Loose on the Landscape

An Ecologist Looks for Meaning in the Wildest Places

Non-Fiction - Memoir
439 Pages
Reviewed on 10/06/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Demetria Head for Readers' Favorite

Loose on the Landscape by Joel Everett Harding is a breathtaking journey into the heart of nature, a mesmerizing blend of personal experiences and ecological insights. This creatively written memoir weaves a tapestry of adventure, reflection, and a profound appreciation for the natural world. Readers are treated to a series of captivating escapades, from navigating vast marshes at midnight to encountering the mysteries of geyser fields in the dark. The narrative takes daring twists, like being swept away in a flooded river without an exit, or venturing into a prehistoric swamp inhabited by remnants of the Cretaceous era.

Joel Everett Harding's storytelling is a testament to the diverse facets of his life, capturing moments that are both perilous and whimsical, often leaving readers with insightful takeaways. Each chapter serves as a gateway to broader perspectives on existence, connecting readers with the natural world, human emotions, history, art, and our innate affinity for the environment. Moreover, his guidance on becoming "eco-collectors" of landscapes and natural settings enriches the reading experience by encouraging us to create lasting, meaningful memories. Loose on the Landscape is an exquisite exploration of the interplay between humans and nature. It inspires readers to forge a deeper connection with the world around them and to appreciate the beauty and wonder that can be found in unexpected places. Harding's literary prowess shines in this evocative narrative, making it a must-read for anyone who is a fan of this genre and seeking to embark on an extraordinary journey through the pages of a book.

K.C. Finn

Loose on the Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning in the Wildest Places is a work of non-fiction in the memoir, nature, and introspective writing subgenres and is suitable for the general adult reading audience. Penned by author Joel Everett Harding in a creative nonfiction style, this book draws readers into the world of an ecologist and naturalist, offering a unique perspective on the wild places of our planet. Each chapter is an exploration of not just the natural world but also the human experience, making us question our place in the grand scheme of things. The book combines danger, humor, and insight, providing larger perspectives on life and living whilst also exploring what we as people can gain from nature without taking from or exploiting it in return.

Author Joel Everett Harding's storytelling is both engaging and reflective, taking readers on adventures that span from the depths of vast marshes to the roiling geyser fields in the dark. One feature that especially gripped me was the author's ability to connect the dots between the natural world, human emotions, history, art, and our innate attraction to nature. Yet the narrative feels friendly, accessible, and personable, like that of a knowledgeable friend telling you about all the places they visit, fostering long-term, meaningful connections with the natural world. Overall, Loose on the Landscape serves as a reminder of the wonders of nature and our place within it, making it a highly enriching and thought-provoking read for anyone with a love for the wild, and I would not hesitate to recommend it.

Jamie Michele

Loose on the Landscape by Joel Everett Harding is a comprehensive exploration of the author's lifelong connection to nature and his diverse experiences in various ecosystems. Harding's narrative is structured as a series of interconnected stories where he reflects on his outdoor adventures, ecological observations, and conservation efforts. He emphasizes the therapeutic and transformative impact of nature on physical and mental well-being and advocates for a rational and compassionate approach to understanding ecosystems. Throughout the book, Harding delves into topics such as wetland delineations, water quality monitoring, wildlife conservation, dam construction's ecological consequences, and his family's experiences in the wilderness. He also discusses global work in countries like Colombia, and his advocacy for land preservation and environmental concerns in the Piedmont region, highlighting the inevitability of change in landscapes and the need for responsible land stewardship.

In Loose on the Landscape: An Ecologist Looks for Meaning in the Wildest Places, Joel Everett Harding takes us along as he recounts slices of his life and a deep dive into his work, as well as a little bit of play. In getting to know Harding through this book, it does not take long to realize that for him, work and play are one and the same. He writes in an accessible academic style that has an assertive, confident voice, and the injection of his personality and passion is on every page. For me, I most liked it when he connected natural environments to human history and culture. For example, he speaks of the impact of human activities such as turpentining, lumbering, and dam construction on the Okefenokee swamp. Most of the time, I truly felt like I was wherever he was. He is able to paint a clear picture, describing a landscape as a "moonscape with geysers and spewing grottoes" and providing sensory experiences that are immersive. Overall, this is an engrossing and wonderful look at the life and work of an enthusiastic ecologist, and it was a pleasure to be taken out into the field. Very highly recommended.