Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion

Alan Burdick
May 2005

A stunning work of narrative nonfiction that asks: what is natural?

Now as never before, exotic animals and plants are crossing the globe, borne on the swelling tide of human traffic to places where nature never intended them to be. Bird-eating snakes from Australia hitchhike to Hawaii in the landing gear of airliners; disruptive European zebra mussels, riding in ships’ ballast water, are infiltrating aquatic ecosystems across the United States; parasitic flies from the U.S. prey on Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos. Predatory American jellyfish in Russia; toxic Japanese plankton in Australia; Burmese pythons in the Everglades-biologists refer fearfully to “the homogenization of the world” as alien species jump from place to place and increasingly crowd native and endangered species out of existence. Never mind bulldozers and pesticides: the fastest-growing threat to biological diversity may be nature itself.

Out of Eden is a journey through this strange and shifting landscape. The author tours the front lines of ecological invasion–in Hawaii, Tasmania, Guam, San Francisco; in lush rainforests, through underground lava tubes, on the deck of an Alaska-bound oil tanker–in the company of world-class scientists. Wry and reflective, animated and richly reported, Out of Eden is a search both for scientific answers and for ecological authenticity.