Environmental reading

Set aside some time this winter to read a classic environmental piece of literature.

With below freezing temperatures and long nights, winter is a perfect time to catch up on some reading. Many of us enjoy reading, but sometimes finding the right book can be a challenge.  Michigan State University Extension encourages reading books with an environmental theme. There are many classics available and many newer books to peak your interest.

Many of the classics written years ago are still relevant today. Authors such as John Burroughs, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir and Henry David Thoreau wrote classics that were popular and perhaps controversial during their time. Their writings were mostly essays and articles ranging on topics from religion, social issues and nature. Some of the more notable publications from these authors include “Civil Disobedience,” “Walden,” “Nature,” “Wake-Robin” and “Our National Parks.”  Many of these author’s works can be found within their own collection of writings within one publication. Their writings serve as a reminder to what was a warning at the time and a reflection of how well we have heeded their words.

Later years saw some influential writers appear. The most notable was Aldo Leopold. Leopold’s book, “A Sand County Almanac” is an environmental literary classic and changed the way land is viewed.  It was published after Leopold’s death in 1948. It is mostly written as monthly reflections from his refurbished farm he repossessed from a bootlegger along the Wisconsin River. Leopold coined the term “land ethic” to which he implied that land should be nurtured and cared for rather than viewed as a commodity. Within “A Sand County Almanac” is “With Essays on Conservation from Round River” written about his experience and observations as a young forest service employee in the southwestern region of the United States. Leopold’s fame grew after his death and he is considered the grandfather of the modern environmental movement.

Sigurd Olson drew national acclaim for his book “The Singing Wilderness” but had been writing articles for many years. This first book is a collection of his most popular writings about the outdoors. His second book, “Listening Point” was equally popular focusing on the unique natural qualities of the canoe country of northern Minnesota. He went on to write several other books and was instrumental in establishing the Boundary Water Canoe Area. In addition, he was a Presidential advisor assisting with the creation of the Wilderness Act.

“Silent Spring” written by Rachel Carson, exposed the dangers of DDT as a pesticide and its effects on the environment through food chains. “Silent Spring” was extremely popular and spurred a huge movement of public awareness toward nature’s vulnerability to human actions.  Along with this came a significant change in pesticide use and regulation in the 1960’s. Rachel Carson wrote 5 books including “A Sense of Wonder” which encourages parents to nurture a child’s inborn sense of wonder about the natural world. 

These are just a few of the more prominent environmental authors that have written works that helped shape our current environmental awareness and sensitivity. Numerous other authors have written books that are equally interesting and important such Richard Louv’s book “No child Left in the Woods.” However, these early pioneers in environmental writing have paved a course for others that have created awareness, knowledge and action. Visit your local library or make a purchase and read a book this winter!

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