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Called by the Wild: The Autobiography of a Conservationist

Raymond F. Dasmann
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 269
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    Called by the Wild
    Book Description:

    A pioneer in international conservation and wildlife ecology, Raymond Dasmann published his first book, the influential textEnvironmental Conservation,when the term "environment" was little known and "conservation" to most people simply meant keeping or storing. This delightful memoir tells the story of an unpretentious man who helped create and shape today's environmental movement. Ranging from Dasmann's travels to ecological hotspots around the world to his development of concepts such as bioregionalism and ecotourism, this autobiography is a story of international conservation action and intrigue, a moving love story, and a gripping chronicle of an exceptional life. Dasmann takes us from his boyhood days in San Francisco in the early 1920s to his action-packed military service in Australia during World War II, where he met his future wife, Elizabeth. After returning to the United States, Dasmann received his doctorate as a conservation biologist when the field was just being developed. Dasmann left the safety of academia to work with conservation organizations around the world, including the United Nations, and has done fieldwork in Africa, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, and California. This book is both a memoir and an account of how Dasmann's thinking developed around issues that are vitally important today. In engaging conversational language, he shares his thoughts on issues he has grappled with throughout his life, such as population growth and the question of how sustainability can be measured, understood, and regained.Called by the Wildtells the story of an inspirational risk taker who reminds us that "the earth is the only known nature reserve in the entire universe" and that we must learn to treat it as such.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92740-7
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Paul R. Ehrlich

    This graceful memoir brought me almost more nostalgia than an aging environmentalist can deal with. The biggest event in my life, even though I was thirteen years old when it ended, was the Second World War. I wanted badly to serve—the foolishness of a young boy. Subsequently, I often wondered what it would have been like to have actually seen combat, and I have read many wartime accounts. But none of them have impressed me as much as Ray Dasmann’s story, perhaps because he’s always been one of my heroes and shaped many of my attitudes. He was under...

    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    Any fool can see that the sun rises and sets. But it doesn’t. We rotate around it. Getting that fact straight took a lot of observations and arguments. Yet we will no doubt go on forever talking about sunrises and sunsets since that is the way we see things. This book is about the way I see things, which is not necessarily what another person at the same time and place would have seen. You really can’t separate the observer from the observed. To understand my ideas you should know something about my background, and then you may draw other...

  6. 1 Beginnings: The Lure of Wild Country
    (pp. 4-14)

    I envy those who seem able to recall their childhood clearly. According to all accounts I was born in Mary’s Help Hospital in San Francisco in 1919, at a time of great family sadness. My father had died of causes related to that year’s great flu epidemic, which wiped out some twenty million others worldwide. Pictures of me as a small baby with my mother indicate that she was still doing a lot of crying. I remember nothing.

    My early years were spent in a flat on 18th Street near Sanchez in San Francisco from which I made forays to...

  7. 2 School, the Woods, and War
    (pp. 15-23)

    I spent most of my childhood days not in wild country but in a place called Sacred Heart School, behind the church of the same name on Fell Street and Fillmore. Here I went with reluctance and in my first years tried to ignore my fellow students. Unfortunately, the route from my house on Fell Street to the school took me past the corner of Fell and Webster. There I came into contact with students from the local public school also on their way to morning class. Now a bunch of these public school boys lived in an alley behind...

  8. 3 Red Arrows Never Glance
    (pp. 24-33)

    From 1941 to 1945 I wore the brown uniform of the United States Army. My rush to go out and win the war led me to sign up for the army as soon as possible after Pearl Harbor. Since I was only in my senior year in university I did not qualify to enter as an officer but had a position at the bottom of the military ladder. When the gate closed behind me in late December 1941 at the Monterey Presidio and I knew it was too late to change my mind, I began to worry that I was...

  9. 4 Live Coward or Dead Hero?
    (pp. 34-44)

    It became obvious eventually, though I only pieced this together much later, that our goal in November 1942 was to capture the Japanese base at the village of Buna and the nearby village of Gona on the northern coast of the island where presumably the Japanese had retreated after the defeat at Milne Bay. To do this, my former outfit, the 128th infantry, would be flown to the airstrip at Popandetta and would advance up the coast. At Buna they would meet the 126th infantry, which would have walked up a trail across the Owen Stanley Range, some peaks of...

  10. 5 Elizabeth’s Story
    (pp. 45-54)

    Elizabeth was born in 1916 at a place called Coolum Beach near the town of Maroochydore in Queensland. At the time her family home was outside Brisbane, so readers might wonder why her mother was at Coolum Beach. The answer casts some light on her parents. It seems her father, Geoffrey Sheldon, liked to fish. Her mother, Sarah Louise Reinhold, did not fish but tended to go along with her spouse for whatever he wished to do, even though it was fairly obvious that her pregnancy was reaching its conclusion. Possibly it also provided an opportunity to get away from...

  11. 6 Reunion
    (pp. 55-66)

    I did not recall much about the sequence of events in Elizabeth’s move to Sydney. Evidently when she first brought it up, Gar decided that she herself should go along to introduce Elizabeth to the right people. There were various relatives in Sydney, so they could have picked her up. But this was what Elizabeth wanted to avoid. She managed to shake herself loose and be on her own. I know that she worked for one company on fabric design. She also returned home after the first visit and worked with her father in his survey camp. At some point...

  12. 7 Transition
    (pp. 67-76)

    My leave period in San Francisco involved visits with all my relatives. These were cheerful enough occasions, but nobody seemed to have the slightest interest in where I had been or what I had been doing. I was treated as though I had just returned from a four-year vacation in Mexico, except that nobody asked any questions about life there. Later I found out that they had heard via radio or newspaper that they should not ask returning veterans about their war experiences, because it would be too upsetting to us. It was certainly disturbing to have no interest displayed,...

  13. 8 Deer
    (pp. 77-89)

    I was delighted to have a paying job that would also lead to a master’s thesis and degree. But I don’t think that in 1948 I fully appreciated the opportunity Starker Leopold had given me. The work was to be part of an overall deer study supported by the California Department of Fish and Game and contracted out to UC. The department set out to determine the actual status of California’s deer populations and the condition of their habitat, in an attempt to deal with farmers’ many complaints about an overabundance of deer and the resulting damage to agriculture, and...

  14. 9 Arcata
    (pp. 90-93)

    I started teaching at Humboldt State College in the fall of 1954 and continued to teach there until the summer of 1959. My work as an author had already begun. In 1952 I published “Methods for Estimating Deer Populations from Kill Data,” which was from my master’s thesis, and in the same year, with William Longhurst and Starker Leopold, theSurvey of California Deer Herds. My Ph.D. thesis on “Ecology and Social Behavior of the Columbian Black-Tailed Deer in California” was published in theJournal of Mammologyin 1956 as a coauthored paper with Dick Taber. And in 1958 Dick...

  15. 10 Conservation by Slaughter
    (pp. 94-108)

    Since I grew up with Roosevelt’sAfrican Game Trailson hand, I may have been fated to go to Africa. But early in my wildlife career this had seemed impossible. Yet from the time the statewide deer survey ended, I had kept in touch with Thane Riney. He had moved to New Zealand, where he became involved with their deer problems. “Problems,” because deer and other mammals, except bats, were not native to those islands. They were currently doing damage to native vegetation and more certainly were competing with sheep farming. Riney was a highly mobile person and—thanks to...

  16. 11 Return to the United States
    (pp. 109-119)

    After our African experience we did return home, and I put in a year working with the University of California at Berkeley. I was Starker Leopold’s replacement while he was on sabbatical leave.

    We came home to a different scene. While we were overseas my brothers, Bob and Bill, had decided that my mother could not stay in our Berkeley house by herself or even with her sisters, Aunt Peg and Aunt Nell, and had moved her to a nursing home in San Rafael. Considering that all three were in poor health, and that Elizabeth could not take on the...

  17. 12 Influences and Efforts
    (pp. 120-124)

    Our move to Washington, D.C., in January 1966 brought me into closer contact with my longtime colleague Frank Fraser Darling, a friend and mentor who influenced me repeatedly throughout my career. Frank’s work in Africa had inspired me to get involved with African game ranching. He had pointed out that the use of wildlife in place of cattle would bring better economic returns to the African people over the long run, without the heavy habitat damage that accompanied livestock grazing. He later chided me about the emphasis in our game ranching studies, saying that he had not recommended commercialization of...

  18. 13 Too Many, Too Much
    (pp. 125-138)

    One of the people I worked with in Washington was William Vogt. I had known of his work on human population since 1948, when his bookRoad to Survivalwas published. It was a startling book, and one that forced the media to pay attention and respond.Timemagazine devoted most of an issue to a critical review and response. Those in government denied that it had any validity, since they feared the public might believe Bill Vogt and cause a fuss to interfere with plans for “growth and progress.” Certainly it drew my attention to the problem of human...

  19. 14 Uniting Nations
    (pp. 139-147)

    I had not been in Washington very long when Russ Train received a plea from Michel Batisse, the head of the science side of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to assign an ecologist who could write well to work with him on preparing a background paper for a conference on the rational use and conservation of the biosphere. Because I had a number of books published at that time, I was a logical candidate. In March 1966, while I was still trying to get used to living on the wrong side of the continent, I found myself...

  20. 15 Return to Africa
    (pp. 148-151)

    Though I did not get back to Zimbabwe despite several opportunities, my work in Southern Rhodesia seemed to have brought me a number of enthusiastic friends in South Africa. The National Parks Board in South Africa and the Rhodes University at Grahamstown invited me to address the South African Association for the Advancement of Science and to visit Kruger National Park, with all expenses paid for Elizabeth and me. So once again, in 1974, we were on a plane across the Mediterranean and the Sahara for a much more enjoyable flight than the one in 1959. We did not stop...

  21. 16 Ecosystem and Biosphere People
    (pp. 152-161)

    During December 1974 I was invited to a symposium to be held at Cambridge University in England. It focused on the future of traditional “primitive” societies and brought together anthropologists, ecologists, and people from many disciplines with similar interests. Sir Edmund Leach, professor and provost of Kings College, Cambridge, was the primary organizer. I was asked to prepare and present a paper on difficult marginal environments and the traditional societies that exploit them. This I did, and the results were to be published in whole or part in many other books and journals. The part of my speech that had...

  22. 17 The Edges of the Sea
    (pp. 162-170)

    Though IUCN and the World Wildlife Fund supported many excellent research projects and conservation programs around the world, most if not all of these were directed toward the protection or management of terrestrial species and communities. Yet most of the planet’s surface is water, not dry land. During my time at IUCN I was reminded often by my marine biologist friends, Carleton and Jerry Ray, that oceans and seas occupied 70 percent of the globe. And I believe astronauts were the ones who first recognized that our earth is the blue planet, since viewed from outer space it is a...

  23. 18 The Incident in Kinshasha
    (pp. 171-187)

    For seven years I worked for the IUCN, based at that time in Morges, Switzerland. The acronym is apparently meaningless to most Americans but stands, as I noted, for an organization then known as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and now known simply as the World Conservation Union, but retaining the logo IUCN.

    My career at IUCN was in the role of senior ecologist, the number three position in the IUCN secretariat, under the director general and deputy director general. When I arrived in Morges in 1970 almost the entire staff was new and...

  24. 19 Return to the South Pacific
    (pp. 188-194)

    Oddly enough, some of my most interesting assignments for IUCN took place after I had left the IUCN secretariat but was still available for projects. One of these was a survey of the status of conservation in the islands of the South Pacific. It was essentially a follow-up on talks I had given, first in New Caledonia in 1971 at a symposium on the conservation of nature, then in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1975 at the first South Pacific Conference on National Parks and Reserves, and then in 1976, in Apia, Western Samoa, at the second such conference. The third...

  25. 20 Back to the Land
    (pp. 195-202)

    There I was, sitting on a hillside where the ponderosa pine and black oak forests of the Sierra Nevada merge with the manzanita, ceanothus, and digger pine of the San Juan Ridge foothills. Once this area had been mostly ponderosa, but fires, timber cutting, and grazing had pushed the forest uphill and allowed the brush fields to advance. Now the pines were struggling to come back. But I was staring at a pile of 2 × 4 studs, concrete blocks, and miscellaneous building materials. I had in mind building a one-room shelter where I could stay while contemplating a more...

  26. 21 Damming Paradise
    (pp. 203-216)

    Why is it that despite all the talk of international aid and technical assistance, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer? Why is it that throughout most of Asia, Africa, and Latin America resources are being ruthlessly exploited for immediate gain, so that forests are vanishing and woodland, scrub, savanna, and steppe are becoming barren wasteland? Millions of dollars funnel into international efforts at nature conservation but the gains are small relative to the ongoing losses.

    These questions and others related to them led some of us to seek out approaches to development that fully take into account...

  27. 22 Other Ways of Life
    (pp. 217-223)

    Sometimes people are not aware of what is going on around them. I fear that has been a near permanent condition with me, and I can give you many examples. However, my Sri Lankan visits brought one of these experiences to my particular attention. In traveling around the old and proposed national parks, I did hear some mention of the Vedda, but their significance was not apparent. A year later, while on the board of directors of the World Wildlife Fund, I received a copy of a letter from Hayden Burgess of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, asking our...

  28. 23 Biosphere Reserves
    (pp. 224-233)

    When I retired from the university in 1989 and no longer had to meet a regular schedule of classes and faculty activities, I was able to begin some projects more directly related to my interests. I became more active in the Earth Island Institute and was asked to participate in a joint expedition with Russian scientists to Lake Baikal in Siberia. At that time Mikhail Gorbachev was president of the Soviet Union and was instituting his new policy of openness to the outside world. My friend David Brower, chairman of Earth Island Institute, was going along with his wife, Anne....

  29. 24 Finale
    (pp. 234-240)

    I suppose it all started in 1989. It was a bad year in many respects, the year of the big earthquake when downtown Santa Cruz was knocked apart. The earthquake didn’t bother our house at all, though it scared the wits out of us. More scary was the news I had a large aneurism on my abdominal aorta and could drop dead any time. But I didn’t, and after a major operation I was more or less as good as ever. I had retired from UCSC that year, when I reached the age of seventy. Had I gone on teaching...

    (pp. 241-244)
  31. INDEX
    (pp. 245-255)
  32. Back Matter
    (pp. 256-256)
  33. Photographs
    (pp. None)