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The Wayfinders Paperback – Oct 1 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: House of Anansi Press (Oct. 1 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887848427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887848421
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.5 x 20.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 118 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Quill & Quire

For many years and over many continents, anthropologist Wade Davis has chronicled the lives, languages, and customs of the globe’s last remaining aboriginal peoples. The outlook is bleak on all counts. Of the approximately 7,000 languages presently spoken, 3,500 face extinction in our lifetime. When the last speaker of a given language vanishes, so will the last vestiges of a culture. In The Wayfinders, this year’s instalment of CBC’s Massey Lectures, Davis describes several groups he has come to know, peoples who live so closely with the natural world that they can hardly discern a border between the human and the non-human, animate and inanimate. Their art and myths afford outsiders a glimpse of an alternative to the dominant social paradigm that began with Cartesian thought in Europe and eventually spread around the globe. Today, this way of seeing the world is so pervasive that most people probably aren’t aware alternatives exist at all. Such ignorance could prove damaging to the future of life on this planet. If biodiversity and the peoples best equipped to understand it disappear, alternative sustainable lifestyles may vanish along with them. The earth’s ongoing viability requires a spectrum of wildlife and a wide range of human perception. Or, as Davis puts it, “The ethnosphere is humanity’s greatest legacy.” The author of The Serpent and the Rainbow and The Clouded Leopard, Davis writes powerfully and emotionally. Our materialistic worldview unwisely marginalizes spiritual and intrinsic values, he says. “We take this as a given for it is the foundation of our system.… But if you think about it, especially from the perspective of so many other cultures … it appears to be very odd and highly anomalous human behaviour.” It’s this very behaviour that has created depleted fisheries, toxic pollution, and environmental refugees. Davis argues persuasively that our curent patterns of thought and behaviour could do with input from elsewhere. He urges us to assimilate some valuable lessons from the planet’s ancient cultures before it is too late.

Review

...[Davis] does a solid job of debunking the notion that Western rationalism, espoused from the Enlightenment through to the present, is the only-or even the best-model for humanity. (Walrus 2009-11-01)

...cogent, fierce and provocative... (Montreal Gazette 2009-10-09)

Davis writes powerfully and emotionally. (Quill & Quire 2009-09-01)

In The Wayfinders, Davis presents an eloquent and persuasive case for the contemporary value of these ancient cultures, not least because of what we might learn about how human societies can live sustainably on the planet. (Canadian Geographic 2009-10-01)

This year's Massey Lecturer presents his refreshing view, of examining ancient wisdom and indigenous cultures to help us find our own path, and it demands to be read. (National Post 2010-01-10)

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The insights of anthropology and human ecology should not be restricted to the learned few. In this work of inspiration, accomplished scholar Wade Davis reminds us not only of the inherently fascinating diversity of humankind but also of the trauma and injustice - and, ultimately, global nihilism - that results in attempting to force a single cultural paradigm upon the peoples of the world in their many environments and historical experiences. The many solutions offered by indigenous cultures to the question "What does it mean to be alive" should tell us that we too can chart a new course for ourselves as we wrestle with the ironic consequences of the scientific and industrial revolutions that now imperil the planet.
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This was an incredibly thought provoking and fascinating read. I’m particularly interested in worldviews and how they can change over time and this book describes in wonderful detail how indigenous cultures express the "human spirit," as Davis says. What is perhaps most incredible about these cultures is that despite unbelievable odds -- including the theft of lands, language, culture, and even children -- many have managed to persist even today. Wade Davis' book is important for so many reasons but for me it is particularly salient given our current trajectory toward annihilation -- fuelled by our addiction to endless growth on a finite planet. A change in worldview (here in the west) that incorporates ancient (and current) indigenous knowledge and honours our relationship with the living world will be essential in order to reverse the damage we've already done. This book is essential reading if you're interested in a livable future.
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Format: Paperback
We "moderns" with all our technological advances are really arrogant no-it-alls. There are other peoples who have learned to live as families without detroying the earth where they live. They show reverence and hence respect for the land which shelters, clothes and feeds them. They have entered into conversation with all that surrounds them. The folk from modern Hawaii who fashioned an ocean going outrigger and replicated the voyages of their ancient ancestors are very brave indeed. I should like to begin in my old age to try to cultivate the virtues of patience, tolerance, respect and sharing that the peoples of whom Wade speaks have learned over the millenia. And I am going to do what I can do to speak for those people whose cultures are being rapaciously destroyed
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Format: Paperback
I found this to be a deeply engrossing and richly informative book. Everyone should read this one. His words were beautiful descriptive, I felt as if I was on the journey with him.
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Format: Paperback
Set in lecture format,makes for good informative reading especially for return Wade Davis readers.A more "real time" book from a favorite writer,less doom and gloom than typical of the genre.'The Wayfinders' reminds us all where we come from,and that we should never forget we are all brothers on this Island Earth.Any one who understands the perils of modern living,particularly Canadians should read this book.
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Format: Paperback
This book was a pleasant surprise. I hadn't heard of Wade Davis before I read it, and I've definitely become a fan ever since. The book is HOPEFUL beyond all else. It is clear that Davis has an incredible expanse of experiences and insights about the world around us, cultures and civilizations, and the individuals that make them up. The descriptions of the remote tribes that Davis has had the privilege of living with are magical. Ties in extremely well with issues of globalization, modernization, the increasingly homogeneous and "western" way of living for much of the people of the world, as well as the current environmental crisis of our generation. This book is really for anyone and everything that is interested in the world around them. Easy to read for the most part, I think I slowed down a few times when it got a bit more technical, or "more of the same" but all in all... really good read.
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Format: Paperback
Although Davis highlights the destruction of traditional cultures, there is also a great focus on indigenous values still alive today. With so much focus on biodiversity loss in nature we forget as a part of nature that our own selves are being lost in the colonized industrial age. Our relationship to the land has suffered - Davis points us in a direction that shows the past is the future, that intuition and connectedness can play a role in reviving the human spirit.
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Wade is capable of rational thought and even incisive, biting, categorical academic criticism (as evidenced by his recent and probably partially justified trashing of Jared Diamond's latest book), but you would not know that from reading this book. It contains some mildly interesting first-hand observations and textbook-type overviews, but every time he comes close to actually make a substantial argument or observation the narrative devolves into grandiose, empty rhetoric and mystification. The fact that these "two Wades" (the rational academic and the rhapsodizing mystifier) exist side-by-side smacks of disingenuousness, if not intellectual dishonesty. If you are planning to retreat from society to your own Walden Pond, this book may be for you; if you have a job and interact with people at some point, it will likely lack relevance.
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