A plea to nature writers: Come write about Los Angeles. To all the young aspiring Thoreaus out there: Head to this megalopolis in droves, as if to Mecca. Chicago is also good. New York. Pittsburgh. Atlanta. Reno. Providence. Houston. Indianapolis.
Why does the venerable American literary genre of nature writing continue to ignore cities? Sure, a few wonderful writers are traveling the mean streets: very recently, Michael Pollan has rooted urgently through our supermarkets and kitchens. But when I browse the state-of-the-genre bible, the 2002 Norton anthology of nature writing, I can find only two essays — out of the 83 written after 1960 — that explore people’s connections to nature in the places where most of us live.
It is long past time for Thoreau to get on the bus. In the 1960s and ’70s, this literature provided vital nourishment to the environmental movement, and especially to the drive for wilderness preservation. But environmentalists have moved forward, to devote increasing energy to sustainable resource use, livable cities, and environmental justice — and to emphasize the connections between preserving the wilds in some place... Read more