Imagine a world where humanity isn’t destined to cause harm to the natural world, where win-win scenarios—people and nature thriving together—are possible. In reality, of course, we’re facing numerous environmental challenges, from climate change to an ocean full of plastic and global declines in biodiversity—all of which have led many people to assume that humanity is fundamentally flawed, that these problems are inevitable, and the story of our species is destined to be nasty, brutish and short. But what if this narrative could be dismantled?
In Finding Our Niche: Toward a Restorative Human Ecology, Philip A. Loring explores the tragedies and myths of Western society and offers fascinating and hopeful examples that can guide us toward reconciling our damaging settler-colonial histories and tremendous environmental missteps so that we might realign our lives with the rest of the natural world.
“The volume of problems that we hear about on the news every day make it easy to feel fatalistic about our future. I believe that people are hungry for good news and optimism to fuel their own actions and ambitions,” Loring says. “With this book, my focus is on stories of healing, growth and transformation—stories that make real and durable change seem both tangible and achievable.”
Drawing upon numerous examples from around the world, from cattle ranchers on the Burren in Ireland, to clam gardeners in British Columbia and protectors of an accidental wetland in northwest Mexico, Loring offers a set of ecological metaphors, including keystone, engineer and sentinel, which collectively contribute to a more optimistic vision for our future, one where people and nature thrive together. Interwoven are stories of Loring’s personal struggles to reconcile his identity as a white settler living and working on stolen Indigenous lands.
In a moment when our world is hanging in the balance, Finding Our Niche is a hopeful exploration of humanity’s place in the natural world, one that focuses on how we can heal and reconcile our unique human ecologies to achieve more sustainable and just societies.
Dr. Philip Loring is a widely respected anthropologist, ecologist and writer. His work focuses on the intersection of sustainability, food systems and social justice, and he is particularly interested in solutions where people and ecosystems thrive together. He studied at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and his research has taken him to such diverse places as the temperate rainforests of British Columbia, the prairies of Saskatchewan, the highlands of Guatemala and the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. An avid science communicator, Loring emphasizes writing, film and other forms of storytelling to reach diverse audiences. He has published over 50 academic papers, multiple book chapters and reports, and numerous essays for popular online magazines including Ensia.com. He has also produced several short films and given presentations in numerous international venues, including for the OECD, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and TEDx. He is also a regular contributor to CBC Radio Syndication. Finding Our Niche is his first book.