I hit up a variety of topics including the environment, politics, agriculture, media criticism, settler colonialism, racism, patriarchy, “green energy,” collapse and the nature of civilization itself. Stylistically, the selections vary from reporting to commentary to personal story telling.
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The book’s “Introduction”
This selection of essays is drawn from columns I wrote between January 2016 and November 2021. These are my favorites, minus the ones already included in my previous, thematic collections, The Failures of Farming and the Necessity of Wildtending (2018) and Roadtripping at the End of the World (2019).
The title, “From Outside,” has multiple meanings. First, topically: many of the essays relate to the environment—to the “outside” world. Second, spatially: since 2016, I have spent the majority of my time in rural areas, “outside” of cities and also “outside” as in camping or living off-grid. My intended audience has often been urban people who live both “inside” the city and in “inside” spaces with modern comforts, a lifestyle that insulates one from so much of what’s going on in the “outside” world, especially the systems of resource extraction that make city life possible, and which I have been witnessing on my travels. Third, culturally: most of the perspectives I present here would be considered “outside” conventional norms.
When it comes to US culture, I’ve felt like I’m outside looking in since the age of eleven. My alienation has been the one constant variable in a life that has taken me all over the country, through a multitude of jobs, homes and relationships, in what has felt like a series of experiments.
Focusing on this type of writing—the non-fiction column—has itself been an experiment. I’ve appreciated the form for decades, and have always had a rotating set of favorite columnists, first in newspapers back in the day and now online. A large part of its appeal to me is its flexibility: I can report news or merely comment on it; I can carefully research a subject and cite it Chicago style, or I can share a personal story, revealing my heart; I can talk about history, current events, or speculate about the future. It’s all legit, and it’s all included in this collection.
My dedication to the column peaked during an eleven month period from late 2019 to 2020, when I put out one every week no matter what, just to see if I could do it. Writing that regularly had the noticeable (to me) effect of improving my craft and helping me to develop a cultural analysis. So, in these selected columns, you will see me revisiting and drawing connections among a certain set of issues: the mounting environmental crisis, the horror of war, the abuses of agriculture, the brutality of settler colonialism, the prevalence of racism and sexism, the need to return land to the Native Americans, the moral and political failings of the Democratic party and the liberal class, the importance of media criticism, the shortcomings of “green energy,” our collective alienation from nature, and the problem of civilization itself.
I put this collection together because, although I expect to continue writing columns from time to time, my output appears to have crested, so it’s good timing for a “greatest hits.” so to speak. Also, the time period covered here encompasses the Trump era, which was an historical pivot point, both in ways that are already apparent and in others that are still unfolding. The decline of the US, economically and socially, will be increasingly obvious from now on. People will be reacting in various ways, like denial, anger and sadness―but also with hope, acceptance and relief―and we can expect challenges (to say the least). Most of the essays herein grapple with this reality in one way or another, and though some might become “dated” as time goes on, I like to think that I’ve managed to express some universality as well. You can be the judge of that, and I hope you enjoy reading.
Table of Contents:
- Climate Change: Why is it so often “sooner than predicted?”
- Putting the Heart Back in the Valley by Putting the Fire Back in the Ground
- The Latest BLM Hoodwinkery: “Fuel Breaks” in the Great Basin
- Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
- Hey White People: We’ve Got to Stop Claiming We’re Not Racist
- The Ugly Patriarchal Truth: In the US, Most Men Simply Don’t Like Women
- Why We Shouldn’t Wish Jail on People
- Headlines should read: “Marines to Kill Tortoises”
- Slaughter in Colorado Highlights the Prairie Dog’s Plight
- We Should Stop Insulting Animals and Own Our Own Humanity
- The Propaganda Virus: Is Anyone Immune?
- Cowardly New World: Alternative Media Under Attack by Algorithms
- Thinking Outside the Social Media Echo Chamber
- The Chilling Arrest of Independent Journalist Max Blumenthal
- #WeedsArePeopleToo: Springtime Reflections on Farming and its Damages
- Can Our Veggie Gardens Feed us in a Real Crisis?
- O Christmas Tree, Toxic Christmas Tree!
- Assange Indictments are not about Assange
- Chelsea Manning Shows What Real Resistance Looks Like
- Partisan Fiddling while the Planet Burns
- Russiagate: The Toxic Gift That Keeps on Giving
- The Malheur Wildlife Refuge Occupation: A Skirmish among the Colonizers
- “But What I Really Want…”
- We All Need to Be Tree Huggers Now
- Did Native Americans Introduce Fan Palms to California?
- What is a “Native” Plant in a Changing World?
- 230+ Years of White Supremacy: “Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents”
- How Labeling Nader as a “Spoiler” in 2000 Paved the Way for Today’s Neo-Fascism
- The Seattle WTO Uprising & the Indymedia Movement, Twenty Years Later
- GREEN ENERGY
- Coups-for-Green-Energy Added to Wars-For-Oil
- Rare Wildflower Threatened by Lithium Mine
- Activists Occupy Site of Proposed Lithium Mine in Nevada
- “Capitalism on a Ventilator”
- Slaughter of the Innocents: COVID & the Future of Agriculture
- What if Trump had donned a mask in March 2020?
- The Proliferation of Conspiracy Theories & the Crisis of Science
- We Need More Lunatics
- Gravel Lot Reverie
- We Need to Stop Believing in “Belief”
- THE FUTURE
- This is What Collapse Looks Like
- Take a Deep Breath before the Big Plunge
- An End to Stability