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temple as a place of business instead of a place of prayer … ” The Tuolumne River was dammed in 1923, flooding Hetch Hetchy. The list of casualties has only grown as humankind’s swelling ranks have obliterated more and more special places. If history is any guide, those determined to keep global temperatures down, save the Florida panther, reform industrial agriculture, keep Big Oil out of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, or simply enjoy their local open space sans Wal-Mart, will need to steel themselves for a long and difficult fight. Like Berry, many of the writers collected in American Earth grapple with issues of place. Henry David Thoreau spent a life in reverent contemplation of the fields and forests of Concord. Caroline Henderson offers a gritty account of her family’s fight to ride out the storms of Dust Bowl Oklahoma. Aldo Leopold gleans timeless wisdom from the Wisconsin wilderness. And Barbara Kingsolver finds peace in the hills of Appalachia and the Arizona desert. The book’s title is itself an invitation to reflect on place. At first blush, the words American’s attitudes toward the landscape have been formulated over long periods of time, a span that reaches back to the end of the Ice Age. The land, this land is secure in his racial memory,” Momaday writes in the essay “A First American Views His Land.” Of course, to the victors go the spoils of material wealth . . . and official memory. Nearly 100 writers are featured in American Earth, with selections from 1837 to 2007. It’s not until 1976 that we hear from Momaday, one of a small handful of non-whites to appear in the volume. This lopsided arithmetic is no If history is any guide, those determined to keep global temperatures down, save the Florida panther, reform industrial agriculture, keep Big Oil out of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, or simply enjoy their local open space sans Wal-Mart, will need to steel themselves for a long and difficult fight. The great land grab of American history adds up to one thing, says guru farmer Wendell Berry: ignorance. “All the great changes, from the Indian wars and the opening of agricultural frontiers to the inauguration of genetic engineering, have been made without a backward look and in ignorance of whereabouts:’ he writes in 1987’s Home Economics. “We have never known what we were doing because we have never known what we were undoing.” Berry famously forsook an international life of letters to return to his native Kentucky to farm the land his forebears had nearly destroyed. In reconnecting with a particular patch of earth and lovingly tilling it back to life, Berry found his path to ecological salvation. “A destructive history, once it is understood as such, is a nearly insupportable burden:’ he writes. “In order to affirm the values most native and necessary to meindeed, to affirm my own life as a thing decent in possibilityI needed to know in my own experience that this place did not have to be abused in the past, and that it can be kindly and conservingly used now.” ring with the majesty of purple mountains and fruited plains. But there’s a strong whiff of colonialism as well. And a potential oxymoron. For wherever Americans have dwelled, the earth has tended to fare badly. This “reverse King Midas touch:’ as organizer Denis Hayes called our toxic presence in a 1970 speech marking the first Earth Day, contrasts sharply with Native American stewardship. Historian William Cronon, in his study of New England Indians, demonstrates that the oft-cited harmony between Native Americans and nature is more than a happy clich. The Agawam and other agricultural peoples most definitely altered the landscape with their seasonal plantings of corn and consumption of firewood, but the changes they wrought tended to perpetuate life throughout the ecosystem. M. Scott Momaday, the Kiowa writer, says the essential harmony between Indians and the land reflects a reverence for place, nurtured over thousands of years, a connectedness that stands in marked contrast to the white man’s culture of restless mobility “The Native mere oversight on McKibben’s part. From the earliest days of the movement, environmentalists have been a homogenous bunch with an unfortunate tendency to overlook or even disdain working classes and minorities. As director of the New York Zoological Society, William T. Hornaday was proud to display a pygmy from the Congo alongside an orangutan and other apes in the zoo’s monkey house. Muir himself alternated between celebrating Yosemite’s Native Americans and deriding them as “dirty” and “lazy” Attitudes like these, coupled with outright indifference, have created friction between mainstream environmentalists and minorities, who to this day suffer from disproportionately high levels of pollution in their communities. \(In Dumping in Dixie, excerpted in the book, Robert Bullard refers to the transmogrification of the so-called NIMBY phenomenon into PIBBY, or place-inronmentalists are increasingly embracing “diversity,” understanding that their long-term success hinges on cooperation with Latinos, blacks, Asians and other 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 19, 2008