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American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreauby Bill McKibben
Synopses & Reviews
As America and the world grapple with the consequences of global environmental change, writer and activist Bill McKibben offers this unprecedented, provocative, and timely anthology, gathering the best and most significant American environmental writing from the last two centuries.
Classics of the environmental imagination — the essays of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and John Burroughs; Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac; Rachel Carson's Silent Spring — are set against the inspiring story of an emerging activist movement, as revealed by newly uncovered reports of pioneering campaigns for conservation, passages from landmark legal opinions and legislation, and searing protest speeches. Here are some of America's greatest and most impassioned writers, taking a turn toward nature and recognizing the fragility of our situation on earth and the urgency of the search for a sustainable way of life. Thought-provoking essays on overpopulation, consumerism, energy policy, and the nature of "nature" join ecologists' memoirs and intimate sketches of the habitats of endangered species. The anthology includes a detailed chronology of the environmental movement and American environmental history, as well as an 80-page color portfolio of illustrations.
"In his introduction to this superb anthology, McKibben (The End of Nature) proposes that "environmental writing is America's most distinctive contribution to the world's literature." The collected pieces amply prove the point. Arranged chronologically, McKibbin's selection of more than 100 writers includes some of the great early conservationists, such as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir and John Burroughs, and many other eloquent nature writers, including Donald Cultross Peattie, Edwin Way Teale and Henry Beston. The early exponents of national parks and wilderness areas have their say, as do writers who have borne witness to environmental degradation — John Steinbeck and Caroline Henderson on the dust bowl, for example, and Berton Rouechand others who have reported on the effects of toxic pollution. Visionaries like Buckminster Fuller and Amory Lovins are represented, as are a wealth of contemporary activist/writers, among them Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan, Paul Hawken, and Calvin deWitt, cofounder of the Evangelical Environmental Network. McKibben's trenchant introductions to the pieces sum up each writer's thoughts and form a running commentary on the progress of the conservation movement. The book, being published on Earth Day, can be read as a survey of the literature of American environmentalism, but above all, it should be enjoyed for the sheer beauty of the writing. 80-page color illus, not seen by PW. (Apr. 22 [Earth Day])" Publisher's Weekly Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"McKibben brings solid credentials to the work as both a nature writer and an anthologist (of John Burroughs). Moreover, he is a reader, and even a glance at the table of contents of American Earth, a volume in the estimable Library of America, indicates he has labored hard in the vineyards of the nation's literature to make it....What truly sets the anthology apart is not the mix of the obscure and the familiar but McKibben's habit of enlisting voices whom we are not accustomed to thinking of as environmentalists or ecologists....Ours is an incomparable land indeed, and McKibben's collection is a welcome reminder." Washington Post Book World
"For anyone seeking to understand the historical and intellectual roots of today's environmental movement, American Earth is the best resource between two covers." The Boston Globe
"An important environmental writer himself, McKibben has selected works by expected seminal figures, beginning with Thoreau, always startling in his prescience and sure-footed clarity, and moving on to Muir, Leopold, and Carson. But he also includes George Perkins Marsh, whose Man and Nature (1864) was the "first major work of scientific environmentalism"; landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted; and song lyrics by Joni Mitchell. McKibben devotes most of the volume to writers of the last quarter-century, such as Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, and Michael Pollan, who have focused on increasingly urgent environmental dilemmas that affect every aspect of our daily lives....If you had to choose but one environmental book this season, make it American Earth." Booklist
"People often say that environmental activism is only now getting the attention it deserves. This indispensable anthology of environmental writings shows that the American drive to protect our environment spans more than a century and a half. From Henry David Thoreau to Teddy Roosevelt to Bill McKibben himself, this movement has been growing for as long as Americans have known the beauty of our great country. During my time at EPA, I tried to make decisions that embodied the passion for our environment expressed by these writers, and, thanks to American Earth, I know their passion will continue inspiring Americans to protect our country for generations to come." Carol Browner, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (1993-2001)
About the Author
Bill McKibben, editor, is the author of many books including The End of Nature (1989), the first account of global warming for a general audience, and most recently Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future (2007). Since 2006, he has organized the largest demonstrations against the causes of global warming in American history. He is scholar in residence at Middlebury College.
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