For Barry Lopez, winner of the John Burroughs Medal for Of Wolves and Men (1978) and a National Book Award for Arctic Dreams (1986), Western man's estrangement from nature can be seen both in the history of ideas of Europe and in the history of Europe's actual encounter with the flora and fauna of North America. With the advent of the Enlightenment, epitomized by the writings of René Descartes, the Western mind came to see nature as essentially mechanical, devoid of spirit, separate from itself. Even earlier, in the European late Renaissance encounter with the New World, the impulse to dominate destroyed much of what it encountered, exemplified by the Spanish commander Hernando Cortés, who, in subduing Mexico City, ordered his men to set fire to the many apiaries that filled the city with beauty and spirit. Throughout the great variety of his writings—short stories, essays, novellas, natural histories—Lopez seeks to recover for himself and his readers the intimacy with nature held by those who once lived close to it and by those who still do, a sense of its mystery and beauty, vitality and spirit. In doing so, Lopez delves deeply into both the world of books and storytelling and the world of lived experience with nature, his own and that of explorers, biologists, anthropologists, and, above all, non-Western indigenous peoples.Less
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