For the Beauty of the Earth

Thomas Urquhart has been a leader in environmentalism and conservation for many years. Among other positions, he has been an administrator for the Audubon Society in Massachusetts and Maine. In For the Beauty of the Earth: Birding, Opera, and Other Journeys, he weaves together his encounters with the natural world with his passions for music and art.

The first section of the book is composed of autobiographical excursions into Urquhart's formative years and his family history. His family had deep roots on both sides of the Atlantic in Great Britain and in New England, and he was primarily educated in British schools, Westminster and Oxford. This background nourished his connection with nature, landscape, and sense of place along with a growing attraction to music and art.

In the second part of the book, Urquhart ranges further afield. Two chapters take the reader with him on birding and other travels in Italy. Another two chapters find him in southern France, in Provence and the Camargue. His travels to West Africa, particularly Mali, are filled with adventurous encounters with a different culture. No matter where he goes, Urquhart's keen observing eye and genuine rapport with the land and the people who inhabit it makes for interesting reading. The connections he finds between these experiences and works of music, literature, and art enrich his narrative and add philosophical depth that is thought-provoking.

Throughout the book, Urquhart steers his observations toward lessons in environmentalism. Without lecturing, his writing inspires a love of nature and promotes a fundamental respect for the way humanity interacts with the world around us.