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Guest Post by Author Julie Dunlap
Growing up has always been tough. But the millennial generation, my young adult children’s cohort, faced especially daunting challenges. The 9/11 terror attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, and SuperStorm Sandy, along with melting ice caps and bleaching coral reefs, have been formative events in their youths and childhoods, shaping their understanding of people and planet along with their maturing characters. As an environmentalist and a parent of four, I wondered and worried how early experiences of a shifting and troubled Earth may alter young adults’ attachments to place and the natural world.
To explore these questions, I joined with Anne Arundel Community College professor Susan A. Cohen (also a mom of two millennials) to collect essays by young writers grappling with growing up in an era replete with environmental and social crises. The result is a new anthology, published this month by Trinity University Press—Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet. The collection’s title alludes to Bill McKibben’s book, The End of Nature, published in 1989 before many of our contributors were born. In the 1990s, McKibben’s best-seller introduced me and millions of other then-young parents to the looming threats of climate change and humanity’s ubiquitous alterations of our basic natural systems.
Perhaps anger was the emotion I most expected at the project’s outset, and some Coming of Age contributors do rail against their earthly inheritance, against the losses imposed as forests shrink and oceans sully. Yet others question older generations’ ideas, rejecting the view that a tourist-thronged canyon is inherently compromised, and insisting that pristine wilderness need not be the ultimate definition of natural beauty. Many find ways to celebrate remaining pockets of tenacious nature, the return of raptors to urban parks, or the rejuvenation of community through sharing food foraged in the wild. And most heartening of all, woven through essay after essay, are feelings of love, of home, and of commitment to a thriving future. Far from the entitled laggards of media myth, these young people are seizing and creating opportunities to protest, study, plant, explore, build, teach, and of course write about the challenges they face and the solutions they foresee. McKibben, in his generous foreword to Coming of Age at the End of Nature, praises the essays as “mature, reflective, deep, and lovely,” but also and most of all “hopeful.”
Of course, I still wonder and worry about what lies ahead for my children and yours, as places and processes we knew to be timeless transform at an accelerating pace. But thanks to the youthful voices in this collection, I know the rising millennial generation has roots in their Earth, deep and wide, and the resilience to face whatever comes next.
Julie Dunlap is a writer, editor, and educator living in Columbia, Maryland. For more information about Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet, please visit: http://tupress.org/books/coming-of-age-at-the-end-of-nature .
So much of what we give and get are temporal items that have little, lasting meaning to the recipient. What if you could give something that would inspire someone and have a lasting impact on their lives? Inspiring a love of nature and learning to live in balance with nature are probably the greatest gifts you can give. Just think about how many of us find solace and inspiration by (more…)
I love walking through the woods, along streams, and around lakes because there is so much to see and discover. There are eagles, osprey, beaver, turtles, and a host of herons. There are old foundations, overgrown driveways, and ancient trees. I feel like an explorer finding new bits of (more…)
I have listed below my recommendations for summer reading. Several of these were instrumental to me in developing my perspectives on environmental issues. Others were helpful in my research for my books (see below). Yes, of course, I would like you to read and get inspired by my two books, but don’t stop there. These other ones are classics. (more…)
What if high schools and colleges helped students create a nature-rich future, helped them become outdoor entrepreneurs? By that, I don’t mean careers devoted only to energy efficiency. That’s important, but there’s a whole new category of green jobs coming and some of them are already here — nature-smart jobs.
These careers and avocations will help children and adults become happier, healthier and smarter, by truly greening where (more…)
I’m always interested in seeking new places to visit. For me, new surroundings stimulate new ideas to bring home. This year’s travels were no exception. Each contained a populated urban area with a distinctly different approach to connecting people with nature and that got me thinking…
My winter get-away led me to the southwestern region of the US where it’s a short drive to escape the populous Phoenix metro area and relax in the vast expanse of the Sonoran desert. Whether hiking or biking, one can still find solitude to quietly observe a large variety of flora and fauna in an undisturbed setting. A fantastic means to let nature stimulate a personal sense of well-being.
In spring, I ventured to Spain’s Andalusia region to breathe in the temperate Mediterranean climate. I immediately fell in love with the relaxing, social atmosphere created by neighborhood plazas where residents on foot gathered daily (and I mean, daily) to converse among immaculate gardens and fountains surrounded by trees. Cities like Seville have created a wonderful way to weave human-nature connectivity into an urban way of life. (more…)