Thoreau and Abbey, that is. What did you expect?
I just deleted the poll question "Eco-writing Legend?" where the lead went back and forth until Henry ended up with one more vote than Ed, with none for Rachel, Aldo, or John. No offense to those last three, but I'm proud of all you voters and the result perfectly reflects my own opinion which probably means we're all in the right place. If only we got choices like that when we actually elect politicians. I actually considered different wordings of that question--favorite, most important or effective--which might have led to different voting. Any thoughts on that?
In any case, Thoreau and Abbey (in that order) are the two eco-writers I find the most appealing writing models. There are other writers whose every book I'll read--David Carroll, David Quammen--and many more--John Hay, Robert Finch, Doug Peacock, Rick Bass, Bernd Heinrich--whose work often interests me. But Thoreau and Abbey are the only cases where I have books written about them and not just by them. And the reason, I think, is that Thoreau and Abbey don't really belong in the Nature section of the bookstore.
We know that Abbey disliked the "nature writer" label, and despite being considered the person who started American nature writing by many and spending his later years predominantly making notes about events in nature I don't think Thoreau would have appreciated being limited that way either. These are two men for whom nature and their respect for it leads their writing more to social criticism than objective natural history. And in both cases, we thus get writing filled with humor and passion and opinion, writing unafraid of questioning or offending instead of just reporting. I like that.
People joining the Nature Blog Network are currently asked to place their blog in one of the following categories: Birds, Ecosystem, Flora, Fungi, Hiking/Outdoors, Inverterbrates, Mammals, Mollusks, or Reptiles/Amphibians. Sort of a strange collection of the specific and the general which has led almost half of us to be in the Ecosystem category. (You also get to write a little blurb. Mine, written to play up the nature aspects of the blog: "Natural history near Lake Superior, books (nature writing & more), deep ecology, animal ethics, and the end of industrialism.")
I happen to think Ecosystem is a pretty good label for this blog, not in the scientific sense, but in the sense of seeing people as one part of something bigger, looking at the big picture and how one thing affects others, etc. But for most people it has been more of a default category because the other choices are all more specific, so the group is now trying to come up with some new choices to thin out the Ecosystem.
There have been some good ideas which appeal to various people such as location, writing, photography, and what the intention or motivation is, such as creative vs. scientific. The problem is that the platform the site operates on allows only one of these labels so people would have to choose between location and topic for example, when they might want to be identified by both. Natural History seems to have emerged as a popular and appropriate alternative but I'm not sure that will reduce the large number much. My own concern as a generalist is with applying too narrow a label. No list of new categories has been offered yet but I've decided that if I'm kicked out of the Ecosystem, I'll try to go with Nature Writing--if it's big enough to contain Henry and Ed, there ought to be room for me in there as well.
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