April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and, while there’s so much else going on in the world right now, I wanted to take a minute to recognize the writers who make us feel more connected to the natural world and inspire us to protect it. Fiction and poetry are powerful tools in the fight to save our planet from climate change. As Marlena Chertock explains, they “have the power to change minds and make people care.”
Here are the writers making the LPR team care through their poetry and prose.
Ned Tillman is a Columbia resident and a leading advocate for environmental stewardship, both in the Chesapeake region and nationally. He has written a number of books, including the award-winning The Chesapeake Watershed and Saving the Places We Love. His most recent book, The Big Melt, was written for young adults and explores the consequences if we don’t take action on climate change (the title refers not to rising sea levels, but to melting asphalt). The Big Melt was a finalist for both the One Maryland/One Book competition and The Green Earth Book Award. LPR caught up with Tillman last year when the book was published.
Tillman has also served on local, state, and national boards dealing with environmental, conservation, energy, and health organizations, and he and leads walks and talks in the field. His website includes a list of “Ten Steps for a Cooler Climate,” courtesy of one of the characters in The Big Melt.
I think many people, teenagers and adults alike, prefer reading fiction. It is often easier to get a visceral sense of a big problem through a fictional story.Ned Tillman
Douglas W. Tallamy
Douglas Tallamy is an entomology professor at the University of Delaware and has written extensively about plants and insects. He’s a favorite of LPR Board member Brian England, who says, “Doug has written with passion about how to bring life into a garden. Bringing Nature Home shares with the reader how to pick native plants that encourage pollinators to come to a garden He also shares a deep knowledge on insects that provide food for birds. A great advocate for replacing grass with native plants, scrubs and trees!”
Tallamy’s other books include The Living Landscape, co-authored with Rick Darke (2014) and a new release, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard. Tallamy’s books and answers to questions about gardening are available on his website.
If you haven’t read Marlena Chertock’s wonderful essay on why she writes, start there. Eco-anxiety provides a great deal of fuel for her poetry and short stories. Chertock is working on a poetry manuscript that portrays climate change as a very present and urgent problem, unlike it’s sometimes portrayed in the media. Her poem “Ode to the Eastern Shore,” published in our Winter 2019 issue, is part of that manuscript.
Chertock also writes short pieces of climate fiction, or “CliFi.” She calls these stories “Forecasts,” and uses them to explore different climate events. Like Tillman’s work, they examine potential futures if we do nothing about the climate crisis. For Chertock, the stories are “a translation of my nightmares.”
Wendell Berry is the pick of LPR Board member George Clack. Berry lives on a farm in Kentucky that his family has farmed for generations. In George’s words, “Everything Berry writes reinforces the value he places on living a sustainable life on the land in a strong rural community. One of his remarks in an interview sums up his ethic: ‘There’s something that comes into a person from knowing how to work a team of horses that they can’t get any other way.'”
Berry writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Terry Tempest Williams
I love Terry Tempest Williams for the way that she relates the natural and human worlds in haunting sentences that are as much poetry as they are prose. She’s a naturalist and a fierce advocate on environmental and social issues. Her memoir Refuge is a great entry point into her work, and I’m excited to dive into The Hour of Land, a meditation on the history of our national park system.
Who would you add to the list?