A Planet Scarred And Scared
by Fran Withrow
Jane Alexander is multi-talented. You may know her as an actress, but you may not be aware that she has a gift for writing as well. “Wild Things, Wild Places” is her passionate book about traveling around the world as an advocate for conservation.
And travel she has. From Mexico to Nepal, and from Amazonia to Ecuador, Alexander has explored the world extensively, writing knowledgably about a wide variety of animals and their struggles to survive in an ever-changing world. She meets with scientists on the forefront of the conservation movement and shares their dedicated work with her readers.
Alexander also describes the work being done by various countries to combat poaching and the loss of wildlife habitat. Some countries face an incredibly uphill battle, and I am filled with admiration for their efforts. And while it may seem hopeless, it is not. Alexander cites the example of Chinese film star Li Bingbing, who has become one of Asia’s leading advocates for Elephants, fighting illegal wildlife trade. It only takes one person.
But her true love is for the animals themselves. Her excitement upon seeing a rare Monal Pheasant in Bhutan is palpable. Throughout the book, Alexander capitalizes the names of animals as a way of “elevating their status.” I found this to be a powerful means of according animals the respect they deserve, and I applaud her decision.
Alexander seamlessly blends her explorations with tales from her life, one rich in encounters with nature, explaining how a love for wildlife was instilled in her at an early age. Yet she is not maudlin about the changes has seen. In 1943 she visited Walden Pond, then a place rich with frogs, clear water and little fish “swimming between our legs.” It’s all developed now, but she can still see the beauty “in a shaft of light across pavement in the big city…. It is there for us, even in the ugliness we’ve inflicted.” She reminds us that the earth is “scarred” as well as “sacred.”
Alexander is a tireless advocate even with her own grandchildren. One charming tradition I love is her plan to take her grandchildren anywhere they want to go for their twelfth birthday. (Her granddaughters nixed Paris and Hawaii for Galapagos. How great is that?) What a lovely way to educate the next generation about the importance of preserving the richness of what we have on this planet.
We cannot save everything, she acknowledges. Some species that occupy very specific habitats may not survive. But we can help, with “thoughtful management,” as “there is life everywhere, and life wants to thrive.”
Alexander’s book is positive in nature, filled with photos (though I wanted more, and of those, more in color). I sped through it, riveted, cheering for her and her critical work for our world. I was pleased to see that she ends with a list of her favorite organizations promoting conservation, as well as an extensive bibliography of books “about wild things and wild places.” I will definitely be reading more.
“Wild Things, Wild Places: Adventurous Tales of Wildlife and Conservation on Planet Earth”
by Jane Alexander
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group