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On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galapagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden

by Elizabeth Hennessy Yale University Press
Pub Date:
01/2020
ISBN:
9780300232745
Format:
Hbk 336 pages
Price:
AU$53.99 NZ$56.51
Product Status: In Stock Now
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An insightful exploration of the iconic Galápagos tortoises, and how their fate is inextricably linked to our own in a rapidly changing world     


 


The Galápagos archipelago is often viewed as a last foothold of pristine nature. For sixty years, conservationists have worked to restore this evolutionary Eden after centuries of exploitation at the hands of pirates, whalers, and island settlers.


 


This book tells the story of the islands’ namesakes - the giant tortoises - as coveted food sources, objects of natural history, and famous icons of conservation and tourism. By doing so, it brings into stark relief the paradoxical, and impossible, goal of conserving species by trying to restore a past state of prehistoric evolution. The tortoises, Elizabeth Hennessy demonstrates, are not prehistoric, but rather microcosms whose stories show how deeply human and nonhuman life are entangled. In a world where evolution is thoroughly shaped by global history, Hennessy puts forward a vision for conservation based on reckoning with the past, rather than trying to erase it.
“Wonderfully interesting, informative, and engaging, as well as scholarly”—Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: Voyaging and Charles Darwin: The Power of Place

“Timely, fresh, and compelling. . .a must-read for anyone interested in the environmental history of the Galapagos and tortoise conservation.”—Jamie Lorimer, University of Oxford, author of Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature

Elizabeth Hennessy is a geographer and assistant professor of history and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is on the steering committee of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment.