The Continent We Live On

The Continent We Live On

The Continent We Live On

The Continent We Live On

Excerpt

The idea for a book such as this originally came to me in Europe thirty years ago. I nursed it during travels in southeast Asia, as a field collector for the British Museum and Cambridge University in the Orient, Africa, and South America, and after World War II brought me permanently to the New World and to residence in the United States.

Then, in 1957, two things were brought to my attention. The first was a set of government statistics showing that the number of working farmers in the United States is only some 2 per cent of the population, indicating how urbanized this country has become. The other was a set of magnificent color photographs of North America's natural wonders. Since I had traveled widely during the previous ten years in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, these two items confirmed something that had been disturbing me increasingly. This was the fact that this continent is rapidly being covered by a man-made blight but that no one had as yet made a simple, non-technical record of its appearance as it was before the coming of the white man, or as it is today apart from his influence.

During the following year I made still another discovery which was, at least to me, astonishing; namely, that no one seems ever to have made an "expedition" specifically to inspect North America as a whole and in its purely natural and non-human aspects. I found vast libraries on special aspects or particular parts of this continent, but no over-all, non-technical description written from this point of view and covering the whole continent.

Because of my training, early work, and research, I regard almost everything in nature in terms of what is known as ecology. This term is derived from roots that mean "the study of nature's houses" and is succinctly defined by Professor Henry J. Oosting of Duke University as "the study of organisms, their environment, and all the inter-relationships between the two." I therefore proposed taking a long trip . . .

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