Reading The Eternal Frontier might be the closest you'll get to taking a class from Tim Flannery--and that alone makes it an opportunity just too good to pass up.
This ambitious retelling of North America's dramatic ecological history grew out of a course that Flannery taught at Harvard surveying the continent's ancient past up to its tumultuous near-present: from the extraterrestrial "death-dealing visitor" that struck 65 million years ago all the way through to the tidal invasions, adaptations, and extinctions that have washed over North America since, each idiosyncratically influenced by an ever-changing geology, geography, and climate.
Flannery admirably balances his twin roles as scientist and storyteller.
As a thoughtful teacher, he employs memorable and effective examples to illustrate broader topics, but he's also willing to commit to theoretical explanations (with fair warning) when necessary to thread together the narrative.
But Flannery's greatest strength might simply be the empathy he inspires as a fellow human being trying to sort out an intricate, often richly beautiful puzzle.
It's hard not to identify with his curiosity and enthusiasm, whether he's recalling memories of late nights spent as a child reading the How and Why Book of Prehistoric Mammals (and the uintathere nightmares that followed) or just marveling over the vast American West from his window seat on a plane.
The Eternal Frontier certainly leaves you with a solid outline of the how, why, and when of North America's enigmatic ecology, and what the implications of a dwindling frontier have for our future.
For more information about the title The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples, read the full description at Amazon.com, or see the following related books:
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