Notebooks from New Guinea: Reflections on life, nature, and science from the depths of the rainforest Paperback – 11 Aug 2011
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Hugely entertaining and thought provoking in equal proportions. (E. Geoffrey Hancock, Glasgow Natural History Society)
About the Author
Vojtech Novotny is a tropical biologist. He is Professor of Ecology at the University of South Bohemia and the Head of the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology at the Biology Center of the Czech Academy of Sciences in the Czech Republic. He is leading an international team of researchers studying relationships between plants and insects in tropical rainforests. This work has provided, among other results, the currently accepted estimate of the number of insects living on our planet. Novotny is directing the New Guinea Binatang Research Center, a research station in Papua New Guinea, recognized for its ecological research, which successfully unites western scientists and the tribal peoples of the New Guinea rainforests.
Top Customer Reviews
Unlike typical memoirs of travels and excursions to far-flung regions, the author has spent decades living and working in New Guinea. He is a pioneer of the use of parataxonomists - local peoples trained to collect, sort and rear insects, thereby enabling the collection of enormous amounts of data, and simultaneously providing jobs and education in the most remote of villages. This means he has become immersed into local society in a way that no travelogue could manage, and which permits him to see the world through the eyes of his colleagues. This is done in the most sympathetic of fashions, differing from the distant and patronising accounts usually made of these 'stone-age' cultures.
The book seems primarily aimed towards fellow academics, though anyone with an interest in human nature will be amused by the parallels he draws between New Guinean tribal cultures and his own 'tribe', the Bohemian Czechs. I laughed out loud at various points - the efforts by Bible translators to convey simple concepts like 'the Lord is my shepherd' to forest peoples who keep no livestock and have never seen a sheep (nor can perceive its usefulness) are hilarious. Similarly, the previously unrecognised connection between cargo cults and the behaviour of apparently enlightened western intellectuals raised a wry smile. Another highlight comes when his research team decide to attack a 'rival' operation... there are many episodes worth recounting.Read more ›
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