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By J.B. MacKinnon

“Henry David Thoreau warned us, in 1862, that not in wilderness but in wildness is the preservation of the world. There’s a difference. In The Once and Future World, J. B. MacKinnon brings this distinction up to date. Wilderness may be gone forever, but wildness can be recovered, and it is time to get to work.”
-George Dyson

“This book should make your blood run cold; or boil with furious rage against the despoilers of our planet. But perhaps all is not yet lost. MacKinnon tells us that the crisis in the natural world is not yet fatal…but it’s waiting. And then he tells us most convincingly what we can and must do to stop the rot. This is a handbook for those who hope to see the Earth, and Man, remain alive together.”
-Farley Mowat


MacKinnon_The Once and Future World

The Once and Future World began in the moment J.B. MacKinnon realized the grassland he grew up on was not the pristine wilderness he had always believed it to be. Instead, his home prairie was the outcome of a long history of transformation, from the disappearance of the grizzly bear to the introduction of cattle. What remains today is an illusion of the wild—an illusion that has in many ways created our world.

In 3 beautifully drawn parts, MacKinnon revisits a globe exuberant with life, where lions roam North America and 20 times more whales swim in the sea. He traces how humans destroyed that reality, out of rapaciousness, yes, but also through a great forgetting. Finally, he calls for an “age of restoration,” not only to revisit that richer and more awe-filled world, but to reconnect with our truest human nature. MacKinnon never fails to remind us that nature is a menagerie of marvels. Here are fish that pass down the wisdom of elders, landscapes still shaped by “ecological ghosts,” a tortoise that is slowly remaking prehistory. “It remains a beautiful world,” MacKinnon writes, “and it is its beauty, not its emptiness, that should inspire us to seek more nature in our lives.”

“A re-enchantment with the natural world may be a necessary prerequisite to the changes we must make to keep that natural world more or less intact. This is deep and lovely thinking and writing.”
-Bill McKibben

The 100 mile Diet forever changed the way I see a plate of food and it is still with me today. The Once and Future World changed the way I see EVERYTHING. One can only hope it spawns a movement like ‘The 100 mile Diet’ did – a moment of re-imagining, re-wilding and coming home.”
-Leanne Allison, filmmaker, Being Caribou

“J.B. MacKinnon is one of the finest essayists of the natural world writing today.”
-Andrew D. Blechman managing editor of Orion and author of Leisureville and Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird

“MacKinnon succeeds admirably, with a graceful volume reminiscent of Annie Dillard’s classic ‘Teaching a Stone to Talk.’ It’s a beautifully written meditation on natural history and memory, full of new revelations about familiar landscapes and species.”
New York Times

“It is one of those rare reading experiences that can change the way you see everything around you, recommended for anyone interested in anything that lives and breathes… In essence, the book is a love story, maybe the oldest one: between humankind, conscious and curious. And the stuff that grows around us, invoking and sustaining our desires, informing our ideas of who we are.”
The Globe and Mail

“[R]emarkable, beautifully written and important…”
National Post

“A lean, elegant and powerful essay on what we have done to the world –and what we might do to set things right. J.B. MacKinnon has made me think in new ways about our self-destructive trashing of the ‘luckless garden’ into which we were so lucky to be born.”
-Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress

“MacKinnon is an eloquent guide through landscapes wild and tame. He takes the reader backwards through evolutionary time and forward into a delicate and unknown future. I devoured this book in a day and closed its covers marveling at our planet’s incredible abundance. Natural history at its best.”
-Charlotte Gill, author of Eating Dirt

“A gripping and convincing look at the nature that humans lost and the perspective that we gained. MacKinnon leaves us wanting to be wilder.”
-Jennifer Jacquet, author of Guilty Planet/Scientific American blog

“MacKinnon enunciates a now-dawning vision, one whose time has come. It’s spot-on eloquent, and I read every word of it.”
“MacKinnon pinpoints a necessary shift in our reckoning with nature, writing eloquently of the need for a more authentic interaction between human beings and the natural world.”
-Bernd Heinrich, author of Winter World, Mind of the Raven, and Life Everlasting

“Like Peter Matthiessen, Barry Lopez and Tim Flannery, J.B. MacKinnon is an exceptional writer with an intense passion for the natural world. In The Once and Future World, MacKinnon combines eloquent storytelling with painstaking research to provide a persuasive argument for the need to not only protect the wildness we have today, but to restore at least some of the abundance we have lost. It may be too late to bring back the Tasmanian tiger, but, as MacKinnon writes, there’s still time to create a planet that is far richer in natural wonders.”
-James Little, past editor, Explore magazine


Random House Canada, September 2013

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US, September 2013

New World Press Limited, China

Hangilsa Publishing Co., Ltd., Korea


Shortlisted for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize

Finalist for the 2013 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction

A Globe & Mail Best Book of 2013

Shortlisted for the BC Book Award