, where a portion of the book is set.
In the same vein as Into the Wild, The Golden Spruce, and The Perfect Storm, Jordan Fisher Smith’s Engineering Eden is a one-of-a-kind exploration of character, biography, and environmental conservation history. Set in the 1970s, the book raises important questions about the manipulation and control of earth’s ecosystems that are even more relevant today.
In the summer of 1972, a young man named Harry Walker left his home on an Alabama farm to find himself in the wide-open spaces of America. Nineteen days later he was killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park.
The book opens in a federal courtroom where some of the greatest wildlife biologists of the twentieth century testified in a lawsuit filed by Harry Walker’s parents after his death. From there, in a series of flashbacks, Smith traces the young man’s fated path to his fatal encounter with the bear and the long scientific controversy over how to restore and maintain patches of wilderness amid growing numbers of people.
The Walkers charged that a plan to restore Yellowstone’s ecology after a long history of mismanagement proved lethal both for the bears and their son. But at a deeper level, the case was a referendum on how much human beings ought to try to engineer nature.
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America’s most famous national parks were created before scientific advances were in place to properly care for them. By 1972, when Yellowstone turned a century old, biologists were embroiled in a rancorous dispute over what humans were trying to save in these wild places and how to do it. Some, like Walker trial witness A. Starker Leopold, son of legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold and the architect of the national parks’ nature policy, believed that human manipulation was essential to preserve threatened ecosystems. Others, like Yellowstone chief scientist Glen Cole and celebrated wildlife biologist Adolph Murie, argued that the most essential characteristic of wilderness was that it was the one place in which we can leave nature alone to work out its own destiny.
Smith reaches the conclusion that nature will not be saved wholly by engineering or by leaving it alone; a balance must be struck. But his account of the fatal complexity of tinkering with a single national park will caution readers to weigh carefully claims by advocates of total human dominion over nature, “geoengineering,” genetically engineered creatures, custom-built ecosystems, and “gardening” of the entire earth.
Jordan Fisher Smith’s book, Nature Noir was a Booksense Bestseller, an Audubon magazine Editor’s Choice, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of the Year selection, and a Wall Street Journal Summer Reading pick. He has written for The New Yorker, TIME.com, Men’s Journal, and Discover, and was a principal cast member and narrator of the film Under Our Skin, which made the 2010 Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary Feature.
Bear Yuba Land Trust is a community-supported nonprofit organization that has conserved nearly 11,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills, built more than 30 miles of local trails and provides quality educational programs that get people of all ages outdoors to connect with the natural world.
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