What Are the Tropics If Not Naturally Diverse?

By Ooi Kee Beng

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1-3 Attacus atlas 4-6 Rothschildia hesperus 8-9 Xyleutes strix 10-11 Draconia peripheta 18-19 Entheus priassus. Very large tropical moths from South-East Asia and tropical America. Albertus Seba, Plate from Thesaurus Cabinet of Natural Curiosities: Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri (4 Vol.), 1734-1765. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, La Haye
DESCRIPTIONS OF NATURE in the tropics once employed expressions such as luxuriant, verdant or lush. As technical terminology became the vogue, our ability to imagine narrowed as well. I think it is therefore beneficial for us today to read texts about the fauna and flora from the mid-19th century. Whose words to best use than Alfred Russel Wallace's, one of the first to conceive the radical idea of Natural Selection in biological evolution, and whose inspiration came from his travels...

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Ooi Kee Beng

is the Executive Director of Penang Institute. His recent books include The Eurasian Core and its Edges: Dialogues with Wang Gungwu on the History of the World (ISEAS 2016). Homepage: wikibeng.com