Recovering Lost Species in the Modern Age

From History for a Sustainable Future

Recovering Lost Species in the Modern Age

Histories of Longing and Belonging

By Dolly Jørgensen

A groundbreaking study of how emotions motivate attempts to counter species loss.





A groundbreaking study of how emotions motivate attempts to counter species loss.

This groundbreaking book brings together environmental history and the history of emotions to examine the motivations behind species conservation actions. In Recovering Lost Species in the Modern Age, Dolly Jørgensen uses the environmental histories of reintroduction, rewilding, and resurrection to view the modern conservation paradigm of the recovery of nature as an emotionally charged practice. Jørgensen argues that the recovery of nature—identifying that something is lost and then going out to find it and bring it back—is a nostalgic practice that looks to a historical past and relies on the concept of belonging to justify future-oriented action. The recovery impulse depends on emotional responses to what is lost, particularly a longing for recovery that manifests itself in such emotions as guilt, hope, fear, and grief.

Jørgensen explains why emotional frameworks matter deeply—both for how people understand nature theoretically and how they interact with it physically. The identification of what belongs (the lost nature) and our longing (the emotional attachment to it) in the present will affect how environmental restoration practices are carried out in the future. A sustainable future will depend on questioning how and why belonging and longing factor into the choices we make about what to recover.


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262537810 256 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 13 b&w illus.


  • Rich in lore on self-castrating beavers, muskoxen rebranded as “polar sheep,” and the tragic adventures of Bruno the Bear, Recovering Lost Species in the Modern Age delights in revealing the centrality of emotion in conservation. Rewilding and restoration, Jørgensen argues, are as much projects of collective guilt, ebullient hope, grief, and longing as they are of ecology and biology. Ultimately, saving species is a labor of love.

    Emma Marris

    author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World

  • Dolly Jørgensen explores vividly why and how we care about nature: why we long for lost species and grieve their passing, and how caring is part of our identity, our belonging in the world.

    Libby Robin

    Emeritus Professor, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University; Fellow, Australian Academy of Humanities

  • Through Martha the last passenger pigeon, Bruno the Bear, and the beaver's and muskox's return to Scandinavia, Jørgensen elegantly explores the complex emotional underpinnings of de-extinction and reintroduction. Foregrounding feelings of guilt, grief, longing, and hope, this book stands out in the crowd of writings on extinction, restoration, and rewilding.

    Peter Coates

    Professor of American and Environmental History, University of Bristol, UK

  • Exploring guilt, hope, and grief as emotional responses to the perception of species loss, Dolly Jørgensen's path-breaking book helps us reconsider how the nostalgic longing for lost animals drives ecological restoration practices.

    Alexa Weik von Mossner

    University of Klagenfurt; author of Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion and Environmental Narrative