Environmental reading list
From the staff of The Review
“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams
Bianca Thiruchittampalam, Managing Mosaic Editor
Four lines long, this poem does not cover the complexities and issues raised by the Environmentalist movement: It is not an environmental poem, in any sense of the word. Instead, it offers a quiet reflection on the presence of a red wheelbarrow, in the grass, beside the chickens. Perhaps I have been reading into it too much (I know, I have,) but this poem has always struck me as a beautiful meditation on the interactions between the man made world (the wheelbarrow) and the natural world (the grass, the dew, the hens, the morning.)
“Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer
Victoria Calvin, Copy Editor
Arguably one of the more divisive “nature lover” books, “Into The Wild” has inspired some and baffled others since 1996. The story follows Christopher McCandless, an Emory graduate from a wealthy, dysfunctional D.C.-area family. However, after graduating college, McCandless left. Literally. He cut up his government documents, donated his savings and started off into the wild with little more than what he could carry. Initially driving and then hiking, he travelled through the western U.S., briefly to Mexico, then Alaska over two years. While many saw his story as moving and inspiring, many also called McCandless stupid and uninformed. While each reader is entitled to their own opinion, the question must be posed: is there something you believe in so resolutely that you would abandon everything you know?
“Temperance Creek” by Pamela Royes
Edward Benner, Music and Society Editor
With breathtaking prose, Pamela Roye’s memoir “Temperance Creek” conveys the interrelations and complexities between love for the environment and of another individual. Royes makes the seemingly naive decision to abandon her comfortable upbringing and run off into the wilderness with a man she hardly knows named Skip Royes to become a sheepherder. While grappling with romance, grueling conditions, and near constant peril in Oregon’s austere Hells Canyon, Royes reveals the beauty and meaning of intentional living, down to the most miniscule contentment. “Temperance Creek” is a rare work that treats nature with a reverence and makes readers reconsider their size in the midst of the living and nonliving world.
“The Man Who Planted Trees” by Jean Giono
Edward Benner, Music and Society Editor
This French short story is about an old peasant who spends his days in solitude shepherding after the death of his wife. He walks the desolate land planting seeds and selflessly labors without anyone knowing. His actions rejuvenate the entire area and turn the desert into a Garden of Eden, bringing life and joy to others.
This story was passed along to me by a formative environmentalist and teacher I had in high school who inscribed my copy with “You guys were my trees.” Giono’s story is an allegory for the possibility of stewardship, not only environmentally, but in regards to any genuine action, be it education or caregiving. It continues to inspire me to be a man who planted trees in my own life, striving to make a meaningful impact on this planet.
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho
Jacob Baumgart, Editor-in-Chief
“The Alchemist” is a story of controlling the world around us. Santiago, a teenage shepherd from Spain, has a recurring dream about visiting the Egyptian pyramids. A psychic tells Santiago that the dreams are an omen that he must follow through on. Santiago decides to take the advice, selling his flock and trekking across the Sahara Desert. Along the way he learns to control earthly elements and be greater than human, forcing readers to question how they interact with the environment. Can one be invincible? Can they turn themselves into wind? If so, does that make one greater than the world around them? Coelho says no. The relationship between humans and nature is symbiotic and neither could exist without the other. “The Alchemist” reminds people that even the most barren tundras offer otherworldly interactions with the environment. If you can be the world around you, you too can be the alchemist.