The Necessary Evolution of Environmental Writing

Halfway through reading The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston, I came across the following passage: A new danger, moreover, now threatens the birds at sea. An irreducible residue of crude oil, called by refiners ‘slop,’ remains in stills after oil distribution, and this is …

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Home Ground, A Guide to the American Landscape

Edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney

(Trinity University Press, field edition 2013)

 

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“What draws our attention?” Barry Lopez asks in his introduction of Home Ground, a surprisingly entertaining guide to the language of the American landscape. Humans are predisposed to pay attention to subtle changes in the natural world, harking back to our hunting/gathering days, when knowing and naming these distinctions helped the tribe find dinner, or discourage the setting up of camp on shifting sands. Lopez and Gwartney commissioned a tribe of writers to gather up the words and define them through the lens of the humanities. The evocative phrase angle of repose

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Book Review: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

People of a certain age (myself included) remember growing up outside. Our families opened the doors, shooed us out, and shut them again, leaving us free to wander through our neighborhoods, parks, and/or wild places, making up our own games. I have particularly vivid memories of being let loose on the beaches of Southern California, …

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Book Review – The Wildlife Detectives: How Forensic Scientists Fight Crimes Against Nature by Donna M. Jackson

The Wildlife Detectives: How Forensic Scientists Fight Crimes Against Nature by Donna M. Jackson is particularly intriguing for me as a resident of Ashland, Oregon—which is home to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory. Open since 1989, this lab is the only full-service animal crime lab in the world, and all evidence of crimes …

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Siskiyou Prize update – new award, extended deadline

The winner of the Siskiyou Prize, in addition to a cash prize of $1,000 and book publication, will also receive a four-week residency at the PLAYA retreat in central Oregon. PLAYA is a nonprofit organization supporting innovative thinking through work in the arts, literature, natural sciences, and other fields of creative inquiry. On the edge of the Great Basin in central …

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Book Review: Lost Antarctica by James McClintock

As James McClintock points out in his enlightening book, Antarctica is often referred to as “the poster child” for global warming, a bellwether of climate change, the place where we see the most drastic results of a warming planet. McClintock’s Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land offers a firsthand view of the challenges facing …

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Pity the predators. A review of Beasts by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

What happens when a predator becomes prey? Today, the animals we have long viewed as predators – lions and tigers, bears and sharks – are in some cases on the verge of extinction. And, thanks to science, we now know that these predators are not nearly so violent or dangerous as we were once told (or continue to tell ourselves). Nevertheless, we …

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Fill ‘er up: A review of Living Oil by Stephanie LeMenager

Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century by Stephanie LeMenager  is an academic book and priced accordingly. In other words, this is not the sort of book you’d find in an airport bookstore. Perhaps it should be. This book provides historical and cultural insights into our complex relationship with oil — from the “peak discovery” period of the …

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Opportunity for writers: The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature

Ashland Creek Press has just announced its new book award, The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature. The 2014 prize will be judged by New York Times bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler, whose most recent book is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. (Check out Shel Graves’ review of the book here.) The contest is open to unpublished, full-length prose …

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Book Review: Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat Is Killing Us and Our Planet by Richard Oppenlander

Richard Oppenlander’s Comfortably Unaware is a book everyone on the planet should read. Unfortunately, the book’s biggest drawback is that it may not feel accessible to those who need to read it most. In Comfortably Unaware, Oppenlander makes the case for why the planet needs us humans to adopt a plant-based diet in order to …

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Book Review: Taking Back Eden: Eight Environmental Cases that Changed the World by Oliver Houck

Oliver A. Houck’s Taking Back Eden is one of those books that can offer great hope during tough environmental times. Published by Island Press in 2011, this book’s relevance is only going to grow as we face more environmental obstacles and challenges. Taking Back Eden, which presents environmental lawsuits brought in eight countries, offers an inspiring look …

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Book Review: Moby-Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville

It is difficult to separate Moby-Dick, the book, from Moby-Dick, the whale. Both are epic in scale, and both have been met with wildly different perceptions and interpretations. You only need to browse Amazon reviews to get a taste. I’ve now read this book twice, and I can’t say that the second time around was any …

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