Nathaniel Popkin at Cleaver Magazine:
Wilson leads the reader into his classic work of naturalist philosophy, Biophilia, published in 1984, by describing the experience of entering a forest in Surinam, as if, like Moresco’s unnamed narrator-protagonist, drawn to light, into another world. “In a twist my mind came free and I was aware of the hard workings of the natural world beyond the periphery of ordinary attention,” he writes,
where passions lose their meaning and history is in another dimension, without people, and great events pass without record or judgment. I was a transient of no consequence in this familiar yet deeply alien world that I had come to love.
Since that 1960s field study, the entomologist has spent nearly six more decades immersed in nature. He sees human history as inextricably connected to the much longer biological history of the earth and yet he’s conscious of man’s latent power. As a practical matter, it’s just better if—aside from field biologists like himself—we stay away, let nature be nature, at least for the world’s most sensitive biospheres. Moresco, from an opposite tact (his narrator’s life is fading), imagines flora and fauna taking back the planet after humans “have disappeared from the face of this little planet lost in the galaxies.” Giono, whose startling novels immersed in the pre-modern world of rural Provence are just now reaching contemporary English readers, imagines his peasant characters in constant dialogue with unpredictable nature, which even in the most benign circumstance is close at hand. A similar claustrophobia inhabits the fog gray Wales that Jones has created in Everything I Found at the Beach and his earlier The Dig, where to survive people must get their hands dirty. In Jones’s Wales, nature exploited for man is profit for some, subsistence, or worse, for most others.