cover image Last Stand: America's Virgin Lands

Last Stand: America's Virgin Lands

Barbara Kingsolver. National Geographic Society, $40 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-7922-6909-0

In this coffee-table nature book, two ardent conservationists make an impassioned plea for the preservation of American wilderness, from sparkling seashores to pristine deserts. In her moving introduction, bestselling author Kingsolver laments the loss of untouched spaces. Like most ecologically minded people, she is an optimistic pessimist, predicting more of the same destruction but begging us to ""find in ourselves the grace to do otherwise."" Unfortunately, Belt's photographs-meant to bolster Kingsolver's words-can fall into greeting-card cliche. Her technique of using black-and-white infrared negative film for half the images and hand-coloring the prints results in blurred, pale pictures that share a pastel sameness. The more conventional photos are stunning, though, and Belt makes up for her experiment by capturing the essence of America the way we imagine it used to be. Kingsolver provides introductions to each of the sections devoted to broad biomes such as plains, wetlands and forests. With literary and photographic nods to the giants of conservation-Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, Edward Abbey and others-the book offers quiet evidence that there is still something better than a world where ""children's adventures and glimpses of fox dwell only in books."" (100 photographs)