Stephen DeStefano


On his book Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia

Cover Interview of February 04, 2010

A close-up

The preface provides a perspective for the book, as well as an explanation of the structure of each chapter, so that might be the appropriate place to start browsing.

The prologue (subtitled “Suburban Beginnings”) also helps set the stage for much of the writing. There I describe my first job as a biologist, working on the sub-arctic tundra of Cape Churchill, Manitoba and encountering a wide array of wildlife, including polar bears.  Later in the prologue I introduce the coyote, and what the species means to our society and what it represents in terms of how we now view nature, and how nature continues to infiltrate our lives, independent and indifferent to our wants and desires.

The prologue also introduces the idea of the dichotomies that proliferate when the worlds of humans and wildlife merge.  Although we tend to think of human and wildlife realms as separate, they are indeed one world; we share one planet.

I have been fortunate enough to experience the mysteries and beauties of nature in different biomes in the world, and I portray these in the introductory vignettes at the beginning of each chapter.  These should give the reader a feel for that aspect of the writing. Although these opening narratives are connected in some way to the chapter, they could be considered stand-alone pieces.

To me, all of the issues discussed in the book come down to our collective philosophies, feelings, and actions toward the land.  Because our lives are so busy, our time is filled with so many gadgets, and we have grown accustomed to so many conveniences, I think it is easy to forget, or at least take for granted, the reliance we have on the land.  So the last chapter, “A Suburban Land Ethic,” embodies probably the book’s most important message.

My ideas regarding the land come from Aldo Leopold’s writings, particularly Leopold’s essay “The Land Ethic” (in A Sand County Almanac).  I think it is worth repeating today what Leopold advocated several decades ago.