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Search For A Common Language

Search For A Common Language: Environmental Writing And Education

Melody Graulich
Paul Crumbley
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 210
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  • Book Info
    Search For A Common Language
    Book Description:

    A stellar group of writers, scientists, and educators illuminate the intersections between environmental science, creative writing, and education, considering ways to strengthen communication between differing fields with common interests. The contributing authors include Ken Brewer, Dan Flores, Hartmut Grassl, Carolyn Tanner Irish, Ted Kerasote, William Kittredge, Ellen Meloy, Louis Owens, Jennifer Price, Robert Michael Pyle, Kent C. Ryden, Annick Smith, Craig B. Stanford, Susan J. Tweit, and Keith Wilson.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-514-4
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)
    Paul Crumbley and Melody Graulich

    In A Sand County Almanac, first published in 1949, Aldo Leopold defined the importance of an “ecological” education. “One of the requisites for an ecological comprehension of land,” he wrote, “is an understanding of ecology.” This understanding, he added, “does not necessarily originate in courses bearing ecological labels; it is quite as likely to be labeled geography, botany, agronomy, history, or economics.”¹ His conclusion that “this is as it should be” certainly follows from his exhortation earlier in the book that we must think at “right angles” from accepted knowledge, a process that “calls for a reversal of specialization; instead...

  2. Preliminary Reflections on Matters Environmental
    (pp. 18-22)
    Carolyn Tanner Irish

    I am delighted to be here and honored to be asked, once again, to participate in a Tanner Symposium. I do so not only as the daughter of one of its principal benefactors but also because of my own deep concern for and commitment to matters environmental. That is my own catchall phrase: matters environmental. It includes just about everything, doesn’t it?

    I wondered how I might introduce our theme, given that it has no clear boundaries. I begin, as so often, with the title: “The Search for a Common Language: Environmental Writing and Education.” Titles are important because they...

  3. Who Lost the Limberlost? Education and Language in a Mis-Placed Age
    (pp. 25-33)
    Robert Michael Pyle

    Once upon a time, we knew where we lived, and it was some place. Some where. Somewhere was someplace. Each and every where was a place. And each of us had a nice legible label safety-pinned to our jacket just like Paddington Bear. “Hello!” it said. “I’m Bobby Pyle. I live at 5040 Tejon Street, Denver, Colorado, east of the Front Range, where the paved road meets the dusty road, by the marshes of Clear Creek just above the Platte River. Please see me home safely.” No one blessed with a home was ever lost.

    Gene Stratton Porter’s home lay...

  4. The Silliest Debate
    (pp. 34-34)
    Ken Brewer
  5. Cousins: What the Great Apes Tell Us about Human Origins
    (pp. 35-45)
    Craig B. Stanford

    On a sun-dappled East African morning four million years ago, several dozen small apelike hominids are foraging for plant foods in scattered forest along a river course when they come upon a large group of monkeys in an isolated tree. Some of the male hominids climb the tree, and although their upright posture and adaptation to ground living make them more at home there, through cooperative action some pursue the monkeys in the branches while others wait below. The monkeys scatter and try to flee, but several are caught in the tree crown while others fall to the ground; the...

  6. Why Dogs Stopped Flying
    (pp. 46-46)
    Ken Brewer
  7. How Science and the Public Can Lead to Better Decision Making in Earth System Management
    (pp. 47-58)
    Hartmut Grassl

    My title is very much in line with my belief that the public must be educated and engaged in international debates surrounding global environmental issues, particularly climate change. I see a major difference emerging that separates both sides of the Atlantic when dealing with global change: Europeans have assumed nominal leadership, while the United States has remained inactive. Europe has not actively sought this leadership role, but rather it has been imposed upon her by virtue of the United States’ refusal to assume the responsibility that logically falls to it. This represents a significant transfer of leadership.

    A logical procedure,...

  8. Martha (1 September 1914)
    (pp. 59-59)
    Ken Brewer
  9. What Is the L.A. River?
    (pp. 60-67)
    Jennifer Price

    What is the L.A. River? For decades, that was Angelenos’ most common question about it. But during the last few years, as the movement to restore the river has accelerated faster than winter rains down the canyons, the river has reemerged on the city’s mental map. At least, even if many people can’t tell you where L.A.’s major river is, they know it exists. At most, the restoration efforts show that how visible you make nature in a city, as well as how well or poorly you manage nature, entails huge consequences for the quality and equality of urban life....

  10. The River Blind
    (pp. 68-68)
    Ken Brewer
  11. The Unexpected Environmentalist: Building a Centrist Coalition
    (pp. 69-82)
    Ted Kerasote

    Since its beginnings in the late 1800s, the movement to preserve nature has been divided into two camps: the strict protectionists and the more liberal utilitarians. As a way of illuminating that division and proposing a way to heal the rift between the two camps, I would like to tell a story about two of the movement’s leading figures, whose differing beliefs continue to shape our views about our place in the natural world.

    In August 1897, John Muir, fresh from a trip in southeastern Alaska, stepped off his steamer at the dock in Seattle and headed for his hotel,...

  12. Dermatophagoides
    (pp. 83-83)
    Ken Brewer
  13. At Cloudy Pass: The Need of Being Versed in Human Things
    (pp. 84-87)
    Louis Owens

    In my office at the University of California at Davis, I have a small, much-battered cedar sign, brown with faded white paint routed into the wood. It reads, Cloudy Pass—Foot Travel Only. I didn’t steal the sign. In the late summer of 1976, if my fading memory is correct, one of my jobs as a ranger in the Glacier Peak Wilderness was to remove old signs, replacing some with newer signs and leaving some unreplaced. Our goal was to reduce the size of the human footprint in the wilderness, a goal I bought into enthusiastically. I had loved the...

  14. Trying Not to Lie
    (pp. 88-88)
    Ken Brewer
  15. Tuttle Road: Landscape as Environmental Text
    (pp. 89-101)
    Kent C. Ryden

    When I first started thinking about the topic of this year’s Tanner Symposium, “The Search for a Common Language: Environmental Writing and Education,” it occurred to me again, as it often has in the past, just how language bound, how linguistically mediated, my relationships with the environments around me tend to be. One of the great things about my line of work is that people pay you to sit around and read books, getting smarter and smarter (ideally) about the world around you. So there I sit between four walls, cut off from external distractions, honing my head to a...

  16. The Tarantula Hawk
    (pp. 102-102)
    Ken Brewer
  17. Begin with a River
    (pp. 103-113)
    Annick Smith

    Begin with a river, and you are guaranteed a story will follow. Perhaps river talk is our common language as riversheds are our common homes. John Wesley Powell saw correctly that the life of the West is organized around watersheds. Scarce water is the life-giving source in arid lands, and where water is plentiful, river valleys have always been our main avenues of settlement and connection, which is one way of saying stories. Connection. Settlement. Source. Obstacle. Flux: words that describe or characterize rivers also describe the processes of life and so describe the way narrative works—art imitating life....

  18. How to Train a Horse to Burn
    (pp. 114-114)
    Ken Brewer
  19. The Natural West
    (pp. 115-127)
    Dan Flores

    On an invigorating autumn morning in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, with the first big snow of the season draping the sagebrush and the sun angle yet low enough that, as frost settles out of the intense blue, the heavens seem to be raining glitter, I strap on skis, whistle for my wolf hybrid to join me, and set out across the foothills of the Sapphire Mountains to look for elk. It is one of those incredible daybreaks that in late-twentieth-century human description (or so the thought hits me) would come across, frankly, as so beautiful that it’s almost corny. It’s sunrise....

  20. Separation Anxiety: The Perilous Alienation of Humans from the Wild
    (pp. 129-134)
    Ellen Meloy

    It has been said that human joy is inseparable from wild places and wild things. A pessimist might add that, with our radically diminishing experience of the natural world, we shall soon become a joyless species. About this descent into lives of blissless artifice, conservation biologists and artists may be among the most fretful and vocal. Their anxieties about loss and separation—for one group, the loss of biodiversity and the declining health of life support systems, for the other, the alienation from mystery and experience—appear to be finding a common voice, one that is often shrieky with desperation...

  21. Largest Living Organism on Earth
    (pp. 135-135)
    Ken Brewer
  22. Going South
    (pp. 136-146)
    William Kittredge

    I can’t believe that I’m billed as a nature writer, even included in nature-writing anthologies. If I said to anybody in Missoula, “You know, I’m a nature writer,” they’d look at me flabbergasted. I don’t want people to ask me questions about activism because I’m not much of an activist. I tend to be pretty scattered. The title of this piece is supposed to be “Storytelling and Belief,” and I’ll probably hit on it somewhere. Think of this more as a meander than an essay. You can always tell how hard your writing is to classify when you publish a...

  23. “Now the Sun Has Come to Earth”
    (pp. 147-148)
    Ken Brewer
  24. The Pleiades
    (pp. 149-162)
    Susan J. Tweit

    The Pleiades is a small, tight cluster of bright stars located in the constellation Taurus, which lies on the ecliptic between Gemini and Aries. High in the sky at night from October through March, this group is sometimes described as a swarm of twinkling flies on the celestial bull’s shoulder, and sometimes as a miniature dipper, since its stars look like a squashed ladle. Its most common moniker, however, is the Seven Sisters.

    In Greek Myth, the Pleiades were the seven beautiful daughters of Atlas and Pleione. These virgin consorts of Artemis appealed to the gods for help when the...

  25. Scarlet Penstemon
    (pp. 163-163)
    Ken Brewer
  26. Poetry Reading at the Tanner Conference
    (pp. 164-191)
    Keith Wilson
  27. Common Cause in Common Voice
    (pp. 192-196)
    Robert Michael Pyle

    I would like to begin by expressing appreciation to the funders and organizers of the Tanner Symposium for bringing us all here together to make common cause in common voice.

    For there are consequences when our language, and experience, are neither common nor consistent. And there are forces against the free exchange of accurate information and artistic impression because these lead to truth, which can foil the intentions of powerful interests. Hartmut Grassl showed clearly and powerfully how unorganized and underfunded scientists, an indifferent public, a body politic preoccupied with crises of their own making, and lobbyists who actively fund...