Category Archives: Edward Abbey

Humanizing The Earth

The monkey wrench gang as a work illustrates several personal parallels which both deepen as well as elaborate upon the inherently human nature of the world in relation to how it’s treated by it’s inhabitants. I don’t necessarily mean that the earth is by our definition sentient, of course; simply that on a much larger scale, much like the way a human will respond negatively when it’s mistreated; so does and so will the planet. Not only will it respond, it’ll accomplish this in ways directly contradictory to the means by which humanity is used to recognizing any sort of retaliatory behavior: simply by introducing the absence of it’s own abundance. What I mean when I say ‘ways directly contradictory to the means by which humanity is used to recognizing any sort of retaliatory behavior’ I’m referring to most other living things’ usual response of hostility & aggression at the prospect of being seriously threatened.

A specific and yet subtle tool is used throughout Abbey’s work which I believe parallels this same nature of a more withdrawn response as a result of constant battering by an opposing force. As a novel, this work bursts with an abundance of dialogue; so that one as a reader becomes heavily embedded in each character’s specific idiosyncrasies as well as their own internal thoughts and feelings the same way one might be able to hone in on these amidst an actual face-to-face interaction. Now, while these might sound like one’s average, run-of-the-mill qualities of a work which merits publishing, if one takes care to notice the syntactical structure of almost any instance where 2 or more characters land themselves in a voracious back-and-forth, litanies which separate themselves from what one would otherwise characterize as adequately descriptive language for a novel become increasingly apparent.

Your plans? What do you mean your plans, you ignorant, pig-headed, self-centered schmuck.”

And in response, “I’m not sure I trust him.”

Again, almost immediately following, “A pair of weirdos. Eccentrics. Misfits. Anachronisms. Screwballs!”

“Now now, they’re good boys.”

It’s both these repetitive vocal litanies as well as the consistently terse, punctuated responses which meet them that directly parallel the planet’s reaction to widespread destruction among its natural resources and other forms of fruition. Just as these sentences batter and bash and berate the other conversationalist with what almost comes across as a kind of verbal assault, only to be met with a minimalistic, almost-disappointingly-lacking response; so do earth’s inhabitants, and earth’s only retort as a result is a morbidly scarce version of itself. This parallel serves to illuminate Abbey’s work’s overall focus on humanity’s strange & faulty relationship with the more than human world.

It’s this seemingly human reaction of the planet to negate it’s own life-giving and ever-reproducing nature as a result of rampant abuse by those species which primarily inhabit it that both unites as well as juxtaposes the separate personal tales of the members of the monkey wrench gang. Just as the earth reacts in a ‘human like’ way to how it’s treated, so do the members of the monkey wrench gang as the happenings of the novel take their course. This near-anthropomorphization of the earth as a human-like being (or at least one with certain human-like tendencies) takes care to highlight the undeniably human qualities of the members of the group as they interact with one another. Consequentially this leads to a more nuanced understanding of both these individuals as islands unto themselves as well as their roles and relations to one another among the group, which additionally deepens the experience of the novel, as it centers upon this group and it’s happenings within.

“Helpful” Terrorism

We live in a post- 9/11 world, where our anger and violence only causes more violence, creating an evil ongoing dance between what we disagree with and what we think itself to be right. And where are we to say and do what we want? As entirely insignificant forms of life on this space rock… We and our creations are the cancerous tumors of Earth (as it mirrors on humans and ravages our small bodies).
So why add more violence to our world that’s already fighting us so hard to leave? If we want so badly to become a peoples who are respectable to the animals and Earth, it’s time to acting how they would. And they’re appalled by our behavior thus far.
“The Monkeywrench Gang” is not a book I’d recommend to anyone with anger issues who’s hoping for a better tomorrow. It’s a great novel, don’t get me wrong, but it’s mainly a good novel for shaking some sense into someone and not so much a novel to hand to someone who’s already “woke” and ready to take action. The actions taken in monkeywrenching can be helpful, but pose many ethical dilemmas of character.
Just because something is wrong and we know it does not make it right for us to destroy what someone else finds right. And despite our perspectives allowing us to see the fault in the other perspectives, where does that justify our destruction? They’re already destroying what we aim to save, destroying their tools for destruction only further plummets us into a violent hole of constant chaos. To stop the issue at the source is to use words, calm actions, and education to enlighten the masses. Violence is simple, but just perpetuates our greatest issues. To read this book as a “how not-to” act is much beneficial. Stay educated, but remain respectful in your actions of change.
We are creatures who have done nothing but corrode and destroy our Mother Earth and if we aim to save as we so much preach, the actions of the monkeywrenchers really take away from that peace we’re working towards. The world will never be free of violence, but to reject it personally is the only way to create a positive outcome.

A Woman Amongst Men

While other books we’ve read in this class use overarching metaphors–characters, setting, dialogue, allegories, etc.–to address larger issues, Ed Abbey’s novel can only be described as straightforward.  His characters say exactly what they mean and issues are addressed head on.  The characters are definitely the most interesting part of this story.  They are unique and strange individuals.  While Doc Sarvis, George Hayduke, and Seldom Seen Smith all have fascinating perspectives, Bonnie Abbzug is the character I find the most intriguing.  As the only woman in the group she is the other.  Her character can be problematic at times  Seeing as she is always ‘with’ one of the men in the group, she is put into the role of being an extension of whoever she is sleeping with.  However, she is also one of the strongest characters.  She does not have any reservations when it comes to standing up for herself and what she believes in.  While she does have relationships with both Hayduke and Doc Sarvis, each of their characters bring out her stronger qualities.  

Throughout the novel, Bonnie is treated differently then the men, both by the male characters and the narrator.  Her character is a problematic one, seeing as she is a woman surrounded by men in a novel written by a man.  I think it is very obvious that she is a female character who has been written through the eyes of a male writer.  She is not only treated and seen differently, she is clearly a typecast feminist as seen through a man’s perspective.  She is constantly threatening the men and saying stereotypical feminist things.  Although I do love Bonnie’s character for how strong she is, it seems that she is also a living cliche.  With her fiery personality, she is the embodiment of a ‘black feminist woman’ through a white man’s point of view. 

“‘I’m no girl,’ Bonnie said. ‘I’m a grown up woman.  I’m twenty-eight and a half years old’”(pg. 72).  

This quote addresses the fact that everyone in the group, and the narrator as well, insist on referring to her as “girl”.  While I do love her strength and ability to stand up to the men in the novel, it seems to me that Abbey sets her up as a pretty flat character.  He surrounds her with sexist men and allows her a few ‘Oh hell no’ comebacks to their misogyny without actually addressing the gendered issues in the book.  

One of my favorite relationships in this book is the one between Doc Sarvis and Bonnie.  Sarvis is one of the most mild mannered characters in the novel, while Bonnie is one of the harshest.  They are in a relationship at the beginning of the novel and, seeing as they are always together, it is easy to set them up for comparison.  Sarvis’s general pitifulness allows the reader to see how strong of a character Bonnie is.  She is clearly the powerful person in the relationship.  Throughout the novel,  Doc asks her to marry him multiple times, however she always has the power to say no, and she always does.  By setting these characters up in this way, even if he doesn’t realize it, Abbey is using a male character to empower a female character’s personality, which is a very rare occurrence.

“‘Fuck off.’

‘Touche. Doc, are you going to sit there like a lump of lard and let that hairy swine insult me?’

‘Well… yes,’ Doc said, after due consideration.

‘You better.  I’m a full-grown woman, and I can take care of myself.’”(pg. 118).  

This dialogue sums up most of the interactions between Bonnie and Doc.  Doc is a very mild person.  He is so unlike Bonnie, he makes her seem even more powerful in comparison.  Sarvis’s weakness shows Bonnie’s strength.

Bonnie’s relationship with Hayduke is another oene that highlights her positives in comparison to his negatives.  While Hayduke is a very tough and strong character, just as Bonnie is, he is not half as intelligent as she.  They have many, many arguments throughout the story.  In that dialogue of their arguments, Bonnie almost always gets the last word.  She often calls Hayduke out for being stupid.  Abbey, once again is setting her up against another (male) character in order to show her superiority.

“‘Why is he always trying to monkey wrench into my plans?’

Your plans? What do you mean, your plans, you arrogant, pig-headed, self-centered schmuck.  Your plans! What about the rest of us?’”(pg. 180).  

Not only does her relationship show her intellectual capability, it shows, yet again, her strength.  Her constant fighting with Hayduke shows that she is able to stand up to the toughest man in the group.  Hayduke can be downright terrifying at times.  He was thought to be a wild homeless man by Seldom Smith at the beginning of the novel.  He is a loud, rough, hairy, gun-toting bear of a person.  When he does speak, he is the loudest in the conversation.  However, with Bonnie around, you have to be the loudest and the smartest.

Although Bonnie’s character is an extremely problematic one.  I still really love her.  Being the only woman in this group, how could I not.  Her ability to stick to her beliefs while surrounded by people who couldn’t give a shit, is very admirable.  While she is a fairly flat character, she represents the problem of being a woman inside a social issue that does not take that into account.  And, while I do not think Abbey wrote her this way on purpose, I believe that she shows what it is like to exist as a woman fighting for what was primarily seen as a movement belonging to men.

 

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Clear Cutting

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey is a fantastic novel that tells a great story of the fight of environmentalist and their struggle to fight for their beliefs while protecting the environment. Their famous term, monkeywrench, is defined as sabotaging or damaging any machines or workers who plan to break environmental laws and hurt the environment. The monkeywrenchers goal is to protect the environment and all the living beings in it.

Abbey mentions the term clear cutting on page 229 and many other chapters throughout the novel. Clear Cutting is defined as a logging practice of which many trees in the area are uniformly cut down. Clear Cutting is a form of deforestation, it destroys the homes of many different ecosystems. What many are unaware is that clear cutting destroys the land and all the beings living within a certain mile radius of the location. When clear cutting occurs, the land will most likely never be the same. It will take many decades for the trees to regrow and return to the original state it was in.

Protecting the environment is every characters life long passion. Every character in this novel resorts to sabotaging heavy machinery including bulldozers and even trains. Abbey uses the concept through one of his main characters when he states, “Hayduke thought. Finally the idea arrived. He said, “My job is to save the fucking wilderness. I don’t know anything else worth saving. That’s simple, right?” (Abbey 229).  All these characters care about is saving the wilderness and the ecosystems existing within it. They all live for saving the environment in anyway they can think of, and Hayduke is the most fearless out of all of them. Hayduke stands out as the most courageous character, willing to do anything, even with the danger of the law on his back. If clear cutting continues it will not only destroy many natural habitats, but continue to influence climate change in the long term.

The American Logging Industry has many different uses for the lumber, including houses for the American people to build their very own homes with. Unfortunately it is the most profitable logging method, and although the cleared land could be left for farmers to make use of it could potentially damage the soil and ruin the farmers ability to grow certain crops on the land. Another major issue is the water damage that is caused due to clear cutting. This relates to the issue of the Glen  Canyon Dam that the monkey wrenches search out to destroy.

Clear Cutting can destroy the lands ability to absorb water, and can cause severe flooding to the area. Flooding can result in erosion causing even more damage to ecosystems like fish in nearby lakes or rivers. This can then result in rapid river movement during storms, not only causing damage to our roads but completely eliminate surrounding habitats. Our society needs to come together and stop the government from allowing clear cutting to continue in our forests. There are a lot more negative aspects then positive aspects when clear cutting is involved.

 

 

 

The Monkey Wrench Gang: Eco-Terrorism

Edward Abbey’s book The Monkey Wrench Gang is a fictional book about 4 characters that are trying to save the environment. Throughout the story of this book Abbey gives the 4 main characters all wild personalities. The actions of the characters within this novel give representation to the “Eco-terrorist” movement throughout the book are extremely radical. The characters bring great destruction to infrastructure and destroy things for fun. Although this book is fictional the message provided from the action of the characters and plot represent  environmentalist Abbey’s political point of view.

The four main characters personalities within this book are all very different. Although these characters have their differences throughout the book they band together as misfits and bring destruction wherever they see fit. All of the destruction and demolition is not for nothing though, these characters share a common love for the environment and in their own way purge the land the way they see fit.

The first character introduced within this novel is Doc Sarvis, a middle aged man and academic. Sarvis a man with a medical doctorate enjoys the hobby of “highway beautification”. In the very first pages of chapter one Doc Sarvis is found on the side of a highway preparing to burn down a billboard. Sarvis enjoys this hobby because he enjoys being able to drive and enjoy the scenery, billboards are not something he enjoys gazing upon throughout his travels. “With a five-gallon can of gasoline he sloshed about the legs and support members of the selected target, then applied a match. Everyone should have a hobby.” (1) I concur with Doc Sarvis’s appreciation for nature on his drives through the country, I to enjoy the scenery and foliage and billboards and other structures obscure my view I enjoy this quote being at the beginning of the book because it really does well in setting the tone of the book and how it will unravel. The doctor’s political point of view is displayed well through one of my favorite quotes in the book, “We are caught,”Continued the good doctor,” in the iron treds of a technological juggernaut. A mindless machine. With a breeder reactor for a heart.” (64) This quote really says a lot about the book and about the environmentalist movement in general. We are all caught up in the development of the “modern world” where technology rules, and mother nature is dying. Doc Sarvis is the brains of the crew being an educated man and displays his knowledge throughout the book.

The second character to be introduced in the novel is the brute of the bunch. Hayduke, a younger man than Doc Sarvis and whole lot less brains and whole lot more brawn is the second member of the gang. “What’s more american than violence?” Hayduke wanted to know. “Violence, it’s as American as pizza pie.” (156) Hayduke a Vietnam War Veteran was captured by the Vietcong the last year of his four year deployment during the war. Hayduke also loves the environment and enjoys destruction of infrastructure. Hayduke also is a man who loves his beer. “Hayduke opened another can of beer. He was always opening another can of beer. And always pissing.” (103) “He drank another beer as he drove along. Two and a half six packs to Lee’s Ferry.” (25) Hayduke has an appreciation for nature but contradicts his fondness for the environment by littering his beer cans out his car window. “Tossing his empty beer can out the window, Hayduke races North, towards the Indian Country. By now you can tell Hayduke is a bit reckless and this next quote really displays it. “He was indeed a menace to other drivers but justified himself in this way: If you don’t drink, don’t drive. If you drink, drive like hell. Why? Because freedom, not safety, is the highest good. Because the public roads should be wide open to all- children on tricycles, little old ladies in Eisenhower Plymouths, homicidal lesbians driving forty ton Mack tractor-trailers. Let us have no favorites, no licenses, no god damn rules for the road. Let every freeway be a free-for-all.”(33) Although Hayduke’s actions may seem senseless and thoughtful, at the end of the day this  “simple minded” savage of a man knows what he’s in it for. “Hayduke thought. Finally the idea arrived. He said, “My job is to save the ****ing wilderness. I don’t know anything else worth saving. That’s simple right?” (203)

The third character to be introduced in the novel is Seldom Seen Smith. He also differs greatly from the two first men. SMith is a Mormon man with multiple wives who’s fondness for the environment lies with the rivers and mountains. Although not as much of a brute as Hayduke, Smith too enjoys the hobby of “Monkey-wrenching”, or destruction of infrastructure. “The blue death, Smith called it. Like Hayduke his heart was full of a healthy hatred.” (36) Smith’s love for the mountains and rivers is shown in his introduction in chapter three when he plots the destruction of the Glen Canyon Dam. “They stared at it. The dam demanded attention. It was a magnificent mass of cement. Vital statistics: 792,000 tons of concrete aggregate; cost $750 million and the lives of sixteen workmen. Four years in the making, prime contractor Morrison-Knudsen, Inc., sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, courtesy U.S. taxpayers.

“It’s too big”, she said

“That’s right honey,” he said “And that’s why.”

“You can’t.”

“There’s a way.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. But there’s got to be a way” (37)

The last character to be introduced in the novel is a women by the name of Bonnie Abbzug. Bonnie and Doc Sarvis throughout the novel share a complicated relationship. Bonnie used to work for Doc Sarvas but they now share an interesting affair relationship. Bonnie is a young 28 year old women who also enjoys the hobby of “highway beautification.” Bonnie is given a hard tine frequently by Hayduke who initially refuse partnership in the gang with a woman. “No ****ing girls,” he hollered. :this is a man’s work.” (69)

Though all 4 of the main characters personalities are very different they all work well together sharing a “healthy hatred” for infrastructure and its detrimental effects on the environment.  Reading through this novel as a fictional story is quite enjoyable and highly recommendable but it contains a much deeper message. Edward Abbey’s compassion for nature is displayed in the fictional tale of these characters in the American mid west. Abbey knows that the construction of the modern world and infrastructure has both fragmented and destroyed the natural world. This story is action packed and very exciting which makes it easy and very enjoyable to read. Although the action of these characters may seem a bit radical, and quite illegal; the idea of “Eco-terrorism” is compelling. Instances in real life of “monkey-wrenching” have taken place all over the world where environmentalists have brought about destruction and protest to construction sites.

What Do We Do: Monkey Wrench Gang (In progress)

What do we do about the environmental crisis? Many people have tried to answer this through books, movies, and songs. Rachel Carson answered it in her 1962 book, Silent Spring, by saying we need to stop messing with nature and spread the word. Her claim is that if you fight nature, nature fights back, and will fight back so hard  you can’t win. Wendell Berry mentions his response in his 1977 book, The Unsettling of America. Berry explains the problems and poses possible to solutions to each one. He says that we are the problem and so is our culture. Gary Snyder brings attention to the environmental crisis through his poetry and poetic words. These are all positive ways of addressing the issue. But what if positivity doesn’t work? What does negativity do? What do we do?

Edward Abbey shows the negative side of fighting the environmental crisis in his 1975 book, the Monkey Wrench Gang. In the book, he jumps right into using violence as a solution. “Monkey wrenching” is the attack of machines and inanimate objects to prove a point, although the official Britannica definition is “nonviolent disobedience and sabotage carried out by environmental activists against those whom they perceive to be ecological exploiters.” But in  Edward Abbey’s book, we can clearly see that it’s violent. The first chapter is about people burning billboards. On page 9, Abbey describes the act. He says, “With a five-gallon can of gasoline he sloshed about the legs and support members of the selected target, then applied a match. Everyone should have a hobby,” (Abbey 9). The idea of burning something as a hobby sounds sociopathic and arsonistic.  In no way is that nonviolent. Edward Abbey brings about a provocative story and brings the idea in to mind that the environmental crisis can’t just be solved with kindness. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

This is an interesting idea. What we see is a group of people destroying someone else’s property and hard work. But the people who do these kinds of acts believe they’re doing it for the greater good – to save the planet. On page 229, Abbey discusses Hayduke’s thoughts about his purpose and monkey wrenching. He says, “Hayduke thought. Finally the idea arrived. He said, ‘My job is to save the [expletive] wilderness. I don’t know anything else worth saving. That’s simple, right?’” (Abbey 229).

92 – “He struggled for a while with the plug, finally broke it loose and let out the oil. The great machine began to bleed; its lifeblood drained out with pulsing throbs, onto the dust and sand. When it was all gone, he replaced the plug. Why? Force of habit — thought he was changing the oil in his jeep.”

  • The idea that they’re making something inanimate seem alive
  • It’s second nature to use these mechanics that are making the world more unnatural
  • Also destroying things then fixing it is natural

 

P 84 – “Doc hates ants,” Bonny explained. “And they hate him.”

  • Followed by an ANTHILL METAPHOR
  • Basically saying if you hate nature, it will hate you back

“Let every freeway be a free-for-all,” (Abbey 28).

63 – “‘The wilderness once offered men a plausible way of life,’ the doctor said. ‘Now it functions as a psychiatric refuge. Soon there will be no wilderness…. Soon there will be no place to go. Then the madness becomes universal.”

So what do we do about the crisis? Do we create books and peaceful protests? Or do we protest with action? There are two sides to monkey wrenching, so there isn’t just one answer.

The Monkey Wrench Gang: Wrecking Crew

The Monkey Wrench Gang is easily the most radical book we’ve read in class thus far. The mix of wild character personas and an action filled plot is a contrast from some of the scientific data and fact we’ve read in Rachel Carson or Wendell Berry. The identities and characters of the text are the best element of the text. Abbey uses these characters to create/simulate identities for the radical environmental counter-culture.

Edward Abbey also introduces a variety of characters, identities, and personalities that both feed off and destroy each other. Hayduke is a great example of an expansive character who undergoes major changes to his lifestyle when he joins the gang. The  text spends a little time with Hayduke in the beginning. You learn about his military past and how that has developed his persona into that of a hard worker with a rough edge.

“He had bought the jeep, a sandstorm-blasted sun-bleached blue, in San Diego from a team of car dealers named Square Deal Andy and Top Dollar Johnny. The fuel pump had given out first, near Brawley, and at Yuma, limping off the freeway with a flat, he discovered that Square Deal had sold him (for only $2795, it’s true) a jeep without a jack. Small problems: he liked this machine; he was pleased with the handy extras—roll bars, auxiliary gas tank, mag rims and wide-tread tires, the Warn hubs and the Warn winch with 150-foot cable, the gimbal-mounted beer-can holder screwed to the dash, the free and natural paint job” (33). I find this quote very funny, Abbey uses everyday misfortune and humor of a deceitful car salesman to justify Hayduke’s initial anger. Although the text is fictional, I find this quote to be major, without this weird hiccup in his plans, Hayduke may never have come across Smith as he did. The early origins of Hayduke also shown revealing his nasty and growing drinking problem. This is highlighted especially when Abbey notes Hayduke’s preferred method of keeping time while on the road.

“He drank another beer as he drove along. Two and a half six-packs to Lee’s Ferry. Out there in the open Southwest, he and his friends measured highway distances in per-capita six-packs of beer. L.A. to Phoenix, four six-packs; Tucson to Flagstaff, three six-packs; Phoenix to New York, thirty-five six-packs. (Time is relative, said Heraclitus a long time ago, and distance a function of velocity. Since the ultimate goal of transport technology is the annihilation of space, the compression of all Being into one pure point, it follows that six-packs help. Speed is the ultimate drug and rockets run on alcohol. Hayduke had formulated this theory all by himself” (35).

This quote stands out as a snapshot of a way of life that was far simpler than the world we know today. Although crushing beers on a desert highway is far from responsible, it is seen as a minor crime in comparison to half of the activities tied to the gang. In today’s world,  if such a gang were to come together, drunk-driving and binge-drinking would probably be a clear indicator that someone is unprepared or immature about the cause. But in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, our relationship with alcohol had not fully changed, as is shown.

Doc and Bonnie show an interesting relationship as well. With a noticeable age difference and appearance, the two make an odd couple. But, I believe Abbey did this on purpose, introducing a “couple”, who defy most cultural expectations about dating or love for that matter. Bonnie, exceeds her role as “employee” due to the sexual nature of her relationship with Doc. She exceeds to a point where it is obvious, that Doc has grown very dependent on his bright and beautiful partner. Unfortunately, Bonnie does not hide that the Doc’s financial stability is key in her presence, but not the extent of her feelings. She truly cares for the man, as she knows he is kind by nature and as the plot continues, a loyal member to his cause. Doc’s role as a pacifist is an interesting choice. It is for that reason, that climactic action doesn’t bury the protagonists early. The line between a violent and non-violent attack blurs throughout the book. Without Doc’s passive and anti-violence ways, the plot could have carried out much differently. For instance, if Hayduke had led the assaults, the safety of all the gang would certainly be in his hands, a risky move.

Abbey employs Smith as well as a median point between the other two Male protagonists. He possesses the energy and willingness of a Hayduke. Smith shares his dislike for the changing landscape and new construction, a clear indicator of what side he’s on. When it comes time to act and deliver their message, Smith has a reserved side that is similar to Doc.  His age allows him to keep up with the others with ease. The characters, together, create a perfect image of a non-violent resistance group, full of diversity and vitality. In short, I believe Abbey created the ideal gang for him, his associates and everyone who believed the things he did.

 

Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey’s 1975 novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, follows the antihero, George Washington Hayduke who declares that his purpose in life is to “save the fucking wilderness. I don’t know anything else worth saving”. Abbey’s novel begins with an act of environmental terrorism, or activism, relying on the interpretation of the reader. After a dedication of a bridge spanning the Glen Canyon, an explosion destroys the new structure returning the landscape to its condition prior to man’s influence.

The novel tackles the issue of civilization’s impact on society. There are definite parallels between the work of Transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau and environmental author Edward Abbey. Thoreau’s writings condemning the impact of slavery on society and his strong abolitionist leanings mirror Abbey’s own cause of protecting the natural environment from human exploitation. Both authors were also not opposed to militant and aggressive measures to further their attempts to eliminate the encroachment of the influential members of society on the powerless minority. While both authors wrote during different time periods, each wrote with the intention of having a provocative effect on the reader.

In his essay “A Plead for Captain John Brown”, Thoreau outlines his argument for the radical, aggressive actions of John Brown to eliminate slavery from the South. While the actions of John Brown were illegal due to their militant, vigilante nature, Thoreau argues that sometimes violent protest is needed in order to change immoral societal institutions. Thoreau writes,  “I do not wish to force my thoughts upon you, but I feel forced myself. Little as I know of Captain Brown, I would fain do my part to correct the tone and the statements of the newspapers, and of my countrymen generally, respecting his character and actions. It costs us nothing to be just. We can at least express our sympathy with, and admiration of, him and his companions, and that is what I now propose to do” (Thoreau, 1). Thoreau’s emphasis on morally justification of Brown’s actions is directly related to Abbey’s support of environmental terrorism since both illegal acts prevent the marginalization of minority groups in society. During the days of slavery in the United States, African Americans did not have a sociopolitical voice to resist their oppression similar to how the natural environment does not have an avenue to voice its opposition to the encroaching acts of mankind on natural resources as outlined in Rachel Carson’s work, Silent Spring. Following the thesis of Carson to educate the reader on the impact of environmental damage, both Abbey and Thoreau attempt to inform the reader on the dangers of marginalizing the environment and individuals. Each author also demonstrates anarchist tendencies for the liberation of oppressed peoples and nature.

Both Abbey and Thoreau also share similar philosophies regarding the ownership (or lack thereof) of property. In in essays and longer works, Thoreau strongly believes that no living thing can be owned. Abbey takes the same argument regarding the natural environment-since the natural world existed before human existence and is a living entity that operates according to its own laws,  it cannot be governed by others. The protection and sanctification of property is central to American culture which is why the limits property ownership can be a recurring debate in American politics. According to Abbey, the wilderness represents an opportunity for humanity to escape the steadily increasing reliance of society on technology and industrialism.

Works Cited

Thoreau, Henry David. “A Plea for John Brown”. 1859. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/thoreau_001.asp

Environmental Writing: What is Most Effective?

The biggest crisis facing our world today is climate change. The destructiveness of climate change, as a human-induced phenomenon, has its roots in environmental degradation—the speed at which the Earth is warming stems from our behavior as a species. Without the Earth though, we are nothing. What problem could matter more than one that will destroy the only home we have?

Why then, have we, as a species, not done more to avoid this monstrous problem? There are books that explain what it is exactly that we are doing to our planet, and the consequences this has—Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, for example. Books have been written that try to explain why it is that we behave this way, and why it is that we’ve done nothing to make a change—

Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America. There are books that tell personal stories of how environmental degradation impacts families and lives—Refuge: An Uncommon History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams is an example. And while there are books that may provide us with steps to attempt to put a stop to this environmental degradation, these vary as well. Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) is one example of this that some may call “extreme” or “ecoterrorism,” while others may call it “activism” or “civil disobedience.” Along with these forms of environmental writing, there are many, many more. What, then, is the most effective form of writing if we are to stop or slow the path of environmental destruction we are currently on?

If Rachel Carson’s writing in Silent Spring is studied, one can learn a great deal about science and biology, while also learning of the real-world effects chemicals have had on humans, plants, animals, water, soil, etc. But perhaps one of the biggest reasons why Rachel Carson’s writing is so influential is because of the grace with which she writes. Rachel Carson, as opposed to a biology textbook, makes the process of cellular respiration sound like poetry—it becomes a complex, yet elegant process taking place within us all. Carson says,

The transformation of matter into energy in the cell is an ever-flowing process, one of nature’s
cycles of renewal, like a wheel endlessly turning. Grain by grain, molecule by molecule,
carbohydrate fuel in the form of glucose is fed into this wheel; in its cyclic passage the fuel
molecule undergoes fragmentation and a series of minute chemical changes. The changes are
made in orderly fashion, step by step, each step directed and controlled by an enzyme of so
specialized a function that it does this one thing and nothing else. At each step energy is
produced, waste products (carbon dioxide and water) are given off, and the altered molecule of
fuel is passed on to the next stage. When the turning wheel comes full cycle the fuel molecule
has been stripped down to a form in which it is ready to combine with a new molecule coming
in and to start the cycle anew.

It is through writing such as this that “average” people may not only become interested in the sciences, but also begin to think of their own bodies as part of the living, natural world. Perhaps this is the kind of writing that is needed to evoke feelings within people to make a change in their thinking of the natural world.

Wendell Berry, on the other hand, provides an equally honest form of writing in his novel The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. So while Carson lays out the chemistry, biology, and social implications of how we are destroying our environment, Wendell Berry, very convincingly provides us with reasons why these events are occurring. In a way that seems to me, personally, one of the most effective forms of environmental writing, Berry provides strictly factual information in an organized and intellectual way. Perhaps most importantly, Berry dedicates part of the book to focusing on the “big picture.” For example, Berry convinces the reader that the universe is a whole, and for that reason, systems ca only be built “within one another” (Berry 51). Berry proceeds to explain the inherent problem surrounding our environmental crisis—a culture of specialization. The use of language within this text varies considerably from Carson’s poetic description of cellular respiration, but is just as effective. Both are fact-based pieces of writing attempting to convince the reader of the environmental damage the authors have in mind, but Berry’s Unsettling of America seems to differ in its lack of attempt to be “graceful,” with a heavier focus on scientific and concise. With a college-level reading ability, Berry’s The Unsettling of America may serve as an influence to those who are looking for evidence of large scale crises within the human population.

Next, Terry Tempest Williams provides a memoir—one that describes her personal experience of what environmental damage in the form of nuclear testing can do to an entire family’s health. The moving story of her mother’s battle with cancer is one that nearly everyone who reads it can relate to in some way or another. Perhaps the universal nature of this book is what can make it so effective as a tool to fight for environmental protection—something that evokes feelings is often time the most powerful of influencers.

With that said, Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang is the perfect example of a piece of environmental literature that evokes a variety of emotions in the reader. The other interesting aspect then is that the emotions will vary from reader to reader. Some may feel a sense of excitement when reading Abbey’s novel, while others may feel anger. Either way, the end goal of the novel seems to be to convince people to take action against environmental degradation.

Like most of the previously described pieces of writing however, there exists quite a bit of controversy around Ed Abbey (specifically Ed Abbey as “an environmentalist.”) The controversy stems from the fact that Abbey is not an environmentalist in the sense that, say, Rachel Carson, Wendell Berry, or Terry Tempest Williams are. As Wendell Berry states in his essay on Ed Abbey, perhaps he isn’t an environmentalist at all. Berry says, “He is, certainly, a defender of some things that environmentalists defend, but he does not write merely in defense of what we call ‘the environment.’” As Berry points out, there are quite a few flaws that Abbey possesses, yet, at the same time, he has become an influential writer in the world of environmental literature. His writing has evoked in people an excitement and an anger, making them want to do something about the environmental crisis. And it seems as though this is the most important point nowadays—for people to take action.

So although Carson, Berry, Williams, and Abbey differ in their approach to environmental literature, the overall “result” is what matters most. Our only home is being destroyed, and whether liberals or conservatives, “environmentalists” or not, will speak out against it does not matter. What matters is that someone speaks out and that even more do something about it.

Environmental Violence (NOT FINISHED)

Edward Abbey’s 1975 novel, Monkey Wrench Gang is a thriving story about how the environment and experiences can change ones personal characteristics. I think that everyone has the ability to change when it comes to the various obstacles that life seems to throw at us. All of the characters in the book are involved with something that makes the world ‘go round’. Doc Sarvis is a surgeon who literally saves the lives of people who live on our earth. Seldom Smith is a river boat guide who lives his life on the water showing people the ways of the land. George Hayduke is a Vietnam Veteran who fought for our country and risked his life to save what we have. All of these characters have placed themselves in positions where they are all involved with the environment. As they move through their lives taking on each situation they are learning to move their ways through life. The real question is does violence solve these environmental problems?

Violence is not the answer but when it comes to anything, specifically in America, hurting things seems to be the main route. Our earth is filled with such beautiful things and when we as humans are slowly finding new ways to destroy what we have. The Monkey Wrench Gang follows through with this idea that ‘monkey wrenching’ is what needs to happen with our environment. Protesting or sabotaging the environment is what we all do whether it is apparent or subconsciously. We as humans have forced ourselves upon this earth and have created a serious footprint in the soil. We continue to step forward and leave our tracks on the ground. Sometimes we can say that this is a positive thing and we are moving into the future but in the end we are slowly ruining everything we have. This book discusses this in the eyes of violence.

Vlad Tchompalov- Unsplash

“What’s more American than violence?” Hayduke wanted to know.
“Violence, it’s as American as pizza pie.” (176)

Environmental violence is viewed very differently through the eyes of many different people. The controversy between what is hurting the world and what is helping will always be around. Considering the earth is changing so often it is all based around the adaptation of humans the the environment together. But more often than not, humans are changing the world at such a fast pace that evolution can’t seem to keep up. This is where the battle between humans and mother earth starts. Abbey makes environmental violence into an amazing story about his characters who are trying to save the world while in the end they end up just using violence to get what they think the earth needs/wants.

The industrial side of this novel tells a lot about the our current world that we are living in. Everything seems to be filled with this industry that needs to have things done in a timely manner while also making plant of money. This is another reason why we have come to environmental violence. The desire to have a mass production and extreme amounts of money will also cause violence. Not only towards the environment but also to the human race as well. Often in this world we find ourselves fighting over who is considered to be the middle class or the upper class and how do we get there. Human beings seem to have fuzzy vision when money becomes a factor of discussion. They will do anything, even if that means cutting down the forests, killing animals for only certain parts of their bodies, and hurting their own species. Industrial and environmental violence are smoothly linked together by the last word: Violence.