This Friday John Appleby offers an appreciation of the great US writer,environmentalist and counter-culture hero, Edward Abbey. Despite his prodigious written output which includes a work -The Monkey Wrench Gang-which became the catalyst behind the creation of the radical Earth First! movement, Abbey has never enjoyed popular critical acclaim or received the attention his genius deserves on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps this is not surprising given the fact that this outspoken eco-anarchist was as estranged from the conventional 'green' movements as he was from the giant corporations and the military-industrial state who threatened to degrade the wilderness regions of the desert states of the American south-west.
As a writer,educationalist,conservationist and political activist, Abbey was also at one time a fire-watcher and national park ranger.A passionate lover of the great outdoors he spent a as much time as he could away from his typewriter,rafting,climbing, hiking and exploring the great desert regions of Arizona,New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. Bringing his thoughts and experiences to life in works like Desert Solitaire, Down the River, The Journey Home and of course the rip roaring novel which apparently is about to be made into a Hollywood movie-(Shudders at the thought!)- The Monkey Wrench Gang.
This coming month marks the 21st anniversary of his premature death aged 62. Given the great schism which has taken place in the world wide Green movement between the technophiles and the conservationists; an appropriate time to appraise Edward Abbey's legacy and consider the philosophical and political foundations which underpins his brand of environmentalism.