Wade Davis

in conversation with Don George

Recorded Sunday, September 20th, 2020

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Wade Davis in conversation with Don George

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Wade Davis’ inspiring tale of hope and redemption, Magdalena: River of Dreams, braids together memoir, history, and journalism to form both a rare, kaleidoscopic picture of Colombia’s most magnificent river and the epic story of a nation on the verge of a new period of peace.

Wade is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker whose work has taken him from the Amazon to Tibet, Africa to Australia, Polynesia to the Arctic. Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society from 2000 to 2013, he is currently Professor of Anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia.

Author of 22 books, including One River, The Wayfinders, and Into the Silence, winner of the 2012 Samuel Johnson prize, the top nonfiction prize in the English language, he holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. His many film credits include Light at the Edge of the World, an eight-hour documentary series written and produced for the NGS.

Wade, one of 20 Honorary Members of the Explorers Club, is the recipient of 12 honorary degrees, as well as the 2009 Gold Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the 2011 Explorers Medal, the 2012 David Fairchild Medal for botanical exploration, the 2015 Centennial Medal of Harvard University, the 2017 Roy Chapman Andrews Society’s Distinguished Explorer Award, the 2017 Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration, and the 2018 Mungo Park Medal from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. In 2016, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. In 2018, he became an Honorary Citizen of Colombia.

Don George is an editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, as well as host of the National Geographic Live series of conversations with notable authors. In four decades as a travel writer and editor, Don has visited more than 90 countries on five continents. He has traveled throughout—and written extensively about—Europe and Asia. He has also lived in France, Greece, and Japan, working as a translator in Paris, a teacher in Athens, and a television talk show host in Tokyo. Don is the author of The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George, and has received dozens of writing awards, including the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year Award.

The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”

Wade Davis.

A personal note from Wade Davis. 

Sent September 28th, following his Conversations with Authors event.

Dear Friends:

I was so delighted to have had a chance to share with the Book Passage family a few thoughts on the unraveling of the American dream and all the new hopes for Colombia. Many thanks to everyone for supporting Book Passage and all the private bookstores that so value the lives of writers, but more importantly the hopes and yearnings, the curiosity and whimsy of readers, which include all of us.

I wish I could say that the books I’ve been reading lately were uplifting, but I’ve become a bit obsessed with Germany in the 1930s, and have revisited William Shirer’s astonishing two volume memoir, most especially The Nightmare Years.

Colombia is always my passion and only last week I read for a third time, Oblivion, Hector Abad’s excruciatingly haunting and beautiful account of his father’s assassination, one of a handful of killings that shook the entire war weary country. 

Somehow this led me back to Vera Brittain, author of Testament of Youth, perhaps the best book ever written on the agony of war. Vera, a nurse, served on the Western Front, even as she lost her fiancée, Roland, her two best friends from Oxford, and finally her beloved brother Edward. By 1918, she wrote, there was no one left to dance with.  The war, wrote Roland in a letter to Vera, “distilled all youth and joy and life into a fetid heap of hideous putrescence.” Testament of Youth traces a journey from innocence through horror, agony to revelation. It is to my mind the most poignant and heartrending memoire to emerge from the Great War.

In these uncertain times, I find solace in history, which tells us that no matter how bad things may appear to be in the moment, they have often been far worse, and every time of despair only serves to unveil new horizons of hope.

All best wishes,