Embrace Fearlessly The Burning World

February 19, 2023 [books] #essays

Book: Embrace Fearlessly The Burning World
Author: Barry Lopez

This is a collection of Barry Lopez's essays over the past 30 years, the oldest of which appears to be from 1989. There is some repetition since these pieces appeared in many different magazines, and Lopez died before he could edit them with his apparently customary thoroughness. I found one of his themes - his childhood molestation - pretty painful to get through, and certainly didn't want to keep encountering it again and again. I had been hearing about Lopez for a while, and in his nature pieces, I should say he delivers. Lopez, like Mary Oliver, is completely present to experiences of the world around him. He pays attention and in recording what he does, forces us to do the same. His concerns range from pre-war LA to Alaska to Dreamtime landscapes of Australia, and the depredations caused by humans to the natural world. Lopez, after a life time of field work, doesn't seem to have any hope left that we can invent our way out of environmental degradation and "biological and economic problems associated with advancing climate breakdown." He has his reasons, but I find it hard to share his pessimism. As a new father, you can't help being optimistic about the world (after all, deciding to have children now is the most world affirming thing you could be doing). More than any other time in the past, we understand the urgency of the present moment. I think this is especially true for the young people - Greta Thunberg, the museum vandals, the rise to power of the green parties. Deforestation has been in decline since the 1980s. And so I still retain hope.