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Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait Kindle Edition
Winner of the 2021 AHA John H. Dunning Prize
Longlisted for the 2020 Cundill History Prize
Named a Best Book of the Year by Nature, NPR, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews
"A monument to a people and their land… an allegory of the world we have created." —Sven Beckert, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist Empire of Cotton: A Global History
Floating Coast is the first-ever comprehensive history of Beringia, the Arctic land and waters stretching from Russia to Canada. The unforgiving territories along the Bering Strait had long been home to humans—the Inupiat and Yupik in Alaska, and the Yupik and Chukchi in Russia—before American and European colonization. Rapidly, these frigid lands and waters became the site of an ongoing experiment: How, under conditions of extreme scarcity, would modern ideologies of capitalism and communism control and manage the resources they craved?
Drawing on her own experience living with and interviewing indigenous people in the region, Bathsheba Demuth presents a profound tale of the dynamic changes and unforeseen consequences that human ambition has brought (and will continue to bring) to a finite planet.
About the Author
― Sverker Sörlin, Nature
"This book has unsettled me like no other I’ve recently read…[Floating Coast] is brilliant."
― Lucy Kogler, Literary Hub
"A brilliant hybrid…Often reminiscent to me of Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams in its combination of rigorous research, intense looking and listening, and its clear ethical vision."
― Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland
"Floating Coast is a historian’s Moby Dick, a great white whale of a book that spans centuries and links landscapes, living beings, and the flux of time, into a marvelously readable narrative."
― Amitav Ghosh, author of The Great Derangement
"A poetic meditation on the devastations of modernity in the sea, on terra firma, and, eventually, belowground. Whale hunters and reindeer herders, greedy capitalists and utopian planners, hopeful prospectors and raw-material-hungry government bureaucrats appear on the stage in this analytically powerful book, a monument to a people and their land just as much as an allegory of the world we have created."
― Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History
"Brilliant, compelling, and beautifully executed…Bathsheba Demuth writes with the poetry and wisdom of the land and the sea, drawing the human-wrought past of a faraway place close to the lives and future of us all."
― Jack E. Davis, author of The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea
"Bathsheba Demuth’s history flows as richly and fluidly as Arctic waters. As she tracks the dynamics of the modernist ecological makeover of the Bering Strait, Demuth is inventing a new form of historical narrative."
― Kate Brown, author of Manual for Survival
"In a time when human desire bends so very much of what it encounters to its own image, Bathsheba Demuth's debut encourages us to think about the very physical limits of such a proposition. Easily one of the most innovative and poetic natural histories I have read in years."
― Elizabeth Rush, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
"With her pleasing prose, relentless research, and profound sense of place, Bathsheba Demuth does elegant justice to the social and environmental revolutions that define the modern history of Beringia, and to the stories of indigenous communities and diverse newcomers, of gold rush and gulag, of whales and caribou."
― John McNeill, author of Something New Under the Sun
"A cautionary, instructive tale highly recommended for readers with an interest in environmental conservation."
― Library Journal (starred review)
"A superb book, essential reading for students of the once-and-future Arctic."
― Kirkus Reviews (starred review) --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- ASIN : B07JRCMK7C
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (August 20, 2019)
- Publication date : August 20, 2019
- Language : English
- File size : 11718 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 427 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #285,387 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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This vividness is not merely good writing, though it certainly is that. It is also part of Professor Demuth's mission with the book: that we should not just know, intellectually, of the effect that humans and their trade and economic systems have had on the natural world. Rather, we should feel it. I grew up in New England, and thought I knew the 19th century history of whaling ships' enthusiasm for hunting down whales even as their numbers dwindled. Yet it was only in reading the first section of The Floating Coast that I began to understand emotionally what it means to kill a whale, strip its blubber, and toss the meat and bones back into the sea, and what it means for a species to be decimated in the name of human desire and profit. Professor Demuth's vivid descriptions of humans killing and cultivating whales, walruses, arctic foxes, caribou, and destroying landscapes in their frantic search for gold, forced me to reckon with the history of a system that has both created my world and which threatens to destroy it.
Yet the book is not as bleak as I've made it sound--in lovingly describing a world she knows so well, Professor Demuth leaves readers with an enduring sense of awe for arctic land, climate, and the species and people that survive and thrive there. As human action continues to invite a climate catastrophe, the arctic is burning, melting, and changing. The Floating Coast reminds us, though, that it is not the arctic that is frail. Rather it is humans that are frail, and it is we who will be the victims of our own failure to care for our world. It will be a long time before I forget this lesson.
Read it, be unsettled by it. We all should be. If I had my way, The Floating Coast would be required reading for all citizens of 2019.
Bathsheba Demuth lays out how, within the life cycle of one bowhead whale, our different economic systems have tried here to straighten nature's cyclical time into the continuous upward trajectory of progress, whether measured by the profit margin or the five-year plan. In exploiting Beringia's resources in the oceans, on the land, and underground, our attempts to commodify nature by flattening its cycles of life and death have merely amplified them into successive larger cycles of boom and bust.
In extracting more energy from this region's living environment than it can replace, and releasing more energy from fossil fuels than it can absorb, we have succeeded only in speeding up climate time.
I'll be thinking about this book for a long time. As goes Beringia, so goes the planet.
I have been fortunate enough to witness the far-reaching cultural, social, generational, communal and nutritional impacts the landing of a bowhead brings to a village, and to everyone with whom that whale is shared. I only had to read this early paragraph to relax and recognize that this author clearly experienced this region with the ability to see through different cultural perspectives:
"What is a whale? It made the darkness of the polar nights visible, the cold bearable, and stomachs satiable. It was a soul in life, a gift ensuring human survival in its death, a means to power, a site of communal labor, a set of expectations and ceremonies, a theory of history."
What the author also brings is an amazing amounted of documented research of historical records and environmental research that have greatly deepened my understanding of the place I call home. Other reviewers have written more eloquently about how engagingly this book is written, its broader themes, and why it should matter to everyone. What I can add to their accurate reviews is that it is informed, humanely observed, and deeply authentic.