The Reindeer Chronicles
And Other Inspiring Stories of Working with Nature to Heal the Earth
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2021 WAINWRIGHT PRIZE
‘Compelling, fascinating, sometimes unexpectedly moving, this vitally important book is, above all, a springboard for hope and transformation.’ –Isabella Tree, author of Wilding
‘Do your imagination, your activism, your sense of what’s possible a favour, and swim in this book.’ –Rob Hopkins, author of From What Is to What If
In a time of uncertainty about our environmental future—an eye-opening global tour of some of the most wounded places on earth, and stories of how a passionate group of eco-restorers is leading the way to their revitalisation.
Award-winning science journalist Judith D. Schwartz takes us first to China’s Loess Plateau, where a landmark project has successfully restored a blighted region the size of Belgium, lifting millions of people out of poverty. She journeys on to Norway, where a young indigenous reindeer herder challenges the most powerful orthodoxies of conservation—and his own government. And in the Middle East, she follows the visionary work of an ambitious young American as he attempts to re-engineer the desert ecosystem, using plants as his most sophisticated technology.
Schwartz explores regenerative solutions across a range of landscapes: deserts, grasslands, tropics, tundra, Mediterranean. She also highlights various human landscapes, the legacy of colonialism and industrial agriculture, and the endurance of indigenous knowledge.
The Reindeer Chronicles demonstrates how solutions to seemingly intractable problems can come from the unlikeliest of places, and how the restoration of local water, carbon, nutrient, and energy cycles can play a dramatic role in stabilizing the global climate. Ultimately, it reveals how much is in our hands if we can find a way to work together and follow nature’s lead.
Reviews and Praise
“This book provides hope that devastated ecosystems can be revived, and that it requires doing more than just letting nature take its course. . . . Very much worth reading for anyone who cares about the state of the planet."
“In this worthwhile look at conservation, journalist Schwartz sheds light on a global and ‘growing cohort of scientists, mavericks, and young people’ engaged in the ‘participatory sport’ of land restoration.”
"A lucid and compelling look at the global movement of ecological rehabilitation."—The Boston Globe
“Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Judith Schwartz’s world tour of environmental solutions shows how nature itself can heal the wounds we have inflicted on our planet. Compelling, fascinating, sometimes unexpectedly moving, this vitally important book is, above all, a springboard for hope and transformation.”—Isabella Tree, author of Wilding
“In The Reindeer Chronicles, Judith Schwartz proves, once again, that she is one of ecology’s most indispensable writers. Like her last two books, Cows Save the Planet and Water in Plain Sight, her new work is an insightful, globe-trotting exploration of promising techniques for restoring our soil, water, agricultural systems, and wildlife. The Reindeer Chronicles is at once visionary and pragmatic—clear-eyed about the immense planetary challenges we face, yet unfailingly hopeful about our ability to forge a new relationship with nature. This book shows us what Aldo Leopold’s land ethic looks like in the twenty-first century.”—Ben Goldfarb, PEN America Literary Award-winning author of Eager
“This book shows us again and again, across the globe, the abundant future that is possible if we work with nature. Stunning stories of re-greening landscapes, restoring carbon and water cycles, and repairing weather. It is a balm and a guide, a wellspring of grounded hope.”—Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, PhD, founder of Urban Ocean Lab and of Ocean Collectiv
“Judith Schwartz unlocks yet one more door in our minds about what’s possible when we work with nature’s cycles rather than try to push her around. Through this book and her prior ones, you can practically see, taste, and smell a healing earth that includes humans as stewards, not ravaging locusts. If you want practical hope, this is it. If you want a place to dig in and make change, regeneration is the key. These are stories of people who work both intimately and at scale—and with love—to restore life to the land we all walk on, our beautiful home, the earth.”—Vicki Robin, coauthor of Your Money or Your Life and author of Blessing the Hands that Feed Us
“A tale of people restoring nature and their communities. These deeply optimistic dispatches from around the world show us that the key to restoring land is how we see it—the change begins in us.”—David R. Montgomery, author of Growing A Revolution
“As the regenerative agriculture movement grows worldwide, Judith Schwartz has emerged as a leading tracker and interpreter of its progress, challenges, and wins. The value of Schwartz’s multifaceted work and engaging first-person style is that a broader and deeper canvas emerges.
“Schwartz’s descriptions and analyses are not rosy-eyed, but instead comprise a balanced, warts-and-all approach mixed with extraordinary tales of transformation of vast and small ecosystems, landscapes and farms, societies and communities; of food systems; and of human physical and mental health. As she says, ‘earth repair is a participatory sport,’ and ‘restoration can begin anywhere.’
“This is an excellent read for expert and newcomer alike, and an important contribution to a growing canon now offering some of the very best solutions to the onrushing Anthropocene crisis.”—Charles Massy, author of Call of the Reed Warbler
“These are times that call for us to reimagine everything. That imaginative capacity depends on the stories, the possibilities, the experiences we have in our memory and our ability to reassemble them in new and unique ways. If you want to be part of that reimagining, you need the beautiful, patient, humbling stories in these pages. Their implications are staggering, and also suggest that sometimes we save the world by doing less rather than more. Do your imagination, your activism, your sense of what’s possible a favor, and swim in this book.”—Rob Hopkins, author of From What Is to What If