Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
The first-ever comprehensive history of Beringia, the Arctic land and waters stretching from Russia to Canada, Floating Coast breaks away from familiar narratives to provide a fresh and fascinating perspective on an overlooked landscape.
The unforgiving territory along the Bering Strait had long been home to humans - the Inupiat and Yupik in Alaska, and the Yupik and Chukchi in Russia - before Americans and Europeans arrived with revolutionary ideas for progress. Rapidly, these frigid lands and waters became the site of an ongoing experiment: How, under conditions of extreme scarcity, would the great 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, as well as from archival sources, Demuth shows how the social, the political, and the environmental clashed in this liminal space. Through the lens of the natural world, she views human life and economics as fundamentally about cycles of energy, bringing a fresh and visionary spin to the writing of human history.
Floating Coast is a profoundly resonant tale of the dynamic changes and unforeseen consequences that immense human needs and ambitions have brought, and will continue to bring, to a finite planet.
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|Listening Length||12 hours and 30 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||March 31, 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #72,066 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#14 in Arctic & Antarctic History
#117 in Arctic & Antarctica History
#136 in Russian History (Audible Books & Originals)
Top reviews from the United States
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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.