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5 Questions for William E. Tydeman

September 30, 2014, by H. Emerson Blake

Bill Tydeman is the author of Conversations with Barry Lopez: Walking the Path of Imagination, recently published by the University of Oklahoma Press. In three long dialogues, each captured in this book, Lopez and Tydeman discuss nature, Lopez’s work, activism, social responsibility, the life of the mind, and all things literary. Lopez’s writing has appeared in Orion since 1984 and includes, most recently, “Landscapes of the Shamans,” published in the July/August 2013 issue.

You’ve known Barry Lopez and his work for a long time. Did you find yourself thinking differently about Lopez or his work as a result of working on this book?

I did not realize how the quest for social justice has shaped his life and thought. For nearly fifty years, this is a constant in his work. Remarkable.

What do you think Conversations with Barry Lopez adds to what we know about Lopez and his ideas?

I hope the book succeeds in eliminating any fixed categories like “nature writer” to explain his work. The central themes of intimacy, ethics, and identity provide a more complex, nuanced platform for appreciating and understanding Lopez’s work.

Barry Lopez is deeply committed to the role of the artist in society. How would you characterize his stance toward the arts and why he sees them as being so critically important?

I think Lopez has long understood that complex and subtle thinking takes place in the search for patterns we call art. Art, and emotion it evokes, carries with it the possibility of the transformation of consciousness.

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filed under: Authors on Books, Five Questions

A Different Kind of Light

September 24, 2014, by Rick Bass

We’re happy to share one more dispatch from the People’s Climate March, which was attended by so many on Sunday and seems to have lifted the movement to halt climate change to new heights. Orion friend and contributor Rick Bass, who made the trip to New York all the way from his home in Montana, sent this letter. Pictured above: Brooke Williams, Rick, a New York City police officer, and one fuzzy representative from up north.

I’m going to write a dangerous sentence here.

The police were wonderful. They gazed with awe. They had seen some things, but not this.

I have had unpleasant encounters with the law: have had my nose bloodied in Mississippi. Call me cynical, but I believe that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. An Orion staff member at the march, Madeline Cantwell, commented on how much she was enjoying watching people’s faces, and how different they looked—how expectant, how open—how unlike the way people usually look when they’re walking down a street, as they were doing this one day, roughly 400,000 of them—of us.

And she was right, it was very cool. It was as if a different kind of light was landing on our faces: the way you sometimes hold your face up to even the mildest of sun after a long winter. And it was a very sweet thing to see, to watch.

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filed under: Letters from the Field

When the Unimaginable Becomes Inevitable

September 23, 2014, by Kathleen Dean Moore

The main event of the People’s Climate March took place on Sunday in New York City, but demonstrations were held around the world. Orion contributor Kathleen Dean Moore sent us this note from a gathering in Eugene, Oregon. Photograph courtesy of Mark Watchman.

This is a bad day for pipelines and export terminals and tankers and coal trains.

This is a bad day for the Koch brothers, and Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil, and anyone else who would trade the life-supporting systems of the Earth for obscene profits.

This is a bad day for universities, holding on to their last investments in fossil fuels, insisting on their right to profit from death and extinction—even as their own scientists warn them, warn them that fossil fuels will carry us, smoking and stinking, to the end of life as we know it on this planet.

This is the last day for despair. It is the last day to say it’s too late, that there is nothing anyone can do. It is a day to awaken to the fact that we are not helpless at all, that we have the knowledge and the courage and the joyous communities it will take to make the great turning away from death and toward a reinvented life.

This is the last day for lies and excuses and delay. It is the last term in office for elected officials who will not or cannot protect the future. It is the last day that anyone can be silent about climate change.

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filed under: Letters from the Field

River Walkers

September 22, 2014, by Terry Tempest Williams

Nearly half a million people filled New York City’s streets yesterday as part of the People’s Climate March, an event some are calling America’s largest political protest in at least a decade. Orion contributing editor Terry Tempest Williams, who was in attendance along with climate activist Tim DeChristopher and fellow Orion contributor Rick Bass (pictured above), sent us this letter from the middle of it all.

They just kept coming in waves, in torrents, a river of people convening on the streets of New York City in the march for climate justice. They just kept coming, hundreds of thousands of individuals, indigenous, black, white, brown, yellow, and red, a rainbow of colors winding through the canyons of Manhattan.

This movement of climate justice is no longer segregated, is no longer privileged, is no longer young or old, or the radical fringe moving toward the center. Instead, this movement resides in the core of a collective concern: Earth has a fever. There is no Planet B. What we witnessed on Sunday, September 21, was 400,000 individuals standing in the center of this crisis with love.

At one o’clock, the River of the People’s March became quiet, silent in a haunting moment of stillness. And then, a rolling cry of care rose from the street with undulating momentum like an animated heat wave blown by the wind that electrified the crowd like thunder and lightening followed by a rain of voices.

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filed under: Letters from the Field

Wilderness at 50: Our Wild and Civil Rights

September 15, 2014, by Rue Mapp

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act. To celebrate, Orion is publishing special articles in print and online, including a multi-part series of personal perspectives on wilderness, the third of which is below. Orion is a sponsor of the National Wilderness Conference, to be held from October 15 – 19 in New Mexico; learn more about the conference here.

Conservationist and civil-rights activist Frank Peterman was in his twenties during the 1960s. He recalls a great and daily sense of urgency about civil-rights issues—an urgency that did not carry over to environmental concerns. For him, the March on Washington alongside the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis was the era’s galvanizing event, one that called for equitable access to jobs and quality of life for blacks in America and an end to institutionally protected physical brutality.

“As a part of the NAACP effort to advance the Civil Rights Act, we did not discuss the Wilderness Act,” Peterman says, “and we were not invited to participate in their caucus.” Even though the momentum of each act was politically symbiotic, he says that those driving the wilderness-protection agenda might have deliberately avoided including African Americans. From his perspective, “the Wilderness Act was about protecting the wild, not people.”

It appears that the Wilderness and Civil Rights Acts did not share a public platform during the 1960s, and some believe an opportunity was missed that could have altered the course of both movements. Dr. Carolyn Finney, assistant professor at the University of California, was a young child during the ‘60s, and while she remembers few events of the era, like most African-American children of her generation she grew up with the movement’s tales and heroes evergreen on the family tongue. “Civil rights? Yes,” she says, “I always knew what that was about!”

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filed under: Wilderness at 50

Charles Bowden, 1945 - 2014

September 05, 2014, by Alan Weisman

In the last week Orion has lost two good friends, Ann Zwinger and Charles Bowden. Both of them influenced our thinking about nature and environment—albeit in very different ways.

Writing is a precarious way to make a living at best, and sometimes it gets just plain dumb. Among the dumbest things I ever heard was what a New York agent once said about author Charles Bowden, who died on August 30 from a yet-unidentified, sudden illness.

At the time of the aforementioned stupidity, I had known Bowden about six months. We’d met over the phone when mine rang in Prescott, Arizona, one morning soon after publication of my 1986 book La Frontera. “Weisman?” growled a basso profundo. “Chuck Bowden here. You know you just wrote the best goddam book about the border ever.” Steamrolling over my attempted thanks, for the next half hour he parsed my book in a stream of vocabulary so rich I felt incoherent by comparison.

At a symposium this summer in Alaska, Luis Alberto Urrea told me practically the identical story. His own call from Bowden awoke him at dawn; Chuck had stayed up all night reading Urrea’s 1993 book Across the Wire. But by then I’d heard it often. A dumbstruck young reporter named Luke Turf once described staggering from bed to see who was pounding on his door at 7:00 a.m. An outsized, rangy, sandy-haired guy in denim, his face craggy as a cliff, was waving Turf’s Tucson Citizen story about brutalized jailed illegal immigrants, yelling that he’d gotten it right. Turf, who’d just moved to town, had no idea how Bowden had found him.

The list goes on. And each of us felt not merely complimented, but anointed: One of the best around had just affirmed our worthiness as writers by acknowledging us as his colleagues. Which was why what Chuck told me that day in 1987 was so completely ridiculous.

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filed under: Orion Noteworthy

Ann Haymond Zwinger, 1925 - 2014

September 04, 2014, by Gary Paul Nabhan

Ann Zwinger, whose writing appeared frequently in Orion, died this past weekend. Ann served on Orion’s board of directors from 1996 to 2003, and was awarded Orion’s John Hay Award in 1996.

I am sorry, but I cannot comment on Ann Haymond Zwinger unless I tell you how I met her and how she sent many of us on altogether new trajectories.

Imagine yourself a scruffy, somewhat lazy and spacy seventeen year old trying to make sense of the world at a time when the country is immersed in regrettable wars, when race riots are erupting on the streets, and when drugs and demons are plaguing your closest friends. That moment is now, but it also describes what was happening in the spring of 1970. I had dropped out of school to work for free at the Washington, DC, headquarters of the first Earth Day, but when I left the Capitol that spring, I felt sure the world was soon to end, due to war, contamination, and overpopulation. All I wanted to do was experience nature before its glory was further tarnished, so I joined seven friends who were driving to the newly established Canyonlands National Park, in Utah.

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filed under: Orion Noteworthy

Concrete Progress: Golden Lawns, Golden State

September 02, 2014, by Peter Brewitt

Concrete Progress is an ongoing series of columns by Peter Brewitt devoted to exploring America’s infrastructure. It is part of Orion’s Reimagining Infrastructure project. Top photograph courtesy of Kevin Cortopassi.

Michael Korte and Laura Whitney, of Glendora, California, became locally notorious environmentalists without even trying this July. California’s been bone-dry all year—no snow in the winter, no rain in the spring—and the couple decided to respect the drought and cut back to watering their lawn just twice a week. But the brownness of that lawn offended a neighbor, so the city of Glendora, thirty miles east of LA, sent them a letter reminding them that appearances are important and that they might be subject to fines of up to $500.

Now, California is pretty arid most of the time—that’s why people move here—but this has been absurd. California’s water system depends on the Sierra Nevada, a 400-mile-long, 8,000-foot-high wall that catches Pacific storms in the form of winter snow and provides the state with something to drink when that snow melts. But in 2014, the storms didn’t come. The Sierra’s final snowpack was 18 percent of the usual, and the coastal cities did no better: northern California’s rivers failed to reach the ocean for most of the winter, while southern California got summer-style fires in winter. Last year was the driest year in recorded history in many parts of the state; I expect this year to beat it.

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filed under: Concrete Progress

Orion Welcomes Submissions, September 1 - 15

August 28, 2014, by Orion staff

Have writing that fits the pages of Orion? We’d be honored to take a look.

Beginning September 1, the magazine welcomes submissions of essays, short stories, and nonfiction that address the nexus of ecology and the human experience. The submission window opens on the first day of September, and closes at 5 p.m Eastern on September 15.

Click here to learn how to submit. And before shipping that dazzling piece of prose, be sure to take a look at our writer’s guidelines.

We look forward to reading!

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filed under: Orion Noteworthy

Wilderness at 50: Love in the Great Gulf

August 26, 2014, by Rebecca Oreskes

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act. To celebrate, Orion will publish special articles in print and online, including a multi-part series of personal perspectives on wilderness, the second of which is below. Orion is a sponsor of the National Wilderness Conference, to be held from October 15 – 19 in New Mexico; learn more about the conference here.

I took a walk in New Hampshire’s Great Gulf wilderness this spring. At just over 5,000 acres, it’s small by some standards, a glacial cirque surrounded by the Presidential Range. Unlike many wildernesses in the eastern United States, it was designated back in 1964, under the original Wilderness Act. There’s a heavily used trail through the middle of it, along the banks of the West Branch of the Peabody River, which roars with spring rain. The trail rises slowly at first, and then seems to go straight up the Great Gulf Headwall to the flank of Mt. Washington. But I stayed low, watching the emerging flowers. The hobblebush was in bloom; the painted and red trilliums had come up. The yellow violets and the Canada mayflowers were all there after a long winter. The softwoods dripped from days of rain, the moss practically oozed. I wondered how many people had relished this beauty in the last fifty years.

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filed under: Wilderness at 50

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