Adams, Jonathan S. 1961–

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Adams, Jonathan S. 1961–

(Jonathan Seth Adams)


Born June 19, 1961, in New Haven, CT; son of Robert S. (a psychiatrist) and Irene (an editor) Adams; married Naomi Rutenberg (a demographer), October 26, 1986; children: two. Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1983; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1986.


Home—Silver Spring, MD. Office—World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th St. NW, Washington, DC 20037. Agent—Gloria Loomis, 133 East 35th St., Ste. 1, New York, NY 10016.


Writer, conservation biologist. Office of the New York County District Attorney, New York, NY, writer, 1983-85; International Medical News Group, Rockville, MD, writer, 1986-89; World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC, writer and editor, beginning 1989; Conservation Foundation, writer and editor. Nature Conservancy, program director.


Best Article for a Professional Audience award, American Medical Writers Association, Mid-Atlantic chapter.


(With Thomas O. McShane) The Myth of Wild Africa: Conservation without Illusion, Norton (New York, NY), 1992.

(Editor, with Bruce A. Stein and Lynn S. Kutner) Precious Heritage: The Status of Biodiversity in the United States, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.

The Future of the Wild: Radical Conservation for a Crowded World, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Wildlife Conservation.


Conservation biologist and writer Jonathan S. Adams is program director of the Nature Conservancy's Conservation Knowledge and Communities Program and has written and edited several books on conservation topics. His first title, The Myth of Wild Africa: Conservation without Illusion, penned with Thomas O. McShane, is a look at the attempts at preservation of wildlife in Africa. Both authors lived for some time in Africa and became familiar firsthand with its animal-conservation problems. The book's title indicates the authors' basic premise, that it is false to think of the continent of Africa as ever being some idyllic region that was untouched by humankind. Africa is, in fact, the cradle of human evolution; humans have inhabited the continent for two million years and have become an integral part of the African landscape. Therefore, Africans must, Adams and McShane attempt to show in their study, be part of the solution to the problem of wildlife preservation. They cannot be looked upon solely as the problem, for there can be no conservation in Africa without the support of the people of the vast continent. In essence, Adams and McShane attempt with their book to deal with issues surrounding conservation without appeals to sentimentality. They take what may be termed an anti-colonial approach to conservation, and thus question the usual approach that puts animals in the primary role and humans in a secondary one. Local people must, the authors argue, be put in charge of conservation programs, creating plans that work in Africa. They further state that environmental plans originating in Europe or the United States cannot be imposed upon Africans and provide examples of how some of the best-intentioned plans put in place by Westerners have actually backfired and made the situation worse. Robert S.O. Harding, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called the book "a useful introduction to the complex issues that must be confronted by Africans and their concerned friends from abroad." Writing in the New Scientist, David Tomlinson also had praise for The Myth of Wild Africa, noting that though there "is much within this modestly produced book that will enrage and infuriate conservationists," there is also "a great deal of sound argument within its pages, and it should be essential reading for anyone with an interest in the future of the continent, its wildlife and its people." Writing for Sierra, Peter Wild voiced a similar positive assessment, noting that The Myth of Wild Africa was "worth reading precisely because it questions the imposition of Western values in a land where Westerners should never have meddled in the first place." Similarly, Amicus Journal reviewer Karen Flagstad felt that Adams and McShane "deconstruct some comfortable and condescending beliefs about Africa, its wildlife, and its people."

Adams also helped edit the year 2000 collection of essays, Precious Heritage: The Status of Biodiversity in the United States which moves the conservancy argument to the shores of this country. The twenty-six contributions to this collection examine the history and current state of biodiversity in the United States: over 200,000 separate native species have been identified, and a full one-third of these are at risk for survival. It also provides a plan or vision for the future protection of such biodiversity, at one time one of the richest in the world, but now suffering significant losses. The book deals with topics from the natural history of the United States to the assessment of species and the legal battles and political solutions possible in the fight to maintain biodiversity. Reviewing the book in Environmental Law, Richard J. Blaustein noted that Precious Heritage "demonstrates a pride and patriotism in American biodiversity, articulated by the prominent American biologist, E.O. Wilson." Blaustein further commented, "This book will encourage efforts to protect America's natural endowment." Audubon critic Christopher Camuto also had high praise for Precious Heritage, dubbing it a "landmark" work in "protecting the rich biodiversity" this country enjoys. Similarly, a Whole Earth contributor termed it the "best book covering biodiversity in the US," while a writer for NatureServe Web site called it "a celebration of the extraordinary biological diversity of the United States."

Writing on his own in the 2007 The Future of the Wild: Radical Conservation for a Crowded World, Adams presents of compilation of his essays dealing with the contemporary conservation movement. Adams blends stories of success and failure in the conservation movement in this book, showing how, for example, attempts at preserving the mountain lion or the spotted owl can provide clues to preserving biodiversity. Adams proposes saving large tracts of lands rather than just isolated national parks in order to preserve species, including humans. These large tracts of lands would then be connected together to form large ecosystems. Adams does not take humans out of the equation, but rather writes that human communities need to be connected to such ecosystem corridors. He also wants to put science back into a position of primacy over politics. Additionally, the author provides profiles of and interviews with people working on the front lines of the environmental movement. Booklist contributor Colleen Mondor found this an "in-depth look into what is happening now with conservation biology, ecosystem preservation, and biogeography." A Publishers Weekly contributor also had praise for The Future of the Wild, commenting, "Fertile with fresh thinking, this book is an uncommonly eloquent call for urgent but thoughtful action." Similarly, Library Journal reviewer Margaret F. Dominy called Adams's proposals in the book "visionary, optimistic, doable, and essential."



Amicus Journal, spring, 1993, Karen Flagstad, review of The Myth of Wild Africa: Conservation without Illusion, p. 45.

Audubon, September, 2000, Christopher Camuto, review of Precious Heritage: The Status of Biodiversity in the United States, p. 109.

Booklist, December 1, 2005, Colleen Mondor, review of The Future of the Wild: Radical Conservation for a Crowded World, p. 8.

Environmental Law, fall, 2001, Richard J. Blaustein, review of Precious Heritage, p. 1089.

Library Bookwatch, March, 2006, review of The Future of the Wild.

Library Journal, December 1, 2005, Margaret F. Dominy, review of The Future of the Wild, p. 164.

New Scientist, February 27, 1993, David Tomlinson, review of The Myth of Wild Africa, p. 45.

New York Times Book Review, October 11, 1992, Robert S.O. Harding, review of The Myth of Wild Africa, p. 26.

OnEarth, January, 2006, Ted Levin, review of The Future of the Wild, p. 41.

Publishers Weekly, September 12, 2005, review of The Future of the Wild, p. 52.

Sierra, May-June, 1993, Peter Wild, review of The Myth of Wild Africa.

Whole Earth, fall, 2000, review of Precious Heritage, p. 24.


NatureServe Web site, (August 28, 2008), review of Precious Heritage.

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Adams, Jonathan S. 1961–

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