Review of Four-Fifths a Grizzly by Douglas Chadwick

This book should be read by EVERYONE, but, somehow I believe it will only be read by the members of the choir. I dare you to prove me wrong, world!

Four-Fifths a Grizzly

Douglas Chadwick

June 15, 2021


Blurb: What do you think of when you think of Nature? Prolific author and National Geographic writer Doug Chadwick’s fresh look at human’s place in the natural world. In his accessible and engaging style, Chadwick approaches the subject from a scientific angle, with the underlying message that from the perspective of DNA humans are not all that different from any other creature. He begins by showing the surprisingly close relationship between human DNA and that of grizzly bears, with whom we share 80 percent of our DNA. We are 60 percent similar to a salmon, 40 percent the same as many insects, and 24 percent of our genes match those of a wine grape. He reflects on the value of exposure to nature on human biochemistry and mentality, that we are not that far removed from our ancestors who lived closer to nature. He highlights examples of animals using “human” traits, such as tools and play. He ends the book with two examples of the healing benefits of turning closer to nature: island biogeography and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. This book is a reflection on man’s rightful place in the ecological universe. Using personal stories, recounting how he came to love and depend on the Great Outdoors and how he learned his place in the system of Nature, Chadwick challenges anyone to consider whether they are separate from or part of nature. The answer is obvious, that we are an indivisible from all elements of a system that is greater than ourselves and should never be neglected, taken advantage of, or exploited. This is a fresh and engaging take on man’s relationship to nature by a respected and experienced author.

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One of the quotes that author Douglas Chadwick provides in a later section of his new book Four-Fifths a Grizzly is from another book, The Twelves Steps to Happiness by Joe Klass: “The truth shall set you free . . . but first it will piss you off.” And this fit me as I read through about 70% of Four-Fifths a Grizzly and decided that me and my temper needed a break. Chadwick and his facts didn’t upset me as much as realizing how completely oblivious human beings are and continue to be even after being faced with a virus that restructured our world and climate change and the decimation of ecosystems all around us. So, anyway, my best intentions of reviewing this book nearer to its publication date failed.

Douglas Chadwick, a wildlife biologist, author, and contributor to National Geographic, is a very personable writer with a dry wit that works well as he discusses the relationship of human beings to nature. He informs the reader that humans are nature and nature is us. We are inextricably linked to everything around us via shared DNA. The number of organisms inside and outside of us just might make your skin crawl. Heh.

The first part of the book brings to light our place on earth, how our being human and doing what humans do has affected the world, how accidental introductions of species can decimate an area–such as the rat stowing away on ships and thriving on islands on which it has no predator and then its annhilating vulnerable species. And, what can be done to try to reverse that destruction. (Yes, thankfully there are biologists out there trying to turn things around.)

Chadwick does present a lot of facts, most of which I found interesting and alarming (“of every ten wild animals that roamed Earth half a century ago, only three stand in their place today”) and sometimes disheartening–and some created a white noise in my head, but that was me and the feeling of being back in Sophomore biology class–but he has an irrepressible optimism that shines through and provides hope.

As a nature writer, Chadwick has had the opportunity to participate in many interesting studies ( like grizzlies and whales!) and provides some anecdotes and observations here to off-set specifics about mitochondria.

When I finished reading this book, I felt like I had just received a call-to-action–not that I hadn’t felt one before, but there’s something about being presented with so much evidence that makes you feel the urgency; as if droughts, melting glaciers, and wildfires hadn’t accomplished that.

“Knowing what we know now, it would be good for a species that names itself sapiens–Latin for “wise”–to start choosing smarter paths forward. If we can quit congratulating ourselves for being exceptional creatures long enough to embrace a more realistic vision of what human nature actually is, that would count as a very promising and much healthier change of trajectory.”

I could quite easily continue to discuss this book but instead I’ll just leave you with this: I highly recommend this one for nature lovers as well as anyone who cares about our place in the natural world and what we can do to conserve and protect our world.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.



5 out of 5 butterflies

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