Hori­zon

By Barry Lopez Knopf, 572 pages, $30

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Spotlight -

English to its peo­ple.

They are mod­els and touch­stones for him not only be­cause they spent their lives ven­tur­ing to ut­terly un­fa­mil­iar places, armed with cu­rios­ity and courage, but be­cause those lives re­flect the im­mense dif­fi­cul­ties of com­mu­ni­cat­ing across cul­tures – a com­mu­ni­ca­tion he be­lieves is an ur­gent ne­ces­sity to­day.

“Hori­zon” is an epic jour­ney for read­ers, 512 pages of text dense with nat­u­ral and human his­tory, ad­ven­ture tales and minia­ture bi­ogra­phies, sci­ence of all kinds – bi­ol­ogy, ge­ol­ogy, an­thro­pol­ogy and more – as well as per­sonal mem­oir. It’s a book to read slowly and con­tem­pla­tively de­spite the ur­gency of its mis­sion.

Lopez begins “Hori­zon” with a sweet va­ca­tion so­journ, watch­ing his young grand­son play in the waves at a Hawai­ian re­sort. When they visit Pearl Har­bor, Lopez tries to ex­plain war to the child and finds his tongue stopped. The boy “has not yet heard, I think, of Dres­den or the Western Front, per­haps not even of An­ti­etam or Hiroshima. I won’t tell him to­day about those other hell­fire days. He’s too young. It would be in­con­sid­er­ate – cruel, ac­tu­ally – point­edly to fill him in.”

Such knowl­edge is what we try to pro­tect our­selves from as well. Even when we talk about cli­mate change and en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion, we sel­dom voice their most per­sonal ef­fects. If the planet be­comes un­sur­viv­able, it is not only polar bears and rain forests that will per­ish. It’s our grand­chil­dren.

“Hori­zon” trem­bles with that mes­sage, and with its au­thor’s bound­less love for the world he trav­els. “It is here,” he writes, “with these at­tempts to sep­a­rate the fate of the human world from that of the non­hu­man world that we come faceto-face with a bi­o­log­i­cal re­al­ity that halts us in our tracks: na­ture will be fine with­out us. …

“What cat­a­clysm, I of­ten won­der, or bet­ter, what act of imag­i­na­tion will it finally re­quire, for us to be able to speak mean­ing­fully with one an­other about our cul­tural fate and about our shared bi­o­log­i­cal fate?”

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