|My host in South Africa, geologist Roger Smith, told me that South Africans care little for their countrys vast, dry interior, the Karoo. But I loved the spareness of the place. The terraced hills that punctuated our long drives reminded me of Texass Big Bend Country. Sometimes we drove for hours without seeing anything alive other than sheep, springboks, and creosote bushes.
||The Black Trianglethe acid-rain-poisoned patch of land where the Czech, German, and Polish borders convergewas depressing. If this is what the world will look like after the next mass extinction, I dont want to be alive when it happens. In the Czech Republics Jizera Mountains, local authorities do their best to help tourists forget that a forest once grew here. They cut down the trunks as soon as they can.
||In the Italian Alps I had to follow geologist Mark Sephton up a slope of loose debris to a point on a cliff where one can find extinction-age fossils. It was humiliating. Mark is a climber. He scampered up like an ibex. I was terrified, but I didnt want to let Mark know. For each step I took up, I slid half a step backward. After Mark got a sample at the topand I finished wheezingI crawled down on all fours like a crab.