Out of Eden
An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion
By Alan Burdick
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374219734, 336pp.)
Publication Date: May 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A stunning work of narrative nonfiction that asks: what is natural?
Now as never before, exotic animals and plants are crossing the globe, borne on the swelling tide of human traffic to places where nature never intended them to be. Bird-eating snakes from Australia hitchhike to Hawaii in the landing gear of airliners; disruptive European zebra mussels, riding in ships' ballast water, are infiltrating aquatic ecosystems across the United States; parasitic flies from the U.S. prey on Darwin's finches in the Galapagos. Predatory American jellyfish in Russia; toxic Japanese plankton in Australia; Burmese pythons in the Everglades-biologists refer fearfully to "the homogenization of the world" as alien species jump from place to place and increasingly crowd native and endangered species out of existence. Never mind bulldozers and pesticides: the fastest-growing threat to biological diversity may be nature itself.
Out of Eden is a journey through this strange and shifting landscape. The author tours the front lines of ecological invasion--in Hawaii, Tasmania, Guam, San Francisco; in lush rainforests, through underground lava tubes, on the deck of an Alaska-bound oil tanker--in the company of world-class scientists. Wry and reflective, animated and richly reported, Out of Eden is a search both for scientific answers and for ecological authenticity.
Alan Burdick is a senior editor for Discover. His writing has appeared in that magazine as well as The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, GQ, Natural History, Grand Street and elsewhere. He lives with his wife in New York City.
"A terrific piece of ecological reporting. . .I love its dispassionate tone and broad, ultimately sanguine perspective."—Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post Book World
"His tour through the burgeoning discipline of invasion ecology is nuanced, judicious and often delightful."—Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com
"Highly readable and thought-provoking."—Allan Watt, New Scientist
"Burdick’s account of the researchers who struggle with this largely thankless work is graceful and inviting."—Richard Conniff, The New York Times Book Review
"One of the most comprehensive and readable accounts of [this] phenomenon . . . For people trying to figure out how our species fits, or doesn't, into the natural order, there is no more interesting subject than the blending of the native and the exotic. And no more interesting an introduction than this fine book."—Bill McKibben, The Boston Globe
"Surprising, delightful, and sobering—it will take your breath away."—Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink
"Combining personal meditation, travel narrative, and excellent reportage, Out of Eden creates a rich and panoramic view of life on our planet."—Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams
"An expertly reported and deftly detailed field trip . . . Reads like a mystery you can't put down."—Robert Sullivan, author of Rats
"Burdick is my new favorite writer. I love the quiet poetry of his prose; his pitch-perfect wit; and his calm, potent mastery of the facts. I actually stop and think, 'Wow!' as I'm reading."—Mary Roach, author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers