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Charles Wohlforth


Editorial Reviews of The Fate of Nature

In his thoughtful and felicitous new book, "The Fate of Nature," Charles Wohlforth presents an inspired view of humankind's future, one in which the recognition that we rely on nature to sustain and define our lives will lead us to value Earth and its environment, ahead of such familiar human preoccupations as the competitive expression of individual ego, the hoarding of material goods, and the abuse and exhaustion of the environment that ultimately provides those goods, the amassing of which fuels the egoism. It's a profound and uplifting vision, one we must hope is prophetic.

Steve Haycox, Anchorage Daily News, June 24, 2011

I sat down with the book. And found myself unable to put it down. It’s that good. … This is a must-read, and not just because it is such a joy to read a well-written, thoughtfully produced, thoroughly researched work. It’s worth reading for the way it makes you think about all the things we’ve held as absolutes, all the hopelessness those absolutes have fostered in us. When you finish reading, you get the sense we really can make a difference, we really can stop this bus from toppling over the cliff into the dark, unforgiving sea.

Libbie Martin, Fairbanks News-Miner, Sept 5, 2011

Wohlforth has an immersive prose style that’s engaging from the first page, and his obvious emotional investment in the natural beauty of Alaska, as well as his shame at the damage wrought to its environment, keeps the book anchored. (He was the lead reporter for the Anchorage Daily News during the Exxon Valdez crisis, and some early chapters about connections between everything in Prince William Sound, from the health of its fish to the culture of the native Chugach people, are particularly compelling.)

Leonard Pierce, The Onion's AV Club, June 17, 2010

Inclusive, complex, and resolute, Wohlforth's environmental history is rich in newly mined facts, galvanizing interpretations, and shocking disclosures. By analyzing competition and evolution, culture and economics, habits of living and of mind, science and suffering, Wohlforth brings a truly ecological perspective to the global debate over how to protect the biosphere.

Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred review, June 2010

A heart-wrenching journey through the tumultuous history of the state and its fragile land and seascape, from the complex, mysterious culture of killer whales through the clash of Native worldview and Hobbesian self-interest with the arrival of Europeans, the origins of the conservation movement and its ongoing battle with development, and the devastating Valdez oil spill. Wohlforth concludes, optimistically, provocatively, but convincingly, that “stepping off the material treadmill isn't denial, it's freedom.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review, March 1, 2010

Bloggers Weigh in on The Fate of Nature

There is something heartbreaking and prescient about The Fate of Nature even though, despite the subtitle, it isn't actually about cleaning up the Earth. Rather award-winning author Charles Wohlforth uses his native Alaska as a lens of possibility. Still, while over 100 million gallons of crude has poured into the Gulf of Mexico, doing untold damage to... well... everything, it’s difficult not to take some of Wohlforth’s lovely words to heart. There are times, while reading The Fate of Nature, I just felt like weeping. It’s a beautiful book. A painful reminder. A unforgettable journey: one that ends in hope. I won’t heal quickly, though. Perhaps none of us will.

Linda Richards, January Magazine, June 15, 2011

This book, with its panoramic descriptions of the wild, is a poetic and philosophical approach to changing the way we see the natural world and connect with it … Though not a stated component of The Fate of Nature , there are spiritual truths revealed here. Even as readers are mesmerized by the words and the worlds depicted, we can’t miss seeing ourselves in the actions of the plunderers. Uncomfortable as that may be, it is the critical first step toward reversing course and returning to a harmonious relationship with nature that benefits us even more than it benefits the wild things.

Deborah Adams, Curled Up With a Good Book, June 2011

As soon as I started the book I was immediately hooked and couldn’t put it down. … This book is full of the most incredible science, history, political intrigue, stories of real people and communities, and of disasters. It is a fascinating read that is always keeping you on your toes.

Amy McKie, Amy Reads, Aug 28, 2011

This is a beautifully written book. Like a well-crafted novel, you get a vivid sense of the characters involved (their motivations, passions and foibles) and a deep sense of place. You also gain a renewed faith in humanity. Wohlforth shows us where altruism, cooperation and compassion have blossomed throughout history and continue to thrive now, in various cultures and social settings. … I’ve now seen evidence of what humanity could collectively become and have decided to trust in human hearts, as Wohlforth advises. I’m hoping enough of us wake up in time to choose something better.

Sidney Stevens, Mother Nature Network, Sept 9, 2011

The structure of the book is one of its most appealing features and makes it a pleasant read. He employs a variety of narrative formats to tackle an array of topics, all of which in the end converge to one place: the ocean. Because it is the ocean, which humans once thought was limitless, that concerns Wohlforth. “The ocean can represent the vast, complex and fragile living world outside ourselves, giving context to what we see within”, writes Wohlforth. He often writes like that, like a fiction writer, sometimes a poet, to appeal to the heart while also providing fodder for the brain.

Antonio Pasolini, Energy Refuge, August 5, 2010

The book comes out, after six years work, exactly when its lessons and observations on human society, selfishness, cooperation, and nature’s future have a premier news event unfolding to rivet its theme to your bones. … It quickly gets its hooks in deep. You’ll meet unforgettable people, learn things about the roots of conservationism and environmentalism you may not like, and wind up with something on which to loop a thread of hope. From Alaska, a planetary tome.

Charlie Petit, Knight Science Journalism Tracker,  June 13, 2010

Intellectual, philosophical and packed with feeling, Wohlforth’s hopeful arguments for preserving our natural world are also practical and ring true as a bell, a gentle pause in the noise that often takes the place of civilized debate on the topic.

Deanna Larson, Bookpage.com, June 2010

I found myself entirely entranced by the book, reluctant to put it down each night so that I could sleep. This is a fascinating book blending science and history, full of detailed, very personal, stories about the individuals who have made a difference, both positive and negative, in Alaska over the years.

The Musings of a Life-Long Scholar, May 17, 2010

The Fate of Nature is both fun and enlightening. This has got to be the only book ever that combines discussions of the behavior of killer whales and ravens with examinations of the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, Teddy Roosevelt, and Aleut baseball. It mixes the lyrical and the wonkish, the pragmatic and the mystical, and it also throws in some nice turns of writing

Cliff Groh, Alaska Political Corruption, Aprill 22, 2010


Those of us who love wilderness should pick up the book and learn what ordinary people are doing to look at our world in a new way. Specifically, Charles examines the deep, unwritten connections between the environment and each one of us. After reading the book, I’m beginning to look at the ocean, the wilderness–and my fellow human beings–in a new way.

Scott McMurren, Alaska Travelgram, March 26, 2010


Advance Praise for The Fate of Nature

Alaska – vast, yet vulnerable – is the roiling stage for an immense book that confronts the biggest question we’ll ever face: Do we humans have it in us to square with nature before it’s too late? In an extraordinary swirl of ecology, psychology, history, searing reportage, and unabashed love for his own species despite all the pain we’ve wreaked, Charles Wohlforth leaves us chastened but hopeful that just maybe we can.
Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us


The Fate of Nature is an important and compelling read. Wohlforth develops critical, unexamined issues about our relationship to nature through the vivid characters and magnificent landscapes of coastal Alaska. You’ll be intrigued, and you may be changed.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr


An ambitious and big-hearted book, The Fate of Nature contains lessons we all need to learn. It should be read by everyone who cares about the oceans and the many lives -- human or otherwise -- that depend on them.
Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe


The hidden truths in The Fate of Nature gradually come into focus through the adventures, stories, and exhilarating experiences conveyed with masterful grace and deep understanding of ancient wisdom and modern realities by Charles Wohlforth. A must-read for all who care about securing an enduring future for humankind within the natural systems that sustain us.
Sylvia A. Earle, Explorer in Residence, National Geographic


No one does a better job of bringing the real Alaska to life than Charles Wohlforth. In The Fate of Nature, he has combined compelling story-telling with a provocative contribution to our national environmental debate. I don’t agree with everything Charles has to say, but his eye-opening book is an invaluable read for anyone who cares about my state and our planet and wants to leave it better than we found it.
U.S. Senator Mark Begich, D-Alaska


The great question--to be settled in the next few decades--is whether 'human nature' will force us to wreck our planet, or whether it will turn out to be the saving grace. Charles Wohlforth doesn't make assumptions--he makes sense. And hopeful sense at that!”
Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy