My family in Vermont sent me Bill McKibben’s 2005 book (updated in 2014) as a Christmas gift. In it, he recounts a meandering trek through the Lake Champlain region of the Adirondacks. It’s part nature writing, partly an account of the history of the region and the ways his neighbours are tying to earn a living, and partly a meditation on the nature of wilderness and how it relates to human life.
McKibben talks about small-scale farmers and winemakers trying to compete against giant agribusiness corporations by securing premium prices for local food; students keen to establish major vegetable gardens at local colleges; debates about what to think and do about invasive species; strategies for social change; park rangers burning down the illegal cabins of hunters; and the ruin and ruckus caused by all-terrain vehicles and Jet Skis.
The book fits into a theme of environmentally-minded people finding ways to undertake major wilderness excursions, which I also saw among friends before leaving Facebook. I can see the plausibility in how time invested this way can help control the adverse emotions which accompany environmental activism in the face of a public wedded to consumerism and corporations and politicians vigorous in their defence of the status quo. At the same time, it’s hard to undertake when I am always behind on PhD requirements and never really financially secure enough for vacations.
In any event, the book is another good demonstration of McKibben’s eloquence and constant focus on the big questions facing humanity. I hope one day I will get to visit some of the landscape he describes.