About the Book
It was a writer who first drew my attention to the environment, years before the word entered the
public lexicon. My mother often read to my sister, Nancy, and me at the dinner table, and in 1962, she
read to us from a new book, Silent Spring. It made an unmistakable
impression. For the first time, I saw the connection between the twin poles of my childhood: the family
farm in the lush Cumberland riverbed and the marble halls of Washington, D.C., where my father cast
votes on behalf of his rural neighbors. ‘No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth
of new life in this stricken world,’ Rachel Carson wrote of a model American town devastated by
chemical pesticides. ‘The people had done it themselves.’ Carson opened my mind to the
notion that human actions could affect the ecosystems we depend on, and she proclaimed a lofty new
mission for self-government: to energize and empower the ‘millions to whom the beauty and the
ordered world of nature still have meaning that is deep and imperative.’
So writes Al Gore in his foreword to American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, Bill McKibben’s unprecedented, inspiring, and timely new anthology of American writing that has changed how we see the natural world and our place in it. The experience Gore describes is not unique. As McKibben observes in his introduction, “each advance in environmental practice” in our nation’s history “was preceded by a great book.” At every stage of its development, the American environmental movement has been inspired, propelled, and reinvigorated by great writing. Here, for the first time, that writing is brought together in a single work to inspire a new generation of readers and activists.
Classics of the environmental imagination—the essays of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and John Burroughs; Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac; Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring—are set alongside an emerging activist movement, revealed by newly uncovered reports of pioneering campaigns for conservation, passages from landmark legal opinions and legislation, and searing protest speeches. Throughout, some of America’s greatest and most impassioned writers take a turn toward nature, recognizing the fragility of our situation on earth and the urgency of the search for a sustainable way of life.
"American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau and americanearth.org have been made possible with support from The Gould Family Foundation."