David Rains Wallace

American writer

David Rains Wallace (born 1945) is an American writer who has published more than twenty books on conservation and natural history.


All page numbers are from the 1999 trade paperback edition published by Sierra Club Books ISBN 1-57805-018-9
  • After the fox, a creature that resembled a cross between a groundhog and a midget deer emerged to patrol in its turn. The creature was so strange that I had no idea what it was, and so found it nearly as unsatisfactory as the too-familiar fox. Exoticism must be identifiable to be appreciated.
    • Prologue, The Latest Show on Earth (p. xix)
  • My ignorant journey had started a change in my thinking. I’d come south unconsciously regarding life as something to be adapted to desire. I disliked the usual way civilization reshapes nature by turning landscapes into suburbs or theme parks, yet my tropical daydream was also an attempt, psychological rather than technological, to make the landscape a desirable artifice. Central America’s roller coaster of diversity had showed me how unimaginative that attempt was.
    • Prologue, The Latest Show on Earth (p. xxi)
  • Central America aroused my curiosity after twenty years of an education that had seemed largely to dull it. I had been a mediocre student, partly because I was lazy, but also because my enthusiasms seldom followed the curriculum. Curiosity was encouraged in theory, but students were supposed to be curious about what the authorities wanted to teach. In Central America, there were no authorities, or none that I was supposed to consult. Trees had no labels or park rangers to identify them, and I suddenly wanted to know what they were.
    • Prologue, The Latest Show on Earth (p. xxi)
  • Like all evolutionary stories, it is really two—of how the land bridge evolved, and of how people discovered it. Evolution occurs in geological time but is perceived in historical time.
    • Prologue, The Latest Show on Earth (pp. xxi-xxii)
  • History doesn’t supersede evolution, it merely complicates it.
    • Chapter 21, The Bridge of Cattle and Coffee (p. 221)
  • Flatness implied infinite extension, or at least a limitedness less inherent than that of the spherical, where every movement forward leads one step closer to the starting point.
    Perhaps human values have yet to assimilate the earth’s shape. Although every physical evidence suggests that endless forward movement, endless growth, is impossible on a sphere, civilization is trying to grow endlessly. Our economics and politics are based on endlessness, and even our ideas of organic evolution, which of all things should have transcended flat-earth thinking, have an essential two-dimensionality.
    • Epilogue, The Future of a Vortex (p. 244)
  • Central America’s highest value as a natural phenomenon may be not in its diversity and adaptations, priceless as those are, but in its powerful demonstration of life’s sphericality. Life would have been fundamentally different if it had evolved on a limitless flat substrate instead of a limited, spherical one. It’s hard to imaging what it would have been like, but one possibility is that it never would have evolved beyond the first unicellular organisms. If they had been able to expand their populations ad infinitum, they might never have undergone the competitive pressures that led to natural selection and increasingly complex organization. Civilization has come to see the sphere’s limitations as an obstacle, but this is unimaginative, like being angry at the curved horizon because it hides objects more than a few dozen kilometers away.
    • Epilogue, The Future of a Vortex (p. 244)
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