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And Off We Go…

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I launch this blog with some trepdiation. Texas, as the saying goes, is a Whole ‘Nother Country. “The environment” may seem like a narrow interest area until you think about the following: Texas has 11 distinct bio-regions, 367 miles of coastline, six cities with populations over 600,000, an economy roughly the size of Canada’s, more greenhouse gas emissions than any other state, almost 200,000 miles of rivers and streams, more biodiversity than any state but California, and so on. Our environmental problems are manifold: polluted skies and waterways, sprawling metropolises that gobble up more and more land, rivers and aquifers stressed by a population expected to double by 2060, a state environmental agency that’s a colossal failure, and, looming over all of this, a changing climate that could have disastrous consequences for Texas. I could continue this list all day and add some of the good things too, like the fact that Texas now leads the nation in wind energy and that the grassroots have won some major victories in recent years (the defeat of TXU’s mad plan to build 19 new coal-fired power plants, for example). Where to start?A John Graves quote, from his classic Goodbye to a River, comes to mind. You can comprehend a piece of a river. A whole river that is really a river is much to comprehend.Sage advice for, say, a blogging journalist: Don’t try to know everything, cover everything, be everything. Be humble. Focus on the particular – and the universal will follow. Let your interests carry you downstream. That’s what I’ll try to do with this space. This blog is about “the environment” loosely defined and the cardinal rule will be to write about what interests me. I hope it will interest you too.I come to the topic with a lifelong affinity for the natural splendors of this state.I’ve walked the sand dunes of desolate Matagorda Island, fished the King Ranch Shoreline on the Upper Laguna Madre, kayaked the Neches River in coldest winter, torn my skin on the mesquite and huisache scrub-brush as a kid growing up in South Texas, floated the spring-fed streams of the Hill Country and wandered the deserts and mountains of Big Bend. I treasure these places. But like most Texans I now live in a growing city (Austin) and have little day-to-day interaction with the “wide open spaces” of Texas mythology.It’s in the cities and the suburbs – among a growing Latino population – where most of our most pressing environmental issues are playing out. I plan to put an emphasis on environmental justice, the intersection of social justice and the environment. Our political leaders are for the most part unable or unwilling to deal with these problems. Some – here’s looking at you, Rick Perry – seem to think the environment is something that only hippies and Californians could care about. Others are too stuffed with campaign contributions and lobbyist meals to give a hoot. Too many regulators think their job is to help industry maximize profit rather than make sure ordinary Texans have clean air and water.I’ll be construing “the environment” in the broadest possible sense. Expect to hear about solar power, radioactive waste, drought, chicken shit, Boone Pickens, dodos (the unfortunately non-extinct politician kind), carbon credits, rising sea levels, toxic hotspots, that damn border wall, and maybe even some tips on kayak/canoe trips. Politicians and corporate polluters will be assaulted on a regular basis. Feel free to contact me with any thoughts, tips, complaints, ideas, pitches for writing guest posts (we don’t pay), or anything else. Just, please, don’t waste a tree sending me a letter. It’s wilder AT texasobserver.org

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.