My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Thursday, June 8, 2023

June 8, 2023: Environmental Activisms: 21st Century Voices

[This summer, my older son is extending his prior efforts to help combat climate change by interning with the amazing Climate Just Cities project. That project is part of the long legacy of American environmental activism, so this week I’ll highlight a handful of such activisms. Leading up to a special weekend post on Climate Just Cities!]

On three recent books that carry the legacy of environmental writing into the 21st century.

1)      Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet (2016): Edited by Julie Dunlap and Susan A. Cohen, this wonderful collection gathers together a wide variety of writers (twenty-two in total, as well as an introduction by the great Bill McKibben) and genres to consider what environmental writing and activism are and can be in this bleak historical moment. I excerpted a few pieces from it for my Spring 2017 adult learning class on contemporary issues and they were very well-received, but I would really argue that the book works best when read as a whole, putting these individual voices in conversation and community to exemplify the subtitle’s generational cohort as fully as possible.

2)      Breaking into the Backcountry (2010): I’ve highlighted my FSU colleague Steve Edwards in a number of posts over the years, and in terms of his evolving writing career have been particularly inspired by pieces on both parenting and reading. But Steve’s first book, the magisterial Breaking into the Backcountry, is likewise great and indeed represents a worthy heir to works like Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. As I said about Abbey’s 1968 book in that hyperlinked post, a 2010 project on the importance and inspiration of spending nearly a year in solitude in nature might seem a bit too divorced from the social and communal issues facing us collectively these days. But like Desert Solitaire and Walden and so many other great works, Steve’s thoughtful and moving book proves that the opposite is true: that we need such books and writing now more than ever.

3)      Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape (2016): We also need books that can bridge those only superficial gaps between (for example) nature and society, individual experience and collective history, and I know of few works (recent or otherwise) that do so more potently than Lauret Savoy’s Trace. Savoy, a geologist and Professor of Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College, links those scientific and scholarly pursuits to both her own and America’s multi-racial heritage and identity, and the result is a book that truly exemplifies interdisciplinary engagements with some of our most complex and shared collective spaces and themes. Trace seems to me to be a key reflection of the future of environmental writing (and a key part of the future of American Studies to boot), and an illustration, like all three of these books, that that future is in very good hands.

Last environmental activism tomorrow,


PS. What do you think? American environmental voices or efforts you’d highlight?

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