Salon’s Excerpt This Sunday Morn

categories: Cocktail Hour

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Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey have never been more relevant in the drought-stricken West

In this overheated, overcrowded world, the books of these “reluctant environmentalists” can be our guides 

Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey have never been more relevant in the drought-stricken WestWallace Stegner, Edward Abbey (Credit: Chuck Painter/Stanford News Service; Susan Lapides)

It was 2012, a summer of fires and fracking. The hottest summer on record, they said, with Midwest cornfields burnt crisp and the whole West aflame, a summer when the last thing a card-carrying environmentalist would want to be caught dead doing was going on a nine-thousand-mile road trip through those parched lands.

 I was going anyway. For almost a decade I had dreamed of getting back out West, where I had lived during my early and mid-thirties, and as it happened the summer I picked was the one when the region caught fire. Just like today drought was the word on everyone’s dry lips, and there was another phrase too—“the new normal”—that scientists applied to what was happening, the implication being that this sort of weather would be sticking around for a while. Though I hadn’t planned it that way, I would be driving out of the frying pan of my new home in North Carolina and into the fire of the American West. In Carolina, I had been studying the way hurricanes wracked the coast, but now I would be studying something different. Though my hurricane-magnet hometown’s problem was too much water, not too little, I had the sense these things were connected.

I loved the West when I lived there, finding it beautiful and inspiring in the way so many others have before me, and at the time I thought I might live there for the rest of my life. But circumstances, and jobs, led me elsewhere. It nagged me that the years were passing and I was spending them on the wrong side of the Mississippi. But I followed the region from afar, the way you might your hometown football team, and the news I heard was not good. A unique land had become less so, due to an influx of people that surpassed even the Sunbelt’s. The cries of “Drill, Baby, Drill!” might be loudest in the Dakotas, but they echoed throughout the West. The country’s great release valve suddenly seemed a place one might long to be released from. And now the fires, biblical fires, wild and unchecked, were swallowing up acreage comparable to whole eastern states.

It was a summer much like this summer promises to be, with historically low snowpacks, in the Sierras this time, not the Rockies, and early fires.  READ THE REST AT SALON.COM 

  1. George de Gramont writes:

    This is great ! You are doing a great job of marketing the book . Did you know that Gabriel loves to read about animals and he knows a book about “peregrine falcons by heart .