In a world that regularly plunges into barbarism, perched on the ledge of self-destruction, most people will naturally try to search for humane, civilized, sustainable futures. And yet, most people have serious limitations on their ability to act.
Writers are among the few professions who can consistently act in an independent way and who are expected to be guided by conscience. Many would say that writing attracts people who need to act independently, or even that writing itself is an act of conscience.
Without a doubt, conscience is what guides many of the finest writers who have engaged with environment as their principal subject or backdrop for action. A short list of recent books might include: Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, John Grisham’s Pellican Brief, and John Hockenberry’s River out of Eden. There is an emerging genre of “climate fiction,” envisioning a world that survives (or does not survive) a catastrophic greenhouse event. And there is a long history of nature appreciation in childrens books, poetry and expository writing.
Genres of environmental writing range from factual science writing and policy advocacy to fiction writing about environmental topics. (Examples are not meant to be inclusive.)
- Books about non-fiction topics:
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson; End of Nature by Bill McKibben; Collapse by J. Diamond; Feeding the Fire by Eberhart
- Biography: Rachel Carson by Souder,
- Classics: Pliney, Thoreau, Hamilton
- Documentary Film
- Journalism — Reporting on political, social and science trends in environment. Journalism is concerned with verified information and public service; Approaches range from factual and technical to personal and literary.
- Literary non-fiction (journalism)
- Nature writing / Expository
- Books — Never Cry Wolf (Mowatt); Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Dillard); The Yosemite (Muir);
- Essays — Nicholas Kristoff, Rediscovering our humanity in the wilderness, NY Times, Aug. 4, 2014.
- Outdoor literature
- Narratives about exploration, hunting, fishing
- Heritage interpretation
- Historical narratives about environment
- Policy Advocacy: Technical writing, reports, studies, white papers; persuasive writing, such as press releases and op-eds.
- Environmental history
- Pan’s Travail by J. Donald Hughes; Traces on a Rhodian Shore by Clarence Glacken; A Forest Journey by John Perlin; Cadillac Desert by Mark Reisner;
- Environmental / Sci Fi Cinema
- Examples: Ferngully; Emerald Jungle; Waterworld ; The Day After Tomorrow;
- Environmental literature – List from the Association for the study of Literature & the Environment; also Wikipedia list of Environmental Books