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Wade Davis          

Anthropologist, Explorer and Photographer; Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic Society

Wade Davis is an Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic Society. Named by the NGS as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as "a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life's diversity." Davis's work as an anthropologist and botanical explorer has taken him throughout the world from the forests of the Amazon to the mountains of Tibet, from the high Arctic to the deserts of Africa, from Polynesia to the grasslands of Mongolia. Widely recognized as one of the most compelling storytellers of our times, his presentations, illustrated by his exquisite photographs, are a wild and moving celebration of the wonder of the human spirit, as expressed by the myriad of cultures he has encountered in a lifetime of travel, exploration and ethnographic research.

Davis is the author of 17 bestselling books including "The Serpent and the Rainbow," which was later released as a feature film, and "Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest," which won the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize, the top literary award for nonfiction in the English language. Davis has written for National Geographic, Newsweek, Outside, Harper's, Fortune, Conde Nast Traveler, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other international publications.

His many film credits include "Light at the Edge of the World," an eight-hour documentary series produced and written for the National Geographic, "Grand Canyon Adventure" (IMAX 3D), and "Earthguide," a 13-part series on the environment produced and written for Discovery. As a photographer Davis has curated several major exhibits including "The Lost Amazon," Museum of Natural History Smithsonian, and "No Strangers: Ancient Wisdom in a Modern World," Annenberg Space for Photography. His own work has been widely published and exhibited.

A professional speaker for 25 years, Davis has lectured at more than 200 universities and captivated corporate clients such as Microsoft, Shell, Fidelity, Bayer, Bristol-Myers, Hallmark, Bank of Nova Scotia, MacKenzie Financials, and many others. His many TED talks have been seen by millions of viewers. In 2009 he delivered the Massey Lectures, Canada's most prestigious public intellectual forum.

Davis is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society; the Explorer's Medal (the highest award of the Explorer's Club); The Lowell Thomas Medal; the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration (the most prestigious award for botanical exploration) and the $125,000 Lannan Foundation Prize for Nonfiction.

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Each presentation is inspired by a recent Wade Davis book, all of which have been national and international bestsellers. "Into the Silence" won the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize, the most highly regarded and competitive award for nonfiction in the English language. "The Wayfinders" distills the essence of Davis's award winning 2009 CBC Massey Lectures, Canada's most prestigious and influential public forum. Previous Massey lecturers have included Martin Luther King, Carlos Fuentes, Margaret Atwood and Claude Levi Strauss.

"The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in a Modern World" (House of Anansi, Toronto, 2009)

Every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? Wade Davis leads us on a thrilling journey to celebrate the wisdom of the worlds indigenous cultures. In Polynesia we set sail with navigators whose ancestors settled the Pacific ten centuries before Christ. In the Amazon we meet the descendants of a true Lost Civilization, the Peoples of the Anaconda. In the Andes we discover that the Earth really is alive, while in the far reaches of Australia we experience Dreamtime, the all-embracing philosophy of the first humans to walk out of Africa. We then travel to Nepal, where we encounter a wisdom hero, a Bodhisattva, who emerges from forty-five years of Buddhist retreat and solitude. And finally we settle in Borneo, where the last rainforest nomads struggle to survive.

Understanding the lessons of this journey will be our mission for the next century. Of the world's 7,000 languages, fully half may disappear within our lifetimes. At risk is a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination that is the human legacy. Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit, as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time.

"Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest" (Knopf, New York 2011)

If the quest for Mount Everest began as a grand imperial gesture, as redemption for an empire of explorers that had lost the race to the Poles, it ended as a mission of regeneration for a country and a people bled white by war. Of the twenty-six British climbers who, on three expeditions (1921-24), walked 400 miles off the map to find and assault the highest mountain on Earth, twenty had seen the worst of the fighting. Six had been severely wounded, two others nearly killed by disease at the Front, one hospitalized twice with shell shock. Four as army surgeons dealt for the duration with the agonies of the dying. Two lost brothers, killed in action. All had endured the slaughter, the coughing of the guns, the bones and barbed wire, the white faces of the dead.

In a monumental work of history and adventure, ten years in the writing, Wade Davis asks not whether George Mallory was the first to reach the summit of Everest, but rather why he kept on climbing on that fateful day. His answer lies in a single phrase uttered by one of the survivors as they retreated from the mountain: 'The price of life is death.' Mallory walked on because for him, as for all of his generation, death was but 'a frail barrier that men crossed, smiling and gallant, every day.' As climbers they accepted a degree of risk unimaginable before the war. They were not cavalier, but death was no stranger. They had seen so much of it that it had no hold on them. What mattered was how one lived, the moments of being alive. For all of them Everest had become an exalted radiance, a sentinel in the sky, a symbol of hope in a world gone mad.

"The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena, and Nass" (Greystone Books, Toronto 2011)

In a rugged knot of mountains in northern British Columbia lies a spectacular valley known to the First Nations as the Sacred Headwaters. There, three of Canada's most important salmon rivers -- the Stikine, Skeena and Nass -- are born in remarkably close proximity. Now against the wishes of all First Nations, the British Columbia government has opened the Sacred Headwaters to industrial development. Fortune Minerals proposes a coal operation that would level mountains. Imperial Metals is moving ahead with an open pit copper and gold mine on Todagin Mountain, home to the largest population of Stone sheep in the world; tailings from the Red Chris mine will bury Black lake and leach into the headwaters of the Iskut River, the main tributary of the Stikine. For years Royal Dutch Shell sought to extract coal bed methane gas across a tenure of close to a million acres, which would have implied a network of roads and pipelines and thousands of wells places across the entire valley of the Sacred Headwaters.

For ten years Tahltan men women and children, along with local non native trappers, guides, and writers have stood up for the land, and in a remarkable grassroots victory in 2012, Shell Canada withdrew from the valley. The struggle continues, and will continue until the entire Sacred Headwaters is protected. The resounding message of the people is that no amount of gold, copper or coal can compensate for the sacrifice of a place that could be the Sacred Headwaters of all North Americans and indeed all peoples of the world.

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