Book Review: The Future of Nature

I have been reading two books at once, which is something one shouldn't do, as thoughts about each blend together. One is a dreadful screed by Andrew Keen called "The Cult of the Amateur," decrying the fact that bloggers are "amateurs without formal training or expertise, offering opinion as fact and innuendo as information", without separating the 13 year old geek "flashing his badge of amateurism" from the likes of Alternet, Worldchanging or I would hope, this site.

Then I have been reading "The Future of Nature," a collection of essays from Orion Magazine, selected by Barry Lopez and released last week by Milkweed Editions. I thought that perhaps Andrew Keen has a point- there is something truly special about reading articles written well by people who really know their stuff, and that picking the best written over a couple of years is going to yield a better crop than trying to do it every day. That perhaps someone like, for example, Sandra Steingraber, with a PHD in biology and a master's degree in creative writing is going to do a better job of explaining the problems with vinyl than a greenish architect tried here and here, in her stunning and scary essay The Pirate of Illiopolis. Other essays, like Peter Sauer's "Reinhabiting Environmentalism" make me realize that I am not an environmentalist but a poseur- that I, like the majority of today's electorate have forgotten or never heard what the movement once stood for, in the days of Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson.

Or Derrick Jensen, who writes in Beyond Hope- "I have no patience for those who use our desperate situation as an excuse for inaction. I've learned that if you deprive most of these people of that particular excuse they just find another, then another, then another. ....When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear. And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power."

Or Erik Reese on "Moving Mountains" - you can read the latest news in Alternet or Treehugger but you don't get "That the civil rights movement happened so recently in our country's history can seem dumbfounding, but not to the people who still live in the shadow of oppression. Those who live in the path of the coal industry—beneath sheared-off mountains, amid unnatural, treeless landscapes, drinking poisoned water and breathing dirty air—are fighting their own civil rights battle. And, as in the past, justice may be slow coming to the mountains of Appalachia. But justice delayed could mean the ruin of a place that has sacrificed much for this nation, and has received next to nothing in return."

Or Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, or so many other writers, scientists and true environmentalists who have walked the walk. Barry Lopez has collected the best writing on environmental issues from one of the best magazines on the subject. Go to the source and read the real thing; much of the content is online in their archives but ::The Future of Nature should have pride of place on your bookshelves.

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