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Author Scott Sanders aims to preserve environment for future generations

By Carolina Astrain
March 23, 2014 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated March 22, 2014 at 10:23 p.m.


• WHAT: Scott Russell Sanders, American Book Review Reading Series

• WHEN: Noon Thursday

• WHERE: Alcorn Auditorium, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St., Victoria

• COST: Free, open to the public


Here's an excerpt from Scott Russell Sanders' book "A Conservationist Manifesto":

In muggy July, police showed up at dawn with bullhorns, bulldozers, chainsaws, and guns to force a band of protesters out of a fifty-acre wood in my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. The sheriff and his deputies and the state police were upholding a ruling by the county council, which gave an Indianapolis developer the right to turn these woods into an apartment complex.

The protesters were upholding the right of the woods to remain a woods, one of the last parcels of big trees left within the noose of roads that encircles our city. A few protestors had lived for months up in the trees on makeshift platforms, while local people took turns bringing them food and drink. The tree-sitters were arrested along with a number of their supporters, sixteen in all, and they are now awaiting trial.

As I write these lines, the trees are falling, and a private security firm guards the perimeter of the vanishing woods.

The police had the law on their side, of course, but they also had the banks, building contractors, realtors, truck drivers, merchants, utility companies, fast-food vendors, city newspaper, and countless other boosters that stood to make money from the development. The protesters set against that power their unarmed bodies and their unfashionable convictions. They believe there are values more important than money. They believe that red oaks and red foxes and all the creatures of the woods deserve a home. They believe that a civilized community must show restraint by leaving some land alone, to remind us of the wild world on which our lives depend and to keep us humble and sane.

Similar conflicts are being played out from coast to coast, in more or less dramatic fashion, over the fate of more or fewer acres. By and large the boosters are winning. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that we are losing 2.2 million acres of open space to development each year, including farms, forests, wetlands, and prairies. I will return to my own local struggle later on, but first I need to place it within a larger frame. So bear with me. I must begin by speaking of the trouble we're in before I can say how we might get out of it.

Source: "A Conservationist Manifesto" by Scott Russell Sanders

Scott Russell Sanders grew up playing outside in the wooded area of his childhood home in Ohio, turning rocks over in a nearby creek.

Later, Sanders' family moved onto a military base where the manufacturing of ammunition used in World War II and the Korean War sparked his interest in preserving the environment.

"I saw lots of places where fields had gone bare, and ponds were just empty, like bathtubs," Sanders, 68, said. "Algae wouldn't even grow there."

As a child, Sanders said he became aware of how capable humans are of environmental destruction.

Sanders, the winner of the Mark Twain Award and the Cecil Woods Award for Nonfiction and a former Indiana University professor, will give a reading at the University of Houston-Victoria and American Book Review's reading series Thursday.

Although Sanders said he does not see himself as an evangelist for the environment, he said he does his best to spread the culture of conservation to others around him.

Throughout his travels across the U.S., Sanders said some noticeable trends show young people making strong attempts at being good conservationists.

"More young people living in cities are living in co-ops and shared living environments," Sanders said. "They've done this so they don't have to contend with commuting. ... 2013 saw the biggest use of public transportation since the mid-1950s."

In his book "A Conservationist Manifesto," Sanders delves into the meanings of words like economy and ecology.

"Both have a root that means household," Sanders said. "In high school, we used to have Home Economics class, and now - much to my own chagrin - they've changed the class title to Consumer Sciences."

Sanders has been married to his wife, Ruth, for 46 years.

He is the father of two grown adults and has five grandchildren.

"Becoming a grandfather did cast my concerns for the environment further into the future," Sanders said. "The prognosis is not good. ... But I am doing what I can to make the world a more sustainable place for future generations."



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