One of the singular pleasures of reading Nathaniel Rich’s Losing Earth is his ability to find and bring to life on the page the women and men engaged in saving the planet. This skill is not surprising, given that Rich is also an acclaimed novelist, but it does help explain why he is so good at what he does, as amply demonstrated in his latest book of nonfiction, Second Nature: Scenes from a World Remade.

JIM KELLY: Let’s start with a time-machine question. You write eloquently about how for many centuries the wilderness was seen as a godless domain, vast and fearsome, that should be shunned or subjugated. We obviously chose the latter path. If we could turn back time, would we have been better off 200 years ago if we had shunned half of what was then wilderness?