This path was created by Alison Morgan.  The last update was by students at Xavier University.

Our World With and For the Future

Editor's Introduction

When I encountered this class I had no idea what it meant to say that “Books can Save the Earth.” As a college student, I ultimately thought this class would be a literature course which would talk about the impact of literature, and how it would provide an informal maps for righting some of society’s wrongs. With that in mind, I was confused when the first few weeks of class would talk about green literature, and to build upon what is the role of humans in this all. I would later come to find the answer to my question of green literature and its role in the course description. “Drought, floods, mega-storms, raging fires: environmental disasters are happening everywhere these days with even more devastation projected in the future as climate change advances. In the face of these enormous and frightening problems, what can books do?” (Ottum) The most important part of this statement, “What can books do” and how will they respond to the above qualities. Before moving onto a solution to this problem, one must understand two basic principles, that being what is the environment, and what is green literature. 

In a world full of “green” it’s amazing to see how immense and expansive the great world outside of us is. The relationship between human existence and “green” behavior has expanded too many walks of life. From recycling to conservation/sustainability efforts, to representing environmental “High’s and Low’s” through expressionist outlets. One such way is through visual art. The idea of “green” art can be defined simply as art that improves our relationship with the natural world. However, I believe it goes much deeper than sustaining our relationship with nature. I believe that “green” art does four things. It must inform and interpret nature and its processes, through the education of environmental problems. The artist must understand how natural process works. Meaning they must seek to fully comprehend the potential effects of the natural world. Seeking to re-imagine the ways from which we can co-exist with our natural environment. The coexisting behavior is seeks to present the beauty that can be attained by simply loving nature.

An environment, as defined by the Webster dictionary is a place in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates. Within this simple definition we determine two things. The first thing, being that within the environmental definition animals and men are separated, their separation is vital to truly understanding and grasping the premise of this anthology. This separation suggests that man is above and separate from animals, and deserves his own classification. Additionally, this definition of environment leaves out an important contributor to any environment: the land. Without land and water on this planet, we would simply not have any purpose. The definition implies that only three things are included in the environment, and ultimately present environments as solely the people, animals, and plants that exist in it. The flawed definition is exactly what this anthology serves to do. Unfortunately, this is the root of the environmental crisis, humans believe and acknowledge that they are indeed above animals and plants. Moreover, the land is forgotten from the definition and even the human’s minds. 

Thus enters environmental writing, which has existed since the dawn of time. This environmental writing, which in its earlier years told of the beauty of nature. This beauty of nature talks about the wonders that will come from nature, and wonders we can grow and learn from. As nature writing progressed, it sought to acknowledge the contemporary issues that permeate out society now, and further more to challenge the current beliefs of the human centered world. It challenges the belief that humans are meant to have dominion of the nature. It seeks to understand the notion and call attention to the skeptical belief that earth and its creatures are separated from human beings, and acknowledges this flaw. Finally, environmental writing will point to the future and in pointing to the future it will acknowledge and illuminate how the choices will impact the future. 

This anthology allows us to look at the impacts we are having on nature. It will begin with giving the reader some options, these options will allow the reader to decide at which degree they would like to look at environmental writing from. These three “Paths” will allow the reader to begin their journey through our anthology of environmental writing. That is the essential function of this anthology, to create a journey that understands our complete role in this ecosystem. The journey will take you through varying degrees/spectrums of environmental writing. The paths are broken up into three sections, the first section will be an examination of the past. The writers found in this path will look at their/others role in the environmental world. The first path will paint nature in a very like way, providing a very light look at the environment through writing. The authors in this section will look at the role of nature, and all of them will have a very positive light. Some of authors will look at their past, to show how nature has greatly impacted their future. The lens which they look through shows how their positive encounters with nature have made them individuals who greatly appreciate the grandeur of nature, and more importantly how they must preserve it. Other individuals will look at the positive role of nature and how it may have impacted a decision they have made in their lives. It will look at the role of nature and how it has greatly impacted their outlook on the environment. Finally, some authors will analyze other environmentalist, and look at how much of their work “holds onto some beautiful pieces of nature.” (Cataldo 7) This path is the first end of the spectrum and seeks to present the wonderment of nature. Moreover, its looks to present the world as something to hope for. 

The next stop of the environmental journey looks at the impact at the middle ground of environmental writing. It takes authors who not only see the good or light side of nature, but also authors who present subtle hints of the growing problems in our current relationship with nature. These authors in this path will look at nature through the eyes of that authors from the Preface path would look, and provide contextualized evidence for the current downfall. This path provides lots of warnings to readers, while also painting the beauty of nature and providing ultimately realistic, life like provisions. Another author, Hannah Schrmaka will look at the beloved author Dr. Seuss and his The Lorax. This author a beloved children’s novelist writes an excellent take on environmentalism. It paints in a very innocent way the implications of humans using too much of nature. This depiction is further illuminated by the first introduction of the Lorax, “I am the Lorax who speaks for the trees/which you seem to be chopping down as fast as you please” these line later goes on to suggests the hope that may come from realizing our down falls, suggesting that “But I can’t let them stay. They’ll have to find food. And I hope that they may” (Dr. Seuss). This author best captures the role of many other authors in this section. These authors will serve as a wakeup call or awakening to the current environmental problems. The purpose of this path is to inspire the reader to wake up and prepare the take actions. The closing lines of the Lorax do an excellent job of exemplifying this. For in the final passage the old Once-ler presents a way out, and suggests that time is still on our sides. Reminding the children (You the reader) that there is still time to save our environment. 

The final path is peek into the future. Whereas the previous paths served as their own little warnings, this final path provides nothing but darkness. It rips the hope of saving our environment, and clearly states that once we continue to ignore the current problems, there will be no turning back. Authors in this section have acknowledged the problem, and point to humans for all that they have done. Pointing to a not so distant future, these writers illuminate all the repercussions of our actions. Alex Smithers writes with the assumption that pollution is bad, and assumes this knowledge of his reader. He later goes on to say that the ultimate message behind his piece is the greater impact pollution has on all species. Including humans and suggesting they too are impacted by pollutants. His story does a powerful thing, for so long humans have been elevated above their effects on nature, and Smithers presents a world in which the neglect will come to floriation. Another author Matthew Mock, will point to the problem of deforestation by painting a man conveniently disconnected with nature. Both authors take interesting approaches to explaining where man has gone wrong. Where Smithers suggests that man is directly responsible for the current environmental issues; Mock, presents implication of those issues. But overall the two authors has one central theme: disconnect. The many other authors in this section hark on a similar explanation. Beneath their preachy nature, these authors’ overarching theme comes down to loss of connectivity with nature. 

This anthology is a journey through environmental writing, it’s very clearly laid out that way. Each path evokes a mood or tone on the environmental spectrum. It starts by presenting a beauty of nature, and its power to move us. Whether it’d be toward better life decisions, or toward preservation skills. The next moves us to the implications of only some seeking to help our environment, and the actions of those few cannot avoid the inevitable downfall of environmental ignorance. Finally, the last path shows the lack of urgency for the warnings of our environmental issues. This anthology will serve to do just that, it will take you on a journey that will cause you to have self-awareness. That awareness should then create some self-accountability. I am not expecting you to walk away from this anthology and rid life of the modern amnesties that aid our environmental crisis. But I am however, hoping that you will acknowledge you part in our current environmental crisis and find a way to help lessen your part in the downfall of our ecosystem.

Contents of this path: