In the name of nature: one family, five years, ten countries and a new vision of nature

“Wild” and “wild” have been used, and overused, to describe everything from adventure parks to cosmetics companies, and because of that, it’s become a challenge to define the words. The wilderness depicted in aerial shots of the Rocky Mountains or in tourism advertisements for Pacific Rim National Park is what most people think of when asked, “What does ‘wild’ mean to you?” The answer to this question and an exploration of how humans interact with the “wilderness” is at the heart of Phillip and April Vannini’s third book, In the name of nature: one family, five years, ten countries and a new vision of nature.

The book mixes ethnography with journal entries from Phillip and the couple’s daughter, Autumn, photographs and vivid descriptions of everything from food and accommodation in the Dolomites to a harrowing river crossing. on the “Demon Trail” in southern New Zealand. Island. Accessible prose immerses us in the landscapes and geography most people only see through nature documentaries or Instagram, while simultaneously prompting the reader to ask the necessary questions about the land we stand on and what draws us there.

The book’s chapters cover 10 countries and 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ranging from the Galapagos Islands to Thingvellir National Park in Iceland and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. With the help of local rangers and guides, the Vanninis explore Belize’s Great Blue Hole and battle wild elephants near Thailand’s Kaeng Krachan National Park, but their travels aren’t limited to sightseeing and hiking sessions. Pictures. Guardians are tasked with arranging interviews with researchers, artists, conservationists, farmers, fishermen, mountaineers, and more, all in the hope that the authors capture the elusive meaning of wild and wild nature.

However, the compelling question that propels the book is often lost in the vast enterprise. The interviews and insights provided by the people Phillip, April and Autumn meet on their travels force the reader to confront their own assumptions about nature and the wilderness, but too often the Vanninis’ endeavors distract from the goal. of the project. At other times, it’s clear that the narrative is created by ethnographers, and the amount of research blurs the intent of each chapter and the focus of the book.

Through In the name of nature Phillip and April Vannini allude to what their research implies: wilderness without humans is a fabrication, and much of what we think of as “wilderness” exists through the conservation and management of lands. Their local sources are quick to remind them how wilderness has been commodified and exists as an escape for city dwellers. At various points, the narrative invites the authors to step away from their role as researchers and insert their opinions and thoughts on their own preconceived notions of what “wild” means. (Their previous books, Wild region and Inhabited: Wildness and Vitality of the Terroir, and a documentary based on Reside, also examined the nature and meaning of wild places.)

The understanding the Vanninis come to is that wilderness is about relationship and connection, but at the end of the book, questions that still need to be answered include: how their relationship with wilderness and wilderness has- did it change during their travels? And how has this endeavor changed their previous understanding of the connection humans have with nature? Autumn and Phillip’s diary entries add moments of reflection and insight that bring needed dimensions to descriptions of their destinations and interviews. The strength of the research offered in In the name of nature would have been augmented and enriched by the authors becoming more engaged in their discoveries not only as anthropologists, but as settlers, parents and travelers.

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