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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This Week in History, Earth Day Inspires a Brief Glimpse into Literature and the Environment

Is there any day on the calendar that is not marked with "National Something Day"?

April 21 is National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day (now I am wondering who forgot to inform me that I should have been celebrating the union of two of my favorite snacks yesterday) as well as National Kindergarten Day. April 23 is National Talk Like Shakespeare Day (the slightly less popular cousin to National Talk Like a Pirate Day, which occurs on September 19) as well as National Picnic Day, National Take a Chance Day and National Cherry Cheesecake Day.

Sandwiched between those illustrious events is April 22nd’s humble National Earth Day.

Earth Day got its start in 1970 with Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Nelson hoped to provide unity to the grassroots efforts of the environmental movement by concentrating scattered efforts into a single nationwide demonstration of environmental concern and build ecological awareness. The effort did indeed meet with early success and in July 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established by executive order. Unlike National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, it's hard to miss when Earth Day comes around with all the national and international events taking place.

One of the very first things I learned in high school English was that one of literature’s central conflicts is Man vs. Nature. Nature, the way we relate to it and the pervasive worry about the future of our planet are ubiquitous within literature past and present. There is, in fact, an entire field of study that has developed around the topic of literature and the environment, which examines the portrayal of human’s relationship with the environment and how literature shapes our perceptions and environmental ethic, among other topics. To try to give any kind of comprehensive overview of environmental fiction would be a career in and of itself, and this is only a blog. Even trying to define what environmental fiction even is cannot be accomplished here.

Instead, here is a short selection of fiction and poetry that focuses in on nature, environmentalism, and our current post-apocalyptic obsession that is, at least in part, a product of our current concern over the state of our planet:

  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy

  • The Thunder Mutters by Alice Oswald
  • The Ecopoetry Anthology edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street

And, of course, a selection pulled from the archives and current issue of HFR:
  • Blue Sky White by Tessa Mellas in HFR42
  • Evolution by Weston Cutter in HFR39
  • Irretrievable Bird Species by Kevin Phan in HFR54
  • Organic Computers by Seth Fried in HFR54

Do you know all about literature and the environment? Please feel free to educate us in the comments below!

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