It can be hard to be an environmental optimist these days. So it’s refreshing when someone reminds you that people can – and are – restoring damaged landscapes around the world. In her latest book, science journalist Judith D. Schwartz takes us around the world to visit people restoring life to the land, from the Loess Plateau in China to the rainforests of Hawaii, grasslands of eastern Washington, deserts of the Middle East and New Mexico, and the frigid Norwegian Arctic.

Along the way, Schwartz weaves the inspiring stories of her protagonists with some of their philosophy and the science and history behind what they are doing – and why it’s working. Restoring carbon to the soil and reestablishing natural cycles of water in ways that return productivity to degraded land is one of the largest challenges humanity faces this century. Schwartz shows us how, working with nature, people can revitalize their land and communities through adopting regenerative approaches to farming and grazing.

In reading the book I was reminded how culture is one of the most diverse and adaptable things about humanity. It shapes how we support ourselves and work the land in ways that, in turn, impact us. Each considered on its own, the stories in The Reindeer Chronicles invite the reader into a unique place in the care of inspiring individuals. As a whole, they offer a visionary reminder that in restoring the world we restore ourselves, and that the key to restoring land is how we see it. Schwartz’s reporting lights the way forward, helping us stay optimistic in a world that all too often seems to conspire against faith in a better future.

David R. Montgomery is the author of Dirt and Growing a Revolution.