Voices from "Wrenched from the Land: Perspectives from the Front Lines of Environmental Activism”

December 28, 2020

Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and the Environment (CHE) hosted the virtual event “Wrenched from the Land: Perspectives from the Front Lines of Environmental Activism” on December 9 at 12:30 p.m. CST, facilitating conversation between environmental activists, panelist students, and the audience.

The discussion centered around ML Lincoln and her book Wrenched from the Land: Activists Inspired by Edward Abbey. Known for her promotion of environmental activism through storytelling, photography and filmmaking, Lincoln has been a prominent figure in the movement since the Vietnam War. During the discussion, Lincoln detailed the creation of her book including conducting interviews, collecting photos and artwork and emphasizing a sense of community when calling for change.

Lincoln also discussed Edward Abbey, who she said was the motivation behind her book. Abbey was a well-known author and advocate for the environment and public lands. Although Abbey passed away in 1989, his books The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire continue to serve as a catalyst for environmental movements and action across the United States.

“Young people are honoring Ed today by encouraging protests on environmentalism and conservation,” said Lincoln.  

Environmentalists Jack Loeffler, Doug Peacock, and Terry Tempest Williams who were all featured in Lincoln’s book, were also present for the virtual event.

Loeffler, an oral historian, writer, radio producer and environmentalist, has published and edited several books, including Survival Along the Continental Divide: An Anthology of Interviews, and Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey.

Loeffler discussed the ramifications of adopting early European attitudes and the affects that manifest destiny had on indigenous people in what is now the lower 48 states of the U.S. He includes his perspective on the complex idea of anarchism, and the principle of nature as it relates to governmental systems and policies.

Doug Peacock, an author and naturalist, has published several works related to wilderness issues worldwide. He is known for his book Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness. In addition, Peacock founded four organization focused on conservation and preserving indigenous lands.

During the discussion, he addressed his research on grizzly bears and issues concerning the Federal Wildlife Service and climate change. Peacock often speaks at environmental meetings or events, and encourages youth to take action.

“One thing I tell people is to look in your backyard, and start there,” Peacock said.

Terry Tempest Williams is a writer who focuses on combining ethical, political, and spiritual relationships between the wilderness and humans. She has won several awards for her leadership in the American conservation movement.

Williams spoke about storytelling as a tool of environmental activism and explains the importance of using one’s talent to elevate conservation efforts.

“Find your community and build your life around it, because that has been where my joy is, that has been where my power lies and that is where my work resides,” she said.

Panelists for the event included Kassia Shaw, a University of Wisconsin-Madison English Department PhD Candidate, John Koban, a CHE graduate associate and a dissertator in the UW-Madison English Department, and David Greenwood-Sanchez, a PhD candidate in political science at UW-Madison.

The event was moderated by Charlie Carlin, a UW-Madison alum with a PhD in geography and the director of strategic initiative at Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts.

The discussion was followed by a question-and-answer session with the public, surrounding topics of racial diversity, inclusion, and indigenous communities.

Watch a recording of “Wrenched from the Land: Perspectives from the front lines of environmental activism” and find out more about the speakers and their work here: https://bit.ly/3mDkSvs