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Monday, September 28, 2009

Guest Blog: The Contents of the Bags: A Review of Coming in Hot

By Jennifer McStotts

When the draft for Vietnam was in full swing, my father volunteered not because he believed in the war or lusted for battle, but because he couldn’t avoid the draft. He knew if he volunteered, he would get a better assignment, and if he survived, his life afterward would be more stable. A risky reason to enlist, but it is also common thinking among women who serve: the desire for training, for education, for opportunity and stability. Much like many women who serve today, his enlistment launched three decades of silence in his family. The first time I remember him mentioning Vietnam was in my late teens. We were in twining lines waiting for flu shots, staying together until we were divided, men to the left, women to the right. He stood just off my shoulder, and as we neared the split, he asked, “Are you squeamish about needles?”

I chuckled. “No, are you?”

To my surprise he gave the smallest shudder and said, as our lines split apart, “I’ve put parts into body bags that you couldn’t even tell were once a person, but for some reason needles still give me the creeps.”

He didn’t speak of his service even as I considered joining myself, except to say that a commission was better than enlistment and that serving as a woman was not easy. Choosing to remain a civilian isn’t something I regret; in fact, it is a luxury for which I am thankful, but it was pressing on my mind as I sat down, Saturday evening in Tucson, Ariz., for the performance of Coming in Hot.

The stageplay is an adaptation of selections from the Kore Press anthology, Powder: Writing by Women in the Military, from Vietnam to Iraq, which collects the work of nineteen women who served in the U.S. military in a variety of roles. Lisa Bowden and Shannon Cain, the co-editors, admit that they “went into the project with the idea that this work would contribute to the chorus of opposition to the war in Iraq . . . We saw immediately the necessity of setting aside any bias and agenda.” It was, nonetheless, this agenda, bias, and perspective that made me wonder if the adapted work would be solely anti-war, primarily a piece of activism, especially given that the work was produced by Kore Press and directed by Bowden.

What the audience witnessed was a well-balanced collection of monologues composed into a one-woman show featuring Jeanmarie Simpson (original score by accompanist Vicki Brown on strings and pedals, with recorded voice talents of Donald Paul Stockton and Kaylene Torregrossa). Before I go any further, I would like to applaud Simpson. While her performance wasn’t flawless, she was also presented with a nearly impossible task in portraying 14 distinct characters in 80 minutes, without costume change; she did so successfully — laudably — using her voice, her mannerisms, and her versatility as an actress, but at times the variety of accents necessary to distinguish so many women became less convincing.

It is troubling that the adaption and direction called for Simpson to do so in the first place. The message or point of the play could have been narrowed, refined, or, in the alternative, the number of monologues could have been reduced (19 contributions became 14 characters, and an even greater number of segments given the recurring appearance of Charlotte Brock’s character in Mortuary Affairs). Characters could have been conflated without much loss of narrative effect and without forcing Simpson to stretch to distinguish them; as one audience member said immediately after the performance, “There were too many stories. It was too much, and it didn’t say enough.”

That said, despite missed light cues, despite a few stuttered lines and awkward moments involving her blocking, Simpson brought life to characters within the simplicity of an otherwise stark production. The set consisted only of one chair and one table — more of an operating table, clinical and spare — which was primarily used for the Mortuary Affairs scenes in which Brock’s character stood over it as if looking down on a body. The lighting consisted of only a few overhead fixtures at various angles with the exception of one water effect and one flashlight held by a crew member. What felt strange, to me, was the balance the director struck between the one-woman show format — meant to emphasize character and message — and the use of recorded voice segments to supplement Simpson’s work. In addition, it was confusing that at first the recorded voices were only used for the male voice of a boot camp instructor, then a female voice for the character Simpson was portraying silently on stage, and finally that same female voice switched to a male role. While I don’t agree with one audience member’s assessment that it would have been better to focus on a very small number of stories — four being the number she mentioned — it did feel inconsistent to rely on the one-actor model while supplementing and distracting from her performance in a variety of ways.

The original score by Vicki Brown was a perfect accompaniment to the monologues. Brown used the same themes and structure each time Simpson returned to the recurring character of Charlotte Brock in the mortuary. At other times, her music set the heartbeat of the scene, calling its pace; at every moment, she took the pain and the challenge of Brock’s writing (and Simpson’s portrayal) to a higher level.

These recurring scenes pulled me in the most and made me think — again, as I often have before — of my father’s offhand comment. “I’ve put parts into body bags that you couldn’t even tell were once a person.” Brock says something very similar about “the contents of the bags” that Mortuary Affairs handled, especially in one harrowing scene in which the deceased is little more than “a head, a hand, and an arm.”

What Simpson, Bowden, and Cain attempted to do in the adaptation and performance was no easy task — to tell these stories and to grant these women their individual voices when their silence has been so pervasive. What perhaps made the sections by Brock so powerful was that she, too, was trying to give someone a voice, both herself in the world in which she found herself surrounded, but also the dead who lay upon that table.

About the Blogger

Jennifer McStotts is the daughter, niece, and ex-wife of United States Marines, as well as a second-year MFA student in creative nonfiction. Her work has been published in Future Anterior, in International Journal of Heritage Studies, and by Preservation Books.

Thursday, September 24, 2009 Issue Launch & Reading Tonight! A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, a Tucson-based online journal that examines the interface between the built and natural environments, is holding its first-ever issue launch and reading tonight!

8 p.m. : University of Arizona Poetry Center : Tucson

This celebration of the “Borders & Bridges” issue (No. 24) features readings by contributors Christopher Cokinos (Hope is the Thing with Feathers and The Fallen Sky), Pamela Uschuk (Crazy Love), Deborah Fries (Various Modes of Departure), and headlining artist David Rothenberg. It will take place on September 24, at 8 p.m., at the University of Arizona Poetry Center in Tucson.

David Rothenberg is a philosopher, musician, and the author of Why Birds Sing, Sudden Music, Blue Cliff Record, Hand’s End, and Always the Mountains. His articles have appeared in Parabola, Orion, The Nation, Wired, Dwell, Kyoto Journal, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, and Sierra. Rothenberg is also a composer and jazz clarinetist, and he has seven CDs out under his own name, including On the Cliffs of the Heart, named one of the top ten CDs by Jazziz Magazine in 1995. His latest book is Thousand Mile Song, about making music with whales. Rothenberg is professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

  • Welcome, Issue Overview, Contributor and Editor/Board Callouts (in audience), and First Reader Introductions - Simmons Buntin

  • Pamela Uschuk (poetry) - 8 minutes
  • Christopher Cokinos (nonfiction) - 8 minutes
  • Deborah Fries (poetry) - 8 minutes

  • Introduction of David Rothenberg - Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity
  • David Rothenberg (music and prose) - 20-25 minutes

  • Refreshments and book signings (UA Bookstore will sell books)
Mark your calendars and please join us for this free and fun event! For more information, view

Monday, September 21, 2009 Issue No. 24 Now Live! A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments ( is pleased to announce the launch of Issue No. 24: Borders & Bridges.

Our largest issue yet, interactive contributions include a guest editorial by U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Agritopia as the UnSprawl case study, a long lost interview with poet A. R. Ammons, new poetry features (translations and our first online chapbook, with audio), essays by Christopher Cokinos and Mark Tredinnick, articles on the silence of owls and severing the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, plus new fiction, poetry, nonfiction, reviews, and more.

Check it out now at — and be sure to add to the conversation with’s new commenting tool for contributions. And then join us at 8 p.m. on September 24th at the University of Arizona Poetry Center in Tucson for the Issue Launch & Reading, featuring David Rothenberg, Pamela Uschuk, Christopher Cokinos, and Deborah Fries.

Specifically, Issue No. 24 includes:


  • Guest editorial by Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. Representative, Arizona’s 8th Congressional District : Solar is the Bridge to Our Future
  • Columns by regular contributors Simmons Buntin, Deborah Fries, David Rothenberg (with image gallery), and Lauret Savoy


  • Philip Fried interviews poet A. R. Ammons (1926-2001); an interview dating back to 1980 yet as timely today as it was 29 years ago

UnSprawl Case Study

  • Agritopia in Gilbert, Arizona — Crafted with a sort of evangelical "New Ruralism," the 166-acre Agritopia neighborhood east of Phoenix mixes gardens, pastures, orchards, restaurants, lush trails, and more with historically inspired homes designed to bring neighbors together.


  • “Night at the World’s Largest Atomic Cannon” by Christopher Cokinos, with audio
  • “Body Exposed in the Golden Wind” by Florence Caplow
  • “Positioning” by J. David Bell
  • “Lee’s Ferry” by Ben Quick
  • “Mustering the Sky” by Mark Tredinnick


  • “To Wit, to Woo: The Silence of Owls” by Kathryn Miles
  • “Ken Wu and the Fight for Canada’s Remaining Pacific Coast Old-Growth,” with online slideshow, by Joan Maloof and Rick Maloof
  • “A Hole in Time” by John Lane
  • “A Region of Wounds: Severing the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands” by Tom Leskiw

ARTerrain Gallery

  • Four series of impromptu sculptures-in-the-wild and studio sculptures by R. L. Croft


  • Borderland Translations: Tedi Lop├ęz Mills, translated by Wendy Burk — poems in English and Spanish with audio
  • God, Seed: Online chapbook of poetry and images by Rebecca Foust and Lorna Stevens, with audio
  • Other poetry (and audio, too) by Pamela Uschuk, Jessica Weintraub, Polly Brown, Linda Parsons Marion, Jenn Blair, Laura Sobbot Ross, J. P. Dancing Bear, Beth Winegarner, Peter Huggins, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, George Moore, Eva Hooker, Scott Edward Anderson, Alison Hawthorne Deming, William Keener, Brett Foster, Thorpe Moeckel, Joe Wilkins, and Sue Swartz


  • “The Hank Williams Dialogues” by Andrew Wingfield
  • “The Garden” by Jaren Watson
  • “Stones” by Jeffrey Stevenson

Reviews of…

  • A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders
  • The Trouble with Black Boys and Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education by Pedro A. Noguera
  • Unexpected Light, poems by C. E. Chaffin
  • Crazy Love: New Poems by Pamela Uschuk

Friday, September 11, 2009 Issue No. 24 Launching Soon!

The next issue of A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments will launch by September 21. With the theme of "Borders & Bridges," it's another outstanding issue featuring, among others:
  • A long interview by Philip Fried with the poet A. R. Ammons
  • Essays on the world's largest atomic cannon, suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge, traveling by GPS, being a single father in the West, and the Australian pastoral
  • Articles on the sudden increase in daytime owl sightings, Ken Wu and the fight for Canada's remaining Pacific Coast old-growth (with online slideshow), archaeology in South Carolina, and U.S.-Mexico border woes
  • Our most comprehensive poetry issue yet, featuring our first online chapbook (poems and images), our first translations (Wendy Burk translates Tedi Lopez Mills), and poetry by Pamela Uschuk, Alison Hawthorne Deming, J. P. Dancing Bear, Peter Huggins, Jessica Weintraub, and many others
  • Fiction by Andrew Wingfield, Jaren Watson, and Jeffrey Stevenson
  • And much more!
So tune in, and stay tuned, at

Friday, August 28, 2009 Issue Launch & Reading : Sept. 24 in Tucson A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, a Tucson-based online journal that examines the interface between the built and natural environments, is holding its first-ever issue launch and reading.

This celebration of the “Borders & Bridges” issue (No. 24) features readings by contributors Christopher Cokinos (Hope is the Thing with Feathers and The Fallen Sky), Pamela Uschuk (Crazy Love), Deborah Fries (Various Modes of Departure), and headlining artist David Rothenberg. It will take place on September 24, at 8 p.m., at the University of Arizona Poetry Center in Tucson.

David Rothenberg is a philosopher, musician, and the author of Why Birds Sing, Sudden Music, Blue Cliff Record, Hand’s End, and Always the Mountains. His articles have appeared in Parabola, Orion, The Nation, Wired, Dwell, Kyoto Journal, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, and Sierra. Rothenberg is also a composer and jazz clarinetist, and he has seven CDs out under his own name, including On the Cliffs of the Heart, named one of the top ten CDs by Jazziz Magazine in 1995. His latest book is Thousand Mile Song, about making music with whales. Rothenberg is professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

  • Welcome, Issue Overview, Contributor and Editor/Board Callouts (in audience), and First Reader Introductions - Simmons Buntin

  • Pamela Uschuk (poetry) - 8 minutes
  • Christopher Cokinos (nonfiction) - 8 minutes
  • Deborah Fries (poetry) - 8 minutes

  • Introduction of David Rothenberg - Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity
  • David Rothenberg (music and prose) - 20-25 minutes

  • Refreshments and book signings (UA Bookstore will sell books)
Mark your calendars and please join us for this free and fun event! For more information, view or contact editor Simmons Buntin at

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guest Blog: Aldo Leopold and the Roots of Environmental Ethics

By Joshua David Bellin

From June 22 to July 17, I was one of 25 college and university faculty to participate in the National Endowment for the Humanities summer institute on Aldo Leopold. Titled “‘A Fierce Green Fire at 100’: Aldo Leopold and the Roots of Environmental Ethics,” the institute commemorated the 100-year anniversary of Leopold’s arrival in Arizona to take up his first position with the United States Forest Service. During the course of the four weeks, we heard from experts in the field; traveled to locations Leopold visited during his time in the Southwest; discussed and debated Leopold’s legacy in the disciplines of environmental ethics, wildlife ecology, conservation biology, and environmental literature; and (occasionally) unwound over a few beers. It was an exhausting, invigorating, exhilarating experience, one that taught me loads about Leopold and, more importantly, about the distance we have yet to travel to approach the ideal he voiced sixty years ago in “The Land Ethic,” his signature essay from A Sand County Almanac (1949): “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Aldo Leopold

The institute took place in Prescott, Arizona (pronounced like British “waistcoat”), a small town that, at an elevation of 5,300 feet, provides a summertime refuge from the brutal heat of Phoenix. “Everybody’s Hometown,” banners on lampposts announce; the ubiquitous ravens who cackle imperiously from atop these perches seem to agree. The former state capitol of Arizona, Prescott now offers mostly tourist attractions, including remnants of a once-famous Whiskey Row, plenty of restaurants and antique shops, and (so they say) the world’s oldest rodeo. July is monsoon season, when moisture from the Sea of Cortez gets sucked up into the sky and dumped on the land in storms of amazing suddenness and ferocity. West of town Thumb Butte, haven for nesting peregrines, floats in the blue distance. Our accommodations were provided by Prescott College, an experimental school founded in the 1960s that offers a robust environmental curriculum, recycled granite in the bathrooms, herds of wild javelinas wandering the alleyways between dorms, and neither grades nor credits. Our main classroom, in the Sharlot Hall regional history museum, was an unfinished cement studio space with a horrendous echo and squealing chairs; considering that the museum now faces the loss of all state funding due to Arizona’s budget crisis, though, the director and staff were incredibly generous in permitting us to take over their grounds for a month.

The institute’s participants were a diverse group, both regionally and by discipline. Philosophers were particularly well represented (all of them, unlike me, sporting enviable heads of hair; maybe philosophical reflection encourages follicle retention). But there were also faculty from my own disciplines of Literature and American Studies, as well as from Biology, Religious Studies, Political Science, Women’s Studies, and even, in the case of a woman who teaches in Hawaii, Dance. The disciplinary diversity, unfortunately, wasn’t matched by much visible ethnic diversity, though one woman did tell me she’s part-Cherokee. Inevitably, our discussions turned to issues of environmental justice, something Leopold, surrounded though he was by Native and Hispanic populations, barely touched on, and something our own ethnic makeup suggested still needs to be vigorously addressed. We also talked about hunting — another Leopold passion that the vegetarians in the group, myself included, wrestled mightily to understand as a form of love for the wild — as well as about the question of Leopold’s radicalism (or lack thereof), the applicability of his land ethic to the global-scale environmental crises we now face, the proliferation of land ethics in such contemporary settings as urban gardens and the slow foods movement, and much more. The faculty who steered us through these subjects represented the cream of the Leopold crop: biographer Curt Meine, a cheerful and energetic soul who offered me an impromptu lesson in reading land health during an interminable bus ride to Leopold’s rookie post of Springerville, Arizona; Julianne Newton, whose own biography of Leopold emphasizes the development of his ecological thinking; J. Baird Callicott, the dean of environmental ethics, who almost single-handedly put Leopold on the map for philosophers initially inclined to dismiss him as a mere government functionary unworthy of joining their arcane brotherhood; and in the final week, author Scott Russell Sanders, whose writings, including his recent, marvelous A Conservationist Manifesto (reviewed in the forthcoming issue of, have earned him a spot in the Leopold tradition of environmentalist philosophy and prophecy. By month’s end, all of us had designed or retooled syllabi that we’ll be taking home to our own campuses, as well as making publicly available on the website of the Institute for Humanities Research at Arizona State University. If in so doing we can spread the gospel of Leopold to as wide and diverse an audience as possible, the institute will have served its purpose.

I’ve always respected Leopold as both a thinker and writer, but the institute gave me a greater appreciation both for the quality of his ideas and for the lengthy process by which he achieved their full flowering. When he first arrived in the Southwest, Leopold was a faithful disciple of the Progressive-era utilitarianism preached by the head of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, who saw timber as a “crop” to be managed solely for commercial purposes. Only gradually, over decades of observation, reflection, communication with leaders in the emerging field of ecology, object lessons in the United States and abroad, and more than his fair share of mistakes and missteps, did Leopold emerge as the revolutionary thinker who emphasized the need for humans to live harmoniously with the natural world, to reject economic profit as the sole measure of the land’s value, to view the biota as a unified whole with which humans should tamper only reluctantly, and to understand ourselves as a part of that unity, linked to the land in material, historical, ethical, and spiritual ways. The Southwest proved a fertile starting-point for Leopold’s development, his tutorship in the region’s fragile ecosystems making him particularly alert to the human impact on the land. It was also in the Southwest that the seeds were sown for his most dramatic about-face: his revolution from advocate of predator eradication to defender of wolves and grizzlies as essential members of the land community. In a stunning confessional from his most famous short essay, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” Leopold recounts the epiphany he experienced upon the downing of a mother wolf:

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes — something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.

Leopold exaggerates and compresses his revelation here; though a letter has recently surfaced proving that he did indeed shoot two timber wolves during his first year in Arizona, it would be decades before he seriously reconsidered the wisdom of predator-eradication programs. (Indeed, in the letter itself, he laments not the death of the wolves but the loss of his pipe.) But as Scott Sanders pointed out, the fact that Leopold retells this incident in a way that isn’t literally true enables him to evoke its deeper truth: the need for each of us to see the land as a living whole, worthy of our love and respect. In this sense, Leopold provides a powerful example for students and for all of us who struggle to meet the environmental challenges of our time: rather than assuming that he knew what was best for the earth, he allowed that far older and wiser teacher to instruct him in its ways.

In Leopold’s essay “Some Fundamentals of Conservation in the Southwest,” written in 1923 but unpublished until 1979, some 30 years after his death, he places the American experiment in its historical context and finds occasion for judgment and regret: “Five races — five cultures — have flourished here. We may truthfully say of our four predecessors that they left the earth alive, undamaged. Is it possibly a proper question for us to consider what the sixth shall say about us?” I hold this question in my mind as I return to my home to teach, to raise my children, and to work for the restoration and revitalization of the land.

Joshua David Bellin with his children at the Grand Canyon, a not-too-far drive from Prescott, Arizona.

About the Blogger

Joshua David Bellin teaches American, Native American, and Environmental Literature at La Roche College in Pittsburgh. Having published three scholarly books and numerous articles in these fields, he has recently taken a break from academic writing to focus on fiction and creative nonfiction. Under the pen name of J. David Bell, he has published in such periodicals as Word Catalyst, SNReview, Gander Press Review, Queen City Review, and the upcoming issue of

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Received: Strategy for Sustainability recently received:

Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto
by Adam Werbach
Harvard Business Press

From Harvard Business Press:
One June 1st, General Motors and Citibank were kicked off the Down Jones stock index. Just five years ago, we thought that these companies -- and other institutions like Circuit City and Lehman Brothers -- were the heart and soul of American capitalism. We were wrong. They were not sustainable.
It's time for a business strategy framework that matches the turbulence of the 21st Century. From Adam Werbach, one of the world's leading business advisors to companies such as Wal-Mart, NBC-Universal, and Frito-Lay and a recognized though leader on sustainability issues, the new book Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto outlines a plan for integrated and long-term business success.
"Companies are creating a strategy for sustainability becuse they know the world will change, and they need to build an organization that's nimble, flexible, and connected in order to succeed," says Werbach. "Any company that hasn't rethought its business plan in the last year is operating on an outdated playbook."
According to Werbach, sustainability has four key components: social, economic, environmental, and cultural. Companies that successfully engage all four components improve their bottom line and simultaneously drive new business opportunities.
Werbach calls on business to move past the old Jim Collins' BHAG (Big Harry Audacious Goal) mentality and instead adopt "North Star Goals" -- aspirational business goals that aim to solve a global human challenge as well. North Star goals, already adopted by the likes of Dell and Starbucks, not only help businesses stay profitable but they help companies engage their employees to navigate the turbulent waters ahead.
. will not be reviewing this book in a future issue.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

America Honors Leaders: Greenpeace Scales Mt. Rushmore

Greenpeace Makes Urgent Call for Climate Action From Face of Mt. Rushmore
Challenges President Obama to lead the world in fighting global warming

Learn more at (includes video)

WASHINGTON - This morning [July 8, 2009], 11 daring Greenpeace climbers hung a banner on Mount Rushmore challenging President Obama to show real leadership on global warming. The banner, measuring sixty-five feet high by thirty-five feet wide, features an unfinished portrait of Obama with the message, "America honors leaders not politicians: Stop Global Warming." The demonstration comes as President Obama meets other G8 leaders in L'Aquila, Italy today to discuss the global warming crisis in the lead-up to UN climate treaty negotiations in Copenhagen this December.

"This monument celebrates leaders who rose to the great challenges of our past. Global warming is the greatest crisis humankind has ever faced and it is the defining test of leadership for this generation. It's an open question whether President Obama will pass that test," said Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett.

To highlight the issue, 11 activists completed a challenging climb to the top of Mount Rushmore, and three rappelled down, hanging the nearly 2300-square-foot banner as they descended. The activists, highly trained in rock and industrial climbing, took special care not to damage the monument, using existing anchors placed by the National Park Service for periodic cleanings. The demonstration follows a series of protests in Italy this morning where other Greenpeace activists hung banners on coal plant smokestacks calling attention to the collective failure of leadership on global warming at the G8.

"We're at a moment in history where President Obama must show real leadership on global warming, not only for Congress and the American people, but for the world. Unfortunately, the steps taken to address the crisis so far have been grossly inadequate," said Muffett. "While President Obama's speeches on global warming have been inspiring, we've seen a growing gap between the president's words and his actions."

The best science shows that to avoid catastrophic global warming, governments must take action to keep global temperature rise as far below 2 degrees Celsius as possible. "Given President Obama's pledge to follow the science, it's troubling that his administration has not yet endorsed emission targets strong enough to keep us below that critical threshold."

Earlier this year, the experience with climate legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, which was drastically weakened by lobbyists for the oil and coal industries and other big polluters, showed that unless the president provides strong leadership on this issue, special interests will win out over the common interest.

"Doing what it takes to solve global warming demands real political courage," Muffett added. "If President Obama intends to earn a place among this country's true leaders, he needs to show that courage, and base his actions on the scientific reality rather than political convenience."

Greenpeace is calling on President Obama to use every tool at his disposal, both within and outside Congress, to strengthen U.S. climate policy with scientific integrity, and to take that policy to Copenhagen in December as evidence the U.S. will do what it takes to solve the climate crisis.

Specifically, Greenpeace is calling on President Obama to:

. Strive to keep global temperatures as far below a 2 degrees Celsius increase as possible, compared to pre-industrial levels to avert catastrophic climate change;

. Set a goal of peaking global emissions by 2015 and be as close to zero as possible by 2050, compared to 1990 levels;

. Cut emissions in the U.S. by 25-40 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels;

. Join and encourage other members of the G8 to establish a funding mechanism that provides $106 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to global warming impacts that are now unavoidable and halt tropical deforestation.

Greenpeace is also calling on President Obama to attend the Copenhagen conference personally to ensure a strong, science-based agreement is reached.

For live streaming video, pictures, and footage visit:

Contact: Molly Dorozenski (on site), 917-864-3724,
Michael Crocker (Washington, DC), 202-215-8989,

Earlier this year, Greenpeace released its roadmap for slowing climate change, the Energy [R]evolution, which shows that the U.S. can cut emissions 25 percent by 2020.To read the full-report, visit:


For the record, supports a little non-violent civil disobedience.

Friday, June 26, 2009

New Interactive Book Features Personal Essays About Global Warming

New Anthology Offers Personal Stories and Reflections on Global Warming from New and Established Writers and Photographers

Unique collaboration between nonprofit and publisher will make interactive book accessible to millions of Americans for free.

NEW YORK - A new generation of writers and photographers with a personal connection to global warming are taking inspiration from Henry David Thoreau and other legendary environmental authors by publishing their works in a special anthology from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Penguin Classics.

The nonprofit science group and Penguin Classics selected essays and photos by 67 Americans for the new book Thoreau's Legacy: American Stories about Global Warming. The contributors include scientists, students, grandparents, activists, veterans, journalists, evangelical Christians, artists, and businesspeople who live in 32 states stretching from Alaska to Florida. A foreword on global warming by award-winning novelist, poet and nonfiction author Barbara Kingsolver helps to set the context.

UCS and Penguin Classics will offer the anthology for free online as an interactive book at and a forthcoming eBook. A limited edition hardcover also will be available for purchase. The online interactive book will allow the anthology to be instantly shared with friends through emails and on social media sites.

"This partnership was unique in so many ways, but no more so in the reversal of roles we each played," said Kevin Knobloch, UCS's president. "Penguin Classics spearheaded efforts to inform the public about the need to speak out about global warming, while we took the editorial and publishing lead."

"I have great respect for the work of the Union of Concerned Scientists," said Elda Rotor, editorial director at Penguin Classics, "and it's been very satisfying for us to have been able to help generate public participation in this project, and we hope their voices will be heard; particularly as Congress debates legislation to reduce the pollution that contributes to global warming."

Personal Perspectives from Across the Nation

As Ms. Kingsolver writes in her foreword, to find hope in our future "we must radically reconsider the power relationship between humans and our habitat." The contributors to Thoreau's Legacy do just that. We see the changes in New England's natural beauty through the eyes of an observant ninth-grader. We learn how pollution and a warming climate are affecting the Yakama Indians' way of life. We follow a family whose faith has led them on a journey to protect the planet. We look into the fearsome eyes of an old polar bear crossing the Alaskan ice. And we get a useful, if painful, lesson from a New Orleans native who can never go home again and who worries for other American cities. These are just a few of the many personal accounts about climate change in this collection.

The Genesis of this Anthology

UCS and Penguin Classics teamed up in September 2008 to encourage writers and photographers to submit their personal impressions of global warming -- in words or images -- for publication in a new book.

Hundreds of bookstores across the country joined the effort by displaying easels and distributing free bookmarks about the project. Both Penguin Classics and UCS featured the project prominently on their Web sites.

The partners received nearly 1,000 submissions from established and aspiring writers and photographers from across the country. They submitted 200- to 500-word personal accounts or photographs that focused on the places they love and want to protect; the animals, plants, people and activities they fear are at risk from a changing climate; and the steps they are taking in their own lives to stem the tide of global warming.

A team of reviewers from Penguin Classics and UCS selected 67 contributions for the anthology. Working with Mixit Productions, they produced an innovative interactive book. In July a limited edition hardcover coffee table book and a downloadable eBook will also be available.


The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

Penguin Classics is the largest and most comprehensive publisher of classic literature in English in the world, and as a publisher is committed to using paper products from manufacturers that are committed to sustainable paper production techniques, and to in-house conservation and recycling in our daily business practice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Received: Hawk & Handsaw recently received:

Unity College, Maine
Editor, Kathryn Miles

Hawk & Handsaw is a handsome new, full-color journal published once a year that offers "works of art from established and emerging writers dedicated to a specific facet of environmental sustainability. The plurality of voices within each issue reveals the range of perspectives and practices as well as the richness that a sustainable life affords." Work includes nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and art.
From the editor:
"Like Shakespeare's Hamlet, the contributors to Hawk & Handsaw know which way the wind blows. They know that a sustainable lifestyle can be messy and meaningful, that it requires reflection, deep philosophical commitment and, more often than not, a good sense of humor. To this end, Hawk & Handsaw celebrates the thinking and reflection that ground sustainable practices and practitioners."
The new issue, the journal's second, is beautiful both in scope and production, and includes work by Scott Russell Sanders, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Kathryn Kiripatrick, Carolyln Kraus, editor Simmons B. Buntin, and many others. View the full table of contents here.
How do you get your hands on this issue? Order a copy or subscribe online. You'll be delighted once you receive your copy, as we were when we received ours.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Received: From the Fishouse recently received:

From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, edited by Camille T. Dungy, Matt O'Donnell, and Jeffrey Thomson, with a foreword by Gerald Stern

Persea Books, 2009

From the publisher:

From the Fishouse ( is a one-of-a-kind on-line archive devoted to teh oral and aural aspects of contemporary American poetry. Based in a converted codfish-drying shack in Pittston, Maine, it showcases emerging poets performign their own work and responding to questions about poetry and the writing process.

Derived from the Fishouse Web site, the From the Fishouse print anthology is a jamboree of contemporary poetry at its acoustic best. It collects more than 175 poems by nearly 100 poets from the archive, dividing them into ten playful thematic sections. Each poem is a striking example of why poetry is meant not just to be read, but to be read aloud. To complement the poems, the book includes illuminating excerpts from the Web site's Q&As with the poets and, in the Fishouse tradition of poetry as an oral/aural form, it comes with a compact disc that features dynamic recitations of 38 of the poems in the book. Indespensable for all poetry lovers, From the Fishouse is the most exciting, portable way to experience the array of poetry being written and performed in the United States in teh first decade fo the twenty-first century.


We here at pretty much agree. Both the Fishouse website and book are really grand. Check them out!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Uncertain Future of Isotope, and Ways to Help Out

As many of you know, we at are trying to help preserve Utah State University's important literary journal Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing, which faces elimination by the university.

With his permission, I'm posting editor Christopher Cokinos's recent letter to Isotope contributors and subscribers:

Letter From the Editor:

Dear Isotope Reader,

We try to spare you from the day-to-day operations at Isotope and just have the magazine show up in your mailbox full of the unique writing and artwork that you love. But we've stayed quiet as long as we can. The state of the economy has caught up with Isotope, and the magazine's future is uncertain--frankly, in peril.

Isotope receives funding from a variety of sources--subscriptions, donations, state and federal grants, Utah State University (USU)--but the bulk comes from the university. Deep budget cuts at USU have resulted in the loss of salary funds for our managing editor as well as the loss of some operating expenses, about an issue's worth. These are critical funds for Isotope's continued publication.

Please know that we are exploring every idea (cockamamie or otherwise) we can think of to keep Isotope alive, but we need your help. Our readers--You--are the reason Isotope exists and has been so successful. With every new or renewed subscription, with every letter or email or submission of your writing or artwork, you tell us that you like what we are doing and you want us to continue. We are deeply grateful for your interest and your support. Now we hope you are willing to do even more.

Here are some ways you can help:

Donations. Any amount helps. Cash donations will contribute to the publication of the next issue and will buy us time to put in place longer-term solutions. They also show the university the extent of reader support. Mail to Isotope, Dept of English, 3200 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-3200.

Words. University administration knows and values Isotope's achievements--but it would be good for USU's decision-makers to hear from our loyal and smart readers. From you. And right away! Please consider dropping a polite note of support to USU Provost Ray Coward and USU President Stan Albrecht, Old Main, USU, Logan, Utah 84322.

Thank you for considering taking some action on behalf of Isotope. Whatever you do, whatever you decide, we hope you will stay engaged in the decisions made in your communities--local to state to national to global--for we're living in a time when citizen engagement can make an even bigger difference than in the recent past. We'll keep you informed about Isotope's future.


Christopher Cokinos, Editor
Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Victoria / Vancouver Island Photo Gallery

The full Victoria and Vancouver Island photo gallery by editor Simmons Buntin -- shots taken before, during, and after the ASLE conference and field trips -- is now online:


Monday, June 08, 2009

ASLE Conference Review : Day 6 editor Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment conference in Victoria, BC:

Second-growth red cedar on the way to Walbran Valley, a four-hour drive from Victoria.

Though last night's banquet pretty much closed out the ASLE conference, a couple post-conference field trips were held today, including a 12-hour trek, by schoolbus no less, to the Walbran Valley to view Canada's oldest old growth forests.

Our excursion was led by representatives of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, a nonprofit environmental organization working hard to save British Columbia's last remaining old growth forests, as well as to promote sustainable logging. Look for a photo essay from Joan and Rick Maloof on the work of the Wilderness Committee on Vancouver Island in the next issue of

The following photos are from the majestic Walbran Valley, or nearby, and close out my coverage of the ASLE conference. Be sure to check out the full gallery of photos in a few days on my personal website, and thanks for tuning in!

Old growth forest on the Walbran Valley floor.

ASLE members take a hike.

The Emerald Pond, where large steelhead can often be found.

Many of the forty or so ASLE members who made the trip.

Oh, just a 600-year-old tree or so; no big deal, eh?!

Plank trail through the rainforest.

Author self-portrait at a campground originally set up to protest encroaching logging.

Taking a break after hiking to a waterfall (kind of hard to see here in the background).

Columbine before full bloom.

Flower and berries. Lots of wildflowers were blooming there and on the way.

The beards of forest wisdom on the old growth trees.

Our bus, leaving Walbran Valley.

Clearcutting on the road from Walbran.

Pretty good views, when you can get them. Still, I'll take the trees over the clearcut-induced view, thanks.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

ASLE Conference Review : Day 5 editor (and traveling dope*) Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.

A painted eagle sculpture on the promenade in front of the Empress Hotel, Victoria's Inner Harbour.

* A traveling dope, you ask? Yes, sadly: First, I didn't realize until after I got up to British Columbia that my credit union doesn't allow the use of my debit/VISA card in Canada. I'm a dope not because I didn't know (I mean, really, who calls their credit union before heading up to Canada from the U.S.?) but because I left my Wells Fargo card at home, and it would work just fine up here. Second, I failed to bring a rainshell with me up here. So far I haven't needed one, but I'm participating in the Walbran Valley rainforest day trip/hike tomorrow, and it's likely I will.

So this afternoon, before the ASLE banquet, I caught a bus to the local mall, only to get there fifteen minutes after it closed. (What mall closes at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday, anyway?! Apparently all of them in Victoria.) At that I cut my losses (rather than heading downtown, where for all I know stores may have already closed, as well), and headed back to UVic. Here's hoping it doesn't rain on our trip tomorrow!


Another wonderful day of panels and plenaries to close out the ASLE conference.

I slept in, so missed the first sessions of the day, which also gave me the time to staff the table in the exibitors area for a bit before hitting the "Borderlands" panel, which featured (among others) Tom Leskiw, a contributor (see his essays here and here, the latter an essay on southern Arizona's San Pedro River, relevant for this panel's discussion). Though the panel featured a ranging mix of academic and creative literary work, it was a good mix, and I learned a lot and appreciated the diversity.

I should also praise Tom (and more so his wife Sue, who suggested it) for bringing from their home in northern California a bottle of Eel River Brewing Company's Acai Berry Wheat beer, which I've yet to enjoy, but will before I leave Victoria.

The afternoon plenary was headlined by Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times journalist and author behind the excellent Dot Earth Blog. Turns out that Andrew is a friend and neighbor of editorial board member and columnist David Rothenberg. I purchased Andrew's book The North Pole Was here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World, which he kindly signed for my daughters, as it's a book aimed at middle-school-aged children.

Milkweed Editions publisher and CEO Daniel Slager and Orion Society executive director and Orion magazine editor-in-chief H. Emerson Blake sat with Andrew on a sort of Q&A panel following Andrew's great multimedia presentation. The overall topic of the panel was "New Publishing Environments: The Changing Landscape of Reading," and it spanned what publishing may look like in the realms of books and magazines over the next ten years.

The phrase of the day might be: Change, it's a comin'. But of course change in the publishing industry is already here. For a journal like, the changes bode well, I think. But for traditional print publications, it's hard to say. With Chip Blake at the helm of Orion, though, and knowing the great use they've made of their website and the new Orion digital edition, I'd bet they're poised well. Ditto for Milkweed, which understands the need to get excerpts of their books out into the webosphere (like, for example, in, as well as to feature actual book content on their own website. As for the books themselves? Well, there's Amazon's wireless reading device Kindle, of course, and advanced wireless, portable book readers from other manufacturers are less than a year away, blowing open that market.

So how we read books, magazines, and the like will certainly evolve, and that will undoubtedly save costs as well as resources (think of the elimination of production, printing, and distribution). As I see it, the wireless readers may also force online journals that want to be included in this new digital reading format to create Kindle-friendly versions in addition to our "traditional" websites, as these readers are definitively not web browsers. That's exciting to me; though for a low- or self-funded publication like, could be a real barrier if these readers charge to host our issues, which are already provided for free. The internet may be (relatively) free, but most content on wireless reading devices certainly won't be.

Following logically from the afternoon plenary, "The Virtues of the Virtual: Using Blogs to Communicate Place across Space" roundtable featured a number of bloggers (though really only one who's place-based, and that anonymously so), and was an interesting discussion, though given my blogging experience a bit remedial. Still, only two or three members of the audience, when asked by a panelist, said they were bloggers, and I was one of them, so I suspect the content was right on for the majority of folks in the audience.

Finally, the ASLE banquet and awards presentation featured -- beyond the good food, great company, and typical end-of-conference accolades -- headliner Ruth Ozeki, a Japanese-American filmaker and novelist whose award-winning novels include My Year of Meats and All Over Creation. Her presentation/lecture/discussion/speech (really, what do we call these things: keynote address, I guess) was wonderful, eloquently weaving novel excerpts with a pointed yet not painful environment/food/literature discussion, initiated with a meditation excercise that put me, at least, in a fluid mood set for listening.

:: By the way, I think it's important to note here that I'm listening to U2's "So Cruel," from the album Achtung Baby on my iPod. It's song #1863 of 2432 on my all-play list -- I've been listening to the full library of my iPod's songs in alphabetical order, which I started several weeks (or months) ago. It's a beautiful song on a stellar album from an amazing band. But for the record: The Joshua Tree is U2's best album and, I think, the best rock album ever produced. Discuss among yourselves. Okay, we return now to your regular ASLE blog update.... ::

The banquet in effect concluded the ASLE conference. It was announced that the next conference, in 2011, will be in Bloomington, Indiana at Indiana University, hosted in part by Scott Russell Sanders. Count me in, as this conference (and its location) have been all I'd hope they would be -- and more.

Environmental Note

I have not driven a car or watched a television for the past week. I can't say that very often. Well, maybe I could say that about the TV -- except for The Office, college football, and the occasional DVD, I don't watch much TV anyway. Of course, I've been on the computer a lot, including the continuously rotating slideshow at our exhibitor's table, but even with that my overall computer energy use is down from my standard resource suck. Does that offset the carbon used to transport me up here? Possibly not, but combine it with the proverbial energy and connections I've gained toward my work on and my writing while up here, plus the carbon offset fee I added onto my ASLE registration, and I think it gets me close.

Energy or not, though, you can't walk away from this conference any less concerned about the dire situation of the Earth. As Andrew Revkin says, "By 2050 or so, the world population is expected to reach nine billion, essentially adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today. Those billions will be seeking food, water and other resources on a planet where, scientists say, humans are already shaping climate and the web of life." How we sustain our environment and cultures into the future, when we're not doing such a great job of it right now, is the ultimate question.

Best Event/Activity

Tough call, this. I really enjoyed both the plenary and keynote speaker at the banquet. And sleeping in this morning deserves good marks, as well.

But I'll give the nod to my conversation with Milkweed Editions publisher and CEO Daniel Slager at the banquet, something I wasn't expecting. I've long admired Milkweed's work, so chatting it up with Daniel about Milkweed's future website plans, opportunities for including Milkweed excerpts on, fatherhood, sons vs. daughters, living in Minneapolis compared to New York City, and my own work and writing, capped off the conference in a pretty great way.

Worst Event/Activity

Wasted bus ride to the closed mall, hand's down. Though, really, do I ride the bus in Tucson? No, so here was a rare opportunity. And besides, Victoria has cool double-decker buses. So it wasn't so bad, was it? Nah -- I did get back to the banquet on time, after all.

Beer Note

I drank a couple lovely IPAs at the banquet. But from where? The bottle labels were blue, I think. Anyway, good brew, as they all have been, without exception. Thanks Victoria!

Take Away

The ASLE conference was a success for and for me personally. Couldn't ask for more than that.*

* Well, I could, actually: At one time I had planned to travel up here with my wife and two daughters, but alas, economics and a quickly approaching family reunion in San Diego snuffed those plans out. They would have loved it, though.


Victoria's Inner Harbour, with Prince of Whales whale-watching boats.

Sunset and bay view from Cadboro Gyro Park, just a few blocks south of UVic.

Driftwood (drifttrunk?) at Cadboro Gyro Park.

Victoria's famous Butchart Gardens? Nope, this is one of the courtyard paths to my dorm. Though the UVic campus kind of feels like a suburban office park, it is not without its charms.

ASLE Conference Review : Day 4 editor Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment biennial conference:

Heading out from a Victoria inlet for an afternoon of sea kayaking, an official ASLE field trip.

The fourth day of the ASLE conference in Victoria, BC:


Another great day, which included:

  • First panel: "The Everyday Wild: Nonfiction from the Sky and Ground," featuring Christopher Cokinos reading from his new book, The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars, Jennifer Henderson on Machine in the Sky: A Biography of the Tornado, and John T. Price, on Backyard Nature: Children, Parents, and Insects. With the possible exception of the photography panel way back on the first day, this is the best panel so far. Great readings by all three.
  • Next panel: "Let There Be Night: The Value of Darkness, the Cost of Light Pollution," facilitated by Paul Bogard, editor of Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, and including four writers with essays in the dark night anthology: Gretchen T. Legler, Christina Robertson, Thomas Becknell, and John Tallmadge.
  • Sea kayaking ASLE field trip with two dozen other participants -- Pacifica Paddling's "Oak Bay Coastal Explorer" kayak excursion (see photos below), which was great fun. Pretty good wind and waves. We saw bald eagles and a mother seal with her pup, as well.
  • Evening plenary session: "Green Poetries from Canada: Place, Poetry, and Witness" featuring discussion and readings by Rita Wong and Jan Zwicky. Jan's reading, particularly, just blew me away.
  • Drinks with Orion's Chip Blake, Milkweed Editions's Patrick Thomas, and Hawk & Handsaw's Kathryn Miles (more on that below).

Environmental Note

The global warming may, at least for the rest of this week, be behind us up in Victoria. It's pretty chilly up here this evening, and the day was mild (and downright nippy out on the water when kayaking). Still, people, don't let up your guard on that whole global warming thing. My sources tell me it's the real deal....

Best Event/Activity

This morning, this section was slated for the panel with Cokinos, Henderson, and Price. Then, following the kayaking excursion, it was reserved for that little adventure. I'm settling at this late hour, however, on my evening conversation with Chip, Kathryn, and Patrick. It's not often I get to talk shop -- not to mention share hilarious family stories -- with good folks like these. Our small gathering over local brews at the UVic Student Union pub/grill was a delight and a privelage.

Worst Event/Activity

I have very sad news to share -- news I learned yesterday but wasn't prepared to share until today (and I do have permission). As many of you know, Christopher Cokinos founded and has served as the editor of the outstanding journal Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing for more than a decade now. Many of you also know that state university funding has been drastically cut nearly everywhere. Combine those two, and we learn that Utah State University will no longer be publishing Isotope.

Folks, Isotope is one of the three or four best environmental literary journals, and its closure is a huge blow not only to the good folks working on the journal at USU, but to environmental and science literature readers and writers everywhere. But what to do? We need to find a large endowment to sustain the journal, under Chris's excellent editorial skills, and find it now. So ante up!

There is a possibility that Isotope will move to another university or other editing team, but unless it stays at USU, as far as I know Chris will no longer be the editor. That is sad, indeed.

Beer Note

Enjoyed a couple local brews at the pub tonight, but didn't get their names. You pretty much can't go wrong with any of the the local stuff, I realize, so brand/name may not be an issue.

Take Away

  • Creative nonfiction panels = good
  • Ocean kayak excursions = good
  • Late-night conversations with editing peers = good
  • Shutting down environmental lit mags = bad


I'm including only kayak photos in this entry. Here are the kayaks on the dark, pebbly beach before we loaded into them and pushed out.

I took along my new Canon PowerShot D10, which is waterproof to 33 feet, though that doesn't necessarily mean the lens won't get smudged with drops of saltwater from my sporadic paddling (or otherwise)....

Greg and Kathryn Miles threaten to capsize our kayak (no, not really; we all did a little bump-and-float along the way).

We saw three bald eagles, though I couldn't get a good shot of any of them. Here's one, but this could be a nautical turkey for all this picture reveals.

My paddling partner: Charlie.

And me.

All in all, a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Friday, June 05, 2009

ASLE Conference Review : Day 3 editor Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment biennial conference:

Darth Vader plays a mean fiddle in downtown Victoria, and it wasn't all Star Wars theme, either.

The third day of the ASLE conference in Victoria, BC:


Well before the ASLE conference started, coordinators Dan Philippon (ASLE president and program chair) and Richard Pickard (local arrangements chair) noted that there would be more time for network-building and socializing before, between, and after the sessions of this year's conference. We haven't been disappointed. While today's sessions were strong once again, I enjoyed the discussions and gatherings outside of the panels more so.

This morning I attended the paper jam titled "Poetic Forms, Poetic Places: Readings and Reflections," featuring Ian Marshall on haiku and the International Appalachian Trail, Cara Chamberlain on the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming, Emily Carr on the poem as ecotone, Mary Pinard on the sonnet redouble as an "archipelago of song," a phrase nearly as beautiful as her sonnets, and contributor Andrew C. Gottlieb reading his Isle Royale National Park poems, two of which appear in our current issue (with audio). Poetry is always a great way to start out the morning, and this panel did not disappoint.

I then skipped the ecocriticism mid-morning plenary session (I mean, aren't we all critical enough of our environment, anyway?! okay, sorry...) and worked the table through lunch, catching up with a few contributors like Andrew Wingfield and Joan Maloof and meeting lots of other great folks.

The first afternoon session was difficult to choose, as the roundtable "Earth's Body: An Ecopoetry Anthology" featuring Ann Fisher-Wirth, Laura-Gray Street, and others, and the "Poems on Place" reading featuring Suzanne Roberts and other poets were both very tempting. But I felt especially drawn to the paper jam "Creative Nonfiction: Transformations," facilitated by Hawk & Handsaw: The Journal of Creative Sustainability editor and Unity College environmental literature associate professor Kathryn Miles. Hawk & Handsaw deserves mention here not just because of its cool (sub+)title and the (full disclosure here) fact that I have an essay in its just-released second issue, but because this beautiful journal is going to raise the bar for creative environmental journals. I'll have it down at the table if you want to check out the copy -- just don't take it from me, please! (You may take the Hawk & Handsaw postcard, instead.)

The panel featured Jennifer Calkins on quails, Robert Scott Elliott on flyfishing the Sol Duc, Catherine Meeks on the Tennessee Valley Authority, Mary Webb on the urban heat island that Reno has become, Elizabeth Van Zandt on Mojave's sky islands, and Russ J. Van Paepeghem, editor of Camas: The Nature of the West (another really good environmental journal) on the topography of silence. A lovely mixture!

The afternoon closed out with a packed, and delightful, author's reception, where I picked up books by Kathryn Miles (Adventures with Ari: A Puppy, a Leash, and Our Year Outdoors) and Suzanne Roberts (Nothing to You: Poems), as well as the brand-new From the Fishhouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, edited by Camille T. Dungy (thanks Camille!). I also met contributor Anca Vlasopolos, whose work I much admire.

Name dropping here? Yeah, sort of, but understand that I know a lot of folks digitally through the journal (and/or Facebook, blogging, etc.), so finally meeting them in person is a big deal to me -- worth mentioning, certainly! And the spaces in between the sessions and author's reception today, especially, resounded with these wonderful connections.

This evening, editorial board member and columnist Lauret Savoy and I traveled to downtown Victoria for a really excellent dinner at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub & Guesthouses (more on that below) and stroll around the Inner Harbor (where we saw Lord Vader on violin, pictured above). I finished the evening catching up with folks at the Orion/Milkweed Editions reception, though once again I arrived too late for free beer, dangit!

Environmental Note

Anyone else notice that water from a stainless steel bottle tastes like, well... steel? Color me picky, but I like my water to taste pretty much like nothing.

Best Event/Activity

I've already mentioned the great connecting with folks -- via the table, author's reception, pre- and post-panel, and otherwise -- so won't hit that again. And I'll discuss Spinnakers a bit below.

So let's select my outing with Lauret Savoy, who kindly drove us to downtown and back. I first met Lauret in person back in NYC for the AWP conference, January 2008. She was a participant on "The Future of Environmental Essay" panel I chaired. I learned about her and her work through Alison Deming. To say I was blown away by Lauret's presentation on the panel is an understatement. It was a great panel across the board -- really great (read and hear excerpts of the panel that also included Alison, David Gessner, and David Rothenberg here) -- and Lauret capped it off beautifully. Since then, she has joined our editorial board and is now writing a regular column, A Stone's Throw, for each issue. Check out her first contribution on placing Washington, D.C., before the inauguration.

It was splendid to really have the opportunity to talk with Lauret this evening, the conversation ranging easily from family to geology to publishing and well beyond.

Worst Event/Activity

I'd still like a bigger crowd in the exhibitors area. Things definitely picked up just before the author's reception, but we should have attendees strolling through in greater numbers all the time. I've heard from a few folks that they didn't even know there is an exhibitors area.

Put the coffee out earlier and keep it filled up, maybe?

Beer Note

Before heading up to Victoria I Googled "Victoria brewpubs" and three came up: Canoe (see Day 0), Swanns (which I've yet to visit), and Spinnakers, which Lauret and I easily found across the Johnson Street Bridge this evening. What a great restaurant and brewpub this is! We got a table on the shady patio looking out toward the Inner Harbour, I opted for the delicious halibut fish and chips, and the beer was oustanding. I had the Nut Brown Ale: smooth and a bit smoky, in a good way. A gorgeous color and head, too.

Folks, they know how to brew some beer up in Victoria!

Take Away

1. I cannot stay up this late blogging.

2. I should instead stay up this late chatting with my many new ASLE friends.


The view from our table at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub.

Simmons Buntin and Lauret Savoy in front of the Empress Hotel.

The Pacific Grace, docked near the Inner Harbour esplanade.

Lauret photographs the harbour and the British Columbia Parliament Buildings.

Parting shot: silhoutted rigging. I don't know what all this stuff is, but I do know that it is beautiful.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

ASLE Conference Review : Day 2 editor Simmons Buntin blogs the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment biennial conference:

The British Columbia Government Parliament Buildings near the Victoria Inner Harbour.

The second day of the ASLE conference in Victoria, BC:


Today the ASLE conference kicked off in full, beginning with the opening plenary, featuring conservation biologist, professor, and writer Richard Primack, and ecologist and writer Amy Seidl, author of the new, acclaimed book Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World.

I next attended "Essays from the Wildbranch Writing Workshop," facilitated by Anne Arundel Community College English professor Susan Cohen, and featuring creative nonfiction readings from Susan, Sierra College instructor Eve Quesnel, and not-an-English-professor me. I read my essay "Songbird," which I first drafted as part of the Wildbranch Writing Workshop in northern Vermont last summer.

I spent lunch manning the table in the (warm/stuffy/underlit/moderately sparse) exhibitors area. I should note that the onion rings from the UVic Student Union grill around the corner and down the hall are particularly tasty.

After lunch I attended the session titled "Conservation Photography as a Form of Literary Expression," which was just grand (more on that below), though I was sorry to miss "How and Why to Write about Humans and Nature," featuring contributors Anca Vlasopolos and Joan Maloof, as well as "Bubbas and Babes in the Woods: Real Men Read Creative Nonfiction about Children and Nature," which is closest to my own writing. Too bad so many great sessions occured at the same time, but such is the risk when there are fifteen concurrent sessions!

The final session of the day for me was what the ASLE coordinators call a "paper jam," which simply means fitting more presenters/readers into a single session. "Online, On the Page, and Out of This World: A Reading of Emerging Multicultural Ecopoetries" was led by Camille T. Dungy, and featured delightful short readings by her as well as Shane Book, Sean Hill, and James Hoch. Much to my chagrin, Oliver de la Paz, who was listed, wasn't able to make the session.

All in all, a great slate of sessions, which is just what I hoped for!

Then I joined Susan Cohen and her husband, plus Eve, University of Nevada - Reno English lecturer Mary Webb, and current issue contributors Andrew Gottlieb and Suzanne Roberts for a lovely dinner at Sauce Restaurant & Lounge, patio dessert along the water, and a walkabout along Victoria's Inner Harbour that included a street performer juggling flaming torches on a raised unicycle (not to mention a cool bus ride back to campus in a double-decker city bus) this evening.

Environmental Note

I've rinsed out my new Earth Basics 900 ML stainless steel bottle and am ready to roll with it. No more plastic bottles, I say!

On a more relevant note, I enjoyed the opening plenary, especially Richard Primack's conversational style and slideshow about tracking global warming at Thoreau's Walden Pond using historical data from Thoreau himself, as well as Primack's and his students' research. As an opening plenary, however, I would have liked Primack to expand his global warming discussion a bit to the role of environmental literature in general. Something to really launch us into the conference. Or maybe that should have been Seidl's role? Either way, neither really got me jazzed up or ready to actively think more critically about it, which seems to me the role, in part, of the opening plenary.

Speaking of global warming, I do believe that Victoria is experiencing the phenomena this week. While it's not too bad outside -- not too bad? Why, it's downright beautiful! -- inside the Student Union and classrooms the temperature is uncomfortably warm. Simmons should have brought himself more pairs of shorts, is all I'm saying!

Best Event/Activity

The photography session early this afternoon was stunning visually -- slideshows and films -- and just as important thought-provoking and essential, especially for me in the context of, which attempts to bring together the web's best environmental literature and photography (as well as other media). Professional photographers Garth Lenz, Cristina Mittermeier, and Amy Gulick -- all members of the International League of Conservation Photographers -- introduced the ILCP and its work, and then addressed specific projects each photographer is working on to "bring conservation into focus." Do yourself a favor and check out the ILCP website, and then keep an eye out in future issues of, where I'm certain we'll be covering the organization's good work and photographers.

Worst Event/Activity

Other than the persistently stuffy session rooms -- which I've already harped on more than enough (and I'll stop now) -- there was nothing to complain about today. Sure, we missed the evening plenary and the opening free bar at the international reception, but that was our own doing as we enjoyed our stroll in downtown Victoria so much.

Beer Note

At Sauce this evening, I enjoyed a Vancouver Island Brewery Vancouver Islander Lager, crafted here in Victoria. I thought it was smooth and refreshing, complementing my delicious caramel pepper salmon quite nicely. Andrew, on the other hand, thought it was bland. The light lager could have used a bit more robustness (both in color and taste), I agree. For that I think we'd need Vancouver Island Brewery's Hermann's Dark Lager, which the restaurant did not, alas, have on tap.

By the way, as I type this I'm enjoying the jazz/electronica tunes streaming from Sauce's website. Check it out.

Take Away

At the Wildbranch panel this morning, one audience member -- a two-time Wildbranch participant -- noted how great it was to attend Wildbranch and write/commune with like-minded souls. That's pretty much how I feel following the first full day of the ASLE conference. While I'm not of the academic ecocriticism ilk (most attendees are), the passion, concern, and dedication toward the environment in lifestyle and writing serve as an essential bond and support system. I appreciate being a part of that.

I appreciate, too, the ability to form closer relationships with folks like Andrew and Suzanne, who I knew (mostly) only through before this conference began.


A large totem pole in front of the British Columbia Government's Parliament Buildings, which we strolled by this evening.

A wonderful plaza near the Inner Harbour.

In my first blog entry I included photos of the painted eagle sculptures. Here are a couple whale samples.

Whale sculpture, tiled, with the Empress Hotel in the background.