By Aaron Gilbreath
Be it sitting on a plane near a screaming baby, or brainstorming ways to organize your office cubicle, crowding touches most everyone’s life, because density is one of modernity’s defining issues. Even if you’ve never tried to articulate it, spatial requirements – of room, of silence, privacy and calm – form part of our definition of “the good life.” How far apart do you need to be from other people to find peace? How far apart do your living room walls need to be to feel comfortable? Even when we’re unaware of its influence, roominess is a condition, and the degree to which we have it determines livability. My book will argue that we need to treat overcrowding with the same gravity as other social and ecological issues, and take steps to manage it in a humane way that minimizes crowds’ dangers while capitalizing on their benefits. In the process, Crowded will test the counterintuitive principle that the smaller our home, the happier our life.
With the story driven by characters, scenes, action and dialogue, and rooted in solid reporting, Crowded qualifies as narrative nonfiction. The book is one urbanite’s vision of human history through the story of the crowd. The problem is: to write the proposal, I needed to do some preliminary reporting, and that required travel, and funding.
A brief essay on what it means to be human.
By Scott Russell Sanders
When I speak with audiences about our responsibility to bear in mind the needs of the generations that will come after us, a century and more in the future, I am often asked why we should care about people who do not even exist. What I realized, as I pondered this challenge from the audience, is that the impulse to care about the fate of unborn generations arises from my sense of taking part in the human lineage. Caring about the fate of unborn generations—strangers who exist, as of now, only in our imagination—is an essential part of what it means to be human.
The Second Cross-Post between Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments and the University of Arizona Institute of the Environment’s Proximities
Eric Magrane: Rafe, you write and speak about observation, most pointedly in your book Observation and Ecology, with Aníbal Pauchard. I’d like to discuss the way that observation interacts as a hinge between science—and particularly environmental science—as a way of seeing and understanding the world, and art as a way of seeing.
Rafe Sagarin: Absolutely. Observation is at the core of so many things we do, especially art and science. It’s almost so much at the core of science that it’s forgotten how important it is. The primacy that observation has to everything that we know—we’ve almost gotten too clever by half and think we could skip that deep observational step. Of course, all artists implicitly understand that they need to be really good observers of the world first, before they can start translating those observations to something they can appreciate. Sometimes in science we drill down way too far too fast before we understand observationally the whole context of what we’re looking at.
On the Dark Side of the Moon: A Journey Toward Recovery : by Mike Medberry
First: it’s hard to imagine Medberry lying on the hot black lava rock of Craters for 7 hours before a helicopter is able to airlift him to medical care, but that’s where the book starts us. It’s enough to make a person cringe, let alone any EMT or medical student who knows that for brain injury or trauma, a few minutes can be critical to a positive recovery.
It’s fascinating too that the stroke occurs in the very park Medberry will cheer for as President Bill Clinton in November of 2000 signs the proclamation that makes final the expansion increasing the protected land to 737,000 acres, “nearly 14 times its previous size.”
A rallying cry for our dying planet.
By Derrick Jensen
The dominant culture is murdering the planet, and there really isn’t a prayer of stopping this murder so long as so many people continue to value this culture over life on this planet, the life it is murdering. This valuing is almost universal in this culture. Even most mainstream environmentalists say explicitly that they’re attempting to save civilization, not the real world. Here’s an example of this valuing: what do most mainstream “solutions” to global warming have in common? They all take industrial civilization as a given, and the natural world as that which (never who) must conform to industrial civilization. That is literally insane, in terms of being out of touch with physical reality. And it will never work.
River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers, by Daniel McCool : Reviewed by Hal Crimmel
As readers learn about the work of these instigators, they too may be inspired to take action on behalf of rivers, but also, perhaps, more broadly, for the environment in general. McCool illustrates that citizen action leavened with a balanced approach to working with multiple stakeholder groups can result in a successful new water ethic: one that benefits people, the economy, and the environment. This ethic is exemplified in the idea of a “River Republic,” characterized by sustainable public use of waterways, from fast-flowing high country streams to the languid meanders of bayou country.
By Nicole Walker
Terrain.org recently asked a number of writers what the “apocalypse” means to them, how the idea of impending global disaster factors into their work, what weight the impending end-of-life-as-we-know-it adds to their daily lives. We asked for a comment on the situation, for reactions, suggestions, and artistic engagements. How should we respond to the fact that today we’re confronted with the very possible demise not just of our culture, but our world? Where can we go from here? How should we proceed? Are we hopeful—or are we just waiting for the other shoe to drop? What happens when it does?
As part of our “Thoughts on the Apocalypse” series, over the next few months writers’ responses to our inquiry will be posted here, on Terrain.org’s blog.
In this installment, Nicole Walker laps up oysters, packs away antibiotics, cans tomatoes, and writes, “I pray the apocalypse comes with electricity, but I presume that is not the name for apocalypse at all.”
By Mark Spitzer
Mark Spitzer’s epic fishing tale, “Bromancing the Gar,” appears in Issue 32 of Terrain.org. Here, Spitzer recounts a few of the books that have inspired his writing.
Spring 2013 Issue
Issue 32 features a guest editorial by Mark Sofield; interview with New Urbanism founder Andrés Duany; Massachusetts’ BioMap2 Conservation Road Map as the Unsprawl case study; a 15-sequence Utah poem by Christopher Cokinos with accompanying photographs by Stephen Trimble; Kate Protage’s dynamic “Urban Slice” painting series as the ARTerrain gallery; poetry by David Wagoner, Maureen Kingston, Susana H. Case, Al Maginnes, Jenny Morse, Julie Lein, and Lauren Eggert-Crowe; an online chapbook from Dezhou, China with images and audio by Jeevan Narney; Nathaniel Brodie on earth, craft, and rock on the Grand Canyon Trail Crew; Tamie Marie Fields on fishing in Uyak Bay, Alaska; Mark Spitzer on pursuing the seven-foot gar; Julene Bair on farming above the Ogalalla Aquifer; fiction by David Rose, Steve Edwards, and Katie Rogin; reviews; and more!
Marielle Smith and Ty Taylor share the science, inspiration, and challenges of Amazonian field research.
By Marielle Smith and Ty Taylor
Every year, the Amazon forest processes (through photosynthesis and respiration) twice the amount of carbon dioxide than is emitted by anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions. Climate change is expected to hit the Amazon with higher temperatures and more severe droughts. Given the scale of the Amazon basin and its importance for global carbon and water cycling, the responses of this enormous forest to climatic changes are predicted to in turn alter the global climate. The aim of our research group is to better understand how the forest interacts with the climate now, so we might better predict how the forest will react to climate change in the coming decades.
Our 2012 research campaign took place in the Tapajós National Forest near Santarém, Brazil, one of the driest parts of the Amazon… Read more
An essay-attempt at defining reality with a string of contradictions.
By Melissa Gutierrez
The human being is a walking label-maker. We with mouths and pens and keyboards love to define things, dominate them with our words and verbs, have a short quick sense of everything. We name our kids and pets, invent acronyms for all our ailments, and have a hundred ways of saying the color green. It’s all part of an ongoing individual and communal effort to find the meaning of life: if we can define enough things in life, then perhaps maybe we can give a name to life itself.
I recently tried to define reality (cue eye-roll) and came up with a list of contradictions. This is my attempt to explain those contradictions that, in some way, it seems, define my reality. This is my string of nouns and images and stories, the almost-opposites that mean life to me.
Over on LitBridge today there’s an interview with our tall drink of water and editor-in-chief Simmons Buntin. Here’s an excerpt; read the whole thing over at www.litbridge.com/2013/04/05/interview-with-terrain-org.
What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication?
Surprise, delight, tone, voice—you know, excellence. What we seek is place-based work that sings (sometimes literally). That’s broad, I realize, but if you look at Terrain.org, you’ll find we like a variety of work in a variety of styles. In nearly every case, however, the work is eloquent, concise, and questioning. It has a sense of place, or a yearning to find that sense. What we don’t want is the stuff everyone has read before, or that feels like that—the nature walk, the suburbs are bad, the end of the world. Unless it knocks are socks off, which sometimes it does. And we don’t like typos.
By Kirk Wisland
Could we restore our American Serengeti?
Puma concolor: a.k.a. cougar, panther, puma, Indian devil, catamount, mountain lion. The mountain lions are coming back, down from the mountainous West, through the foothills of the Great Plains, pushing east, re-colonizing lost lands. They come by night, following the riparian corridors of the great river of the West—the Missouri—and all her tributaries.
Through the flat lands of Iowa and Kansas, they creep from tree to tree, copse to copse. These cats are adapting to sparse cover. They are piecing together oases of undeveloped land into territories.
Gaining Daylight: Life on Two Islands, by Sara Loewen : Reviewed by Simmons B. Buntin
Every now and then a magazine is lucky enough to include a contribution that irrevocably changes the publication—and for the better. New writer Sara Loewen’s essay “To Know a Place,” published as “Setnet Fishing on Uyak Bay” in Terrain.org in 2010 and that appears in her first book, Gaining Daylight: Life on Two Islands (University of Alaska Press,) is just such a piece. When nonfiction editor Joshua Foster forwarded the essay to me, his endorsement was straightforward: “Dude, this is fantastic.” But there was more at work here then a delicious essay about fishing and the harsh but providing landscape of Uyak Bay, Alaska, particularly for our journal. This essay launched a new section altogether, To Know a Place, which features an essay, story, or set of poems from one contribution that portrays an intimate relationship to a single place.
Loewen’s essay became our new section’s namesake and inaugural contribution. Loewen also provided several of her excellent photographs and an audio reading. I’ve thought of the essay and those photos often since we published it, for her storytelling and imagery (and images) are so delightful that they deserve a wider audience and further consideration.
Luckily, we have that opportunity and much more with the publication of her book, a collection of 20 short essays ranging from lyrical to historical, all about the two islands, Kodiak and Amook, she migrates between with her fisherman husband and two young boys over the course of a year. “To Know a Place” is set on Amook Island, among the family’s isolated fishing-season cabin and storm-tossed landscape. Other essays take place there and on Kodiak, where the family overwinters, though they also range to the Pacific Rim, notably Thailand, Hawaii, Japan, and historic Russia.
By Erik Hoffner
Photographer Erik Hoffner is a regular contributor to Terrain.org, most recently reporting on the Swedish forestry industry. His essay “Ghost Nests” and accompanying photographs appeared in issue 27, and here, Hoffner recommends a few photographers and resources that have inspired his work.