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Relations of People and Place


Relations of People and Place

Whether referring to a place, a nonhuman animal or plant, or a state of mind, wild indicates autonomy and agency, a will to be, a unique expression of life. Yet two contrasting ideas about wild nature permeate contemporary discussions: either that nature is most wild in the absence of a defiling human presence, or that nature is completely humanized and nothing is truly wild.

This book charts a different path. Exploring how people can become attuned to the wild community of life and also contribute to the well-being of the wild places in which we live, work, and play, Wildness brings together esteemed authors from a variety of landscapes, cultures, and backgrounds to share their stories about the interdependence of everyday human lifeways and wildness. As they show, far from being an all or nothing proposition, wildness exists in variations and degrees that range from cultivated soils to multigenerational forests to sunflowers pushing through cracks in a city alley. Spanning diverse geographies, these essays celebrate the continuum of wildness, revealing the many ways in which human communities can nurture, adapt to, and thrive alongside their wild nonhuman kin.

From the contoured lands of Wisconsin’s Driftless region to remote Alaska, from the amazing adaptations of animals and plants living in the concrete jungle to indigenous lands and harvest ceremonies, from backyards to reclaimed urban industrial sites, from microcosms to bioregions and atmospheres, manifestations of wildness are everywhere. With this book, we gain insight into what wildness is and could be, as well as how it might be recovered in our lives—and with it, how we might unearth a more profound, wilder understanding of what it means to be human.

Wildness: Relations of People and Place is published in association with the Center for Humans and Nature, an organization that brings together some of the brightest minds to explore and promote human responsibilities to each other and the whole community of life. Visit the Center for Humans and Nature's Wildness website for upcoming events and a series of related short films.

See a website for the book, from the Center for Humans and Nature.

272 pages | 26 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Biological Sciences: Conservation, Ecology, Natural History

Earth Sciences: Environment


"I have gone from trail-builder to solitary cabin-dweller to husband and father. Now, as I carry Winter Eve across our spring hillside, I want my daughter to know the wilderness outside our cabin, and the wildness within each of us. And that is why on my cabin’s rough-hewn shelves, Wildness . . . [has] found a home beside my Colorado Trail Guidebook, there to teach me to live beside wild lands, to turn toward wildness, in partnership with my wife and our daughter, so that we may learn from her (and our) native self-will."

Sean Prentiss | High Country News

"What does it mean to be wild in times of rising global temperatures and rampant social inequality? Is wildness rural or urban? Is it something to be embraced, even cultivated, or feared and rejected as a Western colonialist intellectual construct? Is wildness a revolutionary politics, or something more reformist, even centrist? These are some of the questions at the heart of an important new volume of essays, Wildness: Relations of People and Place."

Daegan Miller | Edge Effects

"Wildness is a collection of essays about humans and our relationship to nature. What is the meaning of 'wild' in the United States? In Enrique Salmon’s 'No Word,' he discusses how there is no word for wild in his native language of Rarámuri. There’s no setting aside the world of human and the world of the wild. It’s a beautiful essay about the importance of how language divides and separates us. We are part of nature and nature is part of us. In Mistingutte Smith’s essay 'Wild Black Margins,' she discusses the intersection between African Americans and land. She talks about what is perceived as wilderness and the complicated story of land in the United States. City Creatures is another collection of essays that focuses on animals in urban environments. There are beautiful essays, photos, and comics about the animals that live amongst us."

Elisa Shoenberger | Book Riot

"Guaranteed to renew your promise to purpose. . . . For anyone who reads magazines like Orion or, heck New Territory, you’ll enjoy a trove of thoughtful reflection in Wildness. A collection of essays—with bylines from the globally beloved (Vandana Shiva; Joel Salatin) and up-and-coming Midwestern writers (Margo Farnsworth of Missouri; Gavin Van Horn of Illinois)—breathes fresh light on how to articulate your human place in this wild world."

New Territory

"Makes a compelling argument for understanding that wildness is not a quality that exists independently of human beings. Rather, it is the essence of ecological relationships. Though we have grown estranged, these relationships include human beings, and Wildness serves as an invitation to reclaim our place within the relational wild. Its relevance to ecologists is to reframe the roll of ecological science not merely as a system of generating knowledge about ecosystems but, through that knowledge, to illuminate our intrinsic bonds with wild systems—both where we have failed those bonds and where we might be of greater service to them. It offers no final answer but instead circumambulates and runs transects through the wild to survey the diversity of perspectives, allowing the reader to find their own way within it."

Jason Kirkey | Ecology

"There can be many different and contrasting definitions of wild. Often for ecologists, wild has a positive meaning; it is a sort of synonym for healthy or pristine. For others, wild indicates, as it did for the first European settlers in North America, a place that has not been exploited and must be converted into a familiar landscape. Collected in this book are many definitions of wild, but rather than discussing different points of view, it tries to break the artificial, mental barrier that divides us from nature by emphasizing the archetypical link between humans and nature."

Conservation Biology

"The essays in this volume navigate a path that scans from the ground up, telling stories about real people in real places, across the landscape continuum, from formally designated wilderness areas to densely populated urban neighborhoods. Wildness is storytelling at its best. One of the other things that sets this book apart from other books on wilderness and wildness is that there's a tremendous diversity. Storytelling authors were asked to further elaborate on the personal or emotionally compelling moments showing what wildness means to them. This reviewer finds that this unique book is a success."

Robert C. Harriss | Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development

“This amazing amalgam goes at the issue of nature, wildness, and our relationships to it via personal story, lyrical verse, and reflection. It is a return to something that works most effectively—a diversity of noteworthy voices tuned to a single issue—but that is so diverse in its assemblage and affect as to be totally unique and useful. Comprehensive, inclusive, and evocative, comfortable enough to be considered literature but groundbreaking enough to enter into discussions of policy and planning for the future, Wildness is storytelling and word-singing at its best. It is also a book I simply (and badly) want on my bookshelf to pull down and read words that flow like water but have the lasting impact of fire.”

J. Drew Lanham, Clemson University, author of “The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature”

“An impressively thoughtful and artful collection. The pieces in Wildness are engaging and often lyrical, maintaining a kind of authorial intimacy throughout; collectively they work well to advance the book’s timely theme of the wild as a human condition. Brimming with strong and original voices, this is a top-flight anthology that takes an old idea and makes it new, hip, and fresh.”

Ben A. Minteer, Arizona State University, coeditor of "After Preservation: Saving American Nature in the Age of Humans"

Table of Contents

Introduction: Into the Wildness
Gavin Van Horn

Part 1. Wisdom of the Wild
1.         Wildfire News
Gary Snyder
2.         Conundrum and Continuum: One Man’s Wilderness, from a Ditch to the Dark Divide
Robert Michael Pyle
3.         No Word
Enrique Salmón
4.         The Edge of Anomaly
Curt Meine
5.         Order versus Wildness
Joel Salatin
6.         Biomimicry: Business from the Wild
Margo Farnsworth
7.         Notes on “Up at the Basin”
David J. Rothman

Part 2. Working Wild
8.         Listening to the Forest
Jeff Grignon and Robin Wall Kimmerer
9.         The Working Wilderness
Courtney White
10.       The Hummingbird and the Redcap
Devon G. Peña
11.       Losing Wildness for the Sake of Wilderness: The Removal of Drakes Bay Oyster Company
Laura Alice Watt
12.       Inhabiting the Alaskan Wild
Margot Higgins
13.       Wilderness in Four Parts, or Why We Cannot Mention My Great-Grandfather’s Name
Aaron Abeyta

Part 3. Urban Wild
14.       Wild Black Margins
Mistinguette Smith
15.       Healing the Urban Wild
Gavin Van Horn
16.       Building the Civilized Wild
Seth Magle
17.       Cultivating the Wild on Chicago’s South Side: Stories of People and Nature at Eden Place Nature Center
Michael Bryson and Michael Howard
18.       Toward an Urban Practice of the Wild
John Tallmadge

Part 4. Planetary Wild
19.       The Whiskered God of Filth
Rob Dunn
20.       The Akiing Ethic: Seeking Ancestral Wildness beyond Aldo Leopold’s Wilderness
John Hausdoerffer
21.       On the Wild Edge in Iceland
Brooke Hecht
22.       The Story Isn’t Over
Julianne Lutz Warren
23.       Cultivating the Wild
Vandana Shiva
24.       Earth Island: Prelude to a Eutopian History
Wes Jackson

Epilogue: Wild Partnership: A Conversation with Roderick Frazier Nash
John Hausdoerffer
About the Contributors

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