Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Destroy this prairie!

WHEN I FIRST BROUGHT a group of my undergraduate students to meet William Jordan III at Cafe Mozart in Evanston, Illinois, he told them that each year we should ritualistically destroy a small plot of virgin prairie, of which there is virtually none left in this state, in order to dramatize its importance to us. I assured them that he did not mean this sacrifice literally; he assured them that he did.

[This is my favorite paragraph that I wrote in the past year... from a long and almost completely unread essay at LARB]


  1. I rarely agree with Eric Katz, but he was correct in his review of Sunflower Forest that it was a bad book. Incoherent attempt at resolving what I call the paradox of meddling which bedevils environmentalism and "restoration ecology". Katz suffers from the same disease with his absolutist definition of "nature". But Bill would have done well to sit down with Wendell Berry and discuss guilt and shame and how agriculturalists handle the paradox of meddling.

    But I agree - yours is a mighty fine paragraph.

  2. My sense is that Bill and Wendell would have a lot to talk about; and may at the end of the conversation have a shared understanding of those terms. My sense is the Katz missed the point, and reviewed not the book itself but what he thought it should be about. For my part, I think its a fine book - a great and fertile provocation.

  3. If you haven't read it recently Kevin, I'd recommend that you take another look at the book. I think you, in particular, would find some real points of connection with it. Primarily because Bill more that any other writing on the topic sees restoration as problematic (in the same way that agriculture is, perhaps) but simultaneously a way of productively dealing, psychologically, existentially, with the consequence of the fact that meddle we do, meddle we must. Or something like that...