Beyond the Llano

News & Notes (April 4)

Lithub recommends 15 Books to Read This April, notably Sarah Gerard’s Sunshine State and Pulitzer Prize nominee David Haskell’s The Songs of Trees.

The Sowell Collection Conference 2017 welcomes Derek Sheffield, Poetry Editor for A Journal of Built + Natural Environments. 

Now that the Keystone XL pipeline is back on, read Ken Ilgunas’ Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Epic Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland which narrates his journey along the pipelines proposed path. NatGeo interviews Ilgunas’ here.

News & Notes (March 28)

Dan Egan’s The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is out this month. A blend of science, history and journalism, Egan’s book examines human relationship to the lakes, how we can preserve and restore them for future generations, and how the ecological crisis is representative of other water crises across the globe.

Amitav Ghosh argues climate change should be a “principal preoccupation of fiction writers” at The American Scholar. Read a review of Ghosh’s newest book The Great Derangement here.

“Does environmentalism have a future in the age of Trump?” Paul Kingsnorth looks at how the green movement can take back the debate. (And, read an excerpt of Kingsnorth’s Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist at Orion.)

News & Notes (March 7)

Elle profiles Rebecca Solnit. Her twentieth book The Mother of All Questions, a follow-up to Men Explain Things to Me (2014), is out today.

Barry Lopez and artist Deke Weaver will participate in “CultureTalk” tonight at the Tryon Festival Theater in Urbana, IL.

Watch Bill McKibben discuss budget cuts to EPA, the Paris Agreement, and what we can do to fight climate change.

Test your global warming knowledge here.

News and Notes (Jan. 26)

Poet Mark Baumer was killed Jan. 21 while walking barefoot across the United States to raise awareness about climate change. View his journey on his YouTube channel or read his blog.

February is International Correspondence Writing Month. Join the challenge to handwrite and mail or deliver a letter, card, note or postcard everyday during the month.

University of Georgia Press will publish Sowell Conference participant Clinton Crocket Peters essay collection Pandora’s Garden: Kudzu, Cockroaches, and Other Misfits of Ecology in Spring 2018.

National Geographic’s May 2016 issue “Yellowstone: The Battle for the American West” which features essays by David Quammen has been nominated for an Ellie.

The Guardian suggests Five of the Best Climate Change Novels including Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood.

News and Notes (Jan. 12)

Rick Bass’ For a Little While is a finalist for The Story Prize.

The Center for Great Plains Studies has named Dan Flores’ American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains as its Great Plains Book of the Month.

Catapult has Sowell Conference participant Toni Jensen’s “Women in the Fracklands: On Water, Land, Bodies, and Standing Rock”.

News and Notes (Nov. 29)

Outside interviews Michael P. Branch about his new book Raising Wild: Dispatches from a Home in the Wilderness.

LitHub has an excerpt of Edward Hoagland’s In the Country of the Blind.

Amitav Ghosh talks climate change with Aaron Thier at The Guardian Books Podcast.

News and Notes (Nov. 15)

Last week Americans voted to preserve and expand outdoor spaces. From Georgia to California, Massachusetts to Oregon, we voted to fund and maintain public parks, trails, green spaces and outdoor education.

At LitHub, Sarah Domet explores “The Search For Home in American Fiction.”

The National Book Foundation has announced its 5 Under 35 Winners: Brit Bennett, Yaa Gyasi, Greg Jackson, S. Li, and Thomas Pierce.

News and Notes (Nov. 1)

The second issue of Archivation Exploration is now available!

News and Notes (Oct. 18)

Check out this profile of the Sowell Family Collection.

News and Notes (Oct. 11)

Robert Michael Pyle’s newest book Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature is now available from Oregon University Press.

Mary Oliver’s essay collection Upstream: Selected Essays is out today!

Read Demian DineYazhi’s Water Is Life: A Poem for the Standing Rock.

Rick Bass writes in favor of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies for the Los Angeles Times: “Consider the grizzly bear, while you can. Gone from California since 1924, despite gracing the state flag. Gone from Utah the year before that, when Mormon Boy Scouts stoned to death a bear called Old Ephraim. In Colorado, the last grizzly was thought to have been killed in 1952, though one more was found and killed by a bow hunter in 1979.”

News and Notes (Oct. 4)

President Obama proclaimed October as National Arts and Humanities Month: “[The Arts and Humanities] provoke thought and encourage our citizenry to reach new heights in creativity and innovation; they lift up our identities, connecting what is most profound within us to our collective human experiences.”

Finally, good news for bees—seven species of yellow-faced bees native to Hawaii have been added to the U.S. Endangered Species List.

See the American West painted in a traditional Chinese style at Texas Tech’s International Cultural Center. West x East by visiting artist Li Jiaduo is on display through October 18.

News and Notes (Sept. 27)

It’s Banned Books Week (Sept. 25-Oct. 1). Read something scandalous!

How do we connect to a place and why? A “collective of geographers, archivists, planners, animators, filmmakers, writers, Seattleites, transplants, poets and literary geeks” document the demolition of Seattle’s Richard Hugo House.

Texas Tech professor Katharine Hayhoe will talk climate change at South by Southlawn on Monday, Oct. 3. And, check out the PBS Digital Series “Global Weirding” which premieres tomorrow Sept. 28.

News and Notes (Sept. 20)

Check out Texas Tech alum and Sowell Conference regular Clara Bush Vadala’s Prairie Smoke: Poems from the Grasslands, available from Finishing Line Press in January.

The Chicago Review of Books has launched a new literary magazine for place-based writing, Arcturus.

News and Notes (Sept. 13)

For the love of cats! The advertising in Clapham Common Tube station in London has been replaced with cat pictures.

Is Nature the Key to Rehabilitating Prisoners? Outside looks at Sponsors – a program that takes formerly incarcerated prisoners into nature as part of a reintegration program.

Windstorms, cattle and Texas Tech! Texas Monthly examines the research connecting windstorms and the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

National Geographic interviews J. Drew Lanham about his book The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature.

News and Notes (Sept. 6)

Out today is Belle Boggs’s The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine and Motherhood. You can read the 2012 Orion essay here.

On Sept. 4 the International Union for Conservation of Nature updated its Red List of Threatened Species.

News & Notes (August 30)

Check out David Quammen’s Yellowstone: A Journey Through America’s Wild Heart.

News & Notes (August 17)

Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert marks its 30th anniversary this summer.

Bill McKibben writes for the New Republic: We’re used to war as metaphor…Usually this is just a rhetorical device, a way of saying, “We need to focus our attention and marshal our forces to fix something we don’t like.” But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal…”

Check out photographer Jonathan Irish’s Grand Canyon: A National Treasure at National Geographic.

News & Notes (Aug. 5)

We’d like to say Happy Birthday to Sandra Scofield!  You could celebrate with her by reading her newest book Mysteries of Love and Grief: Reflections on a Plainswoman’s Life, from TTU Press.  A section of this book was awarded first place in Memoir for Narrative’s 2014 spring writing contest.  We are always pleased when Sandra can stop by for a visit.


Diane Warner, Sandra Scofield, Judith Keeling, on the TTU campus, May 24, 2016.

Scofield book








News & Notes (July 26)

The LA Review of Books interviews Terry Tempest Williams about her new book The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks.

Check out Red Rock Stories where contributors – including Gary Paul Nabhan, Terry Tempest Williams, David Gessner – narrate their relationships with Utah’s redrock landscape through art.

The Paris Review interviews Claire Louise Bennett about her debut work Pond, “an account of the mind as it exists in solitude. It attempts to engage with the universe at its fullest and not just the little portion of it we identify as human.”

News & Notes (July 19)

Happy Birthday, Robert Michael Pyle!

Over at Electric Literature: 5 Emerging Women Authors Intimately Explore Place — from Norway to Jamaica, New England to New Mexico, from the places themselves to the roles we play within them.

Robert Moor’s essay collection On Trails examines how trails help us understand the world. Check out his essay Choosing What to Read on a Long Hike.

News & Notes (July 12)

2014 Sowell Conference participant Jenna Hay will compete for a world championship in duathlon.

Dan Flores has written a biography of the coyote in the American West, Coyote America (2016). Listen to the NPR interview here.

Outside declares it the Dawn of the Female Adventure Memoir and Blair Braverman’s Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube the new classic.

News & Notes (June 28)

Sowell Conference participant Clinton Crockett Peters has an essay in the May/June issue of Orion. Check out “Beasts on the Street.”

Bill Heddon, executive director of the Grand Canyon Trust, recently spoke at the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment in Boulder, Colorado. High Country News has published the full text of his speech.

News & Notes (June 21)

Planning a trip to the Northwest this summer? Robert Michael Pyle suggests Six Great Butterfly Adventures in Cascadia.

Celebrate the National Park Service centennial with Terry Tempest Williams and her newest essay collection The Hour of Land.

It’s official! Michael Pietsch, C.E.O. of Hachette Book Group, has acquired David James Duncan’s third novel, Sun House, due out in 2017. Check out the reissue of The River Why with a new afterword by Duncan while you wait.

In Memoriam

For the Orlando victims, their families, friends and communities.

In Memoriam

West Texas musician and composer Doug Smith passed away Sunday night. Smith produced nine albums and was featured in a 2003 PBS documentary, There It Is.

News & Notes (June 7)

The Guardian interviews Annie Proulx about her newest book, Barkskins, available June 14. The Washington Post has a review of the 700-page novel here.

At Publisher’s Weekly Alexis M. Smith (Marrow Island) recommends 8 novels on Women in the Wild.  

News & Notes (May 19)

Elizabeth Hash, Texas Tech student and Sowell conference presenter, spent seven weeks hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. Check out her story here.

The Emily Dickenson Museum and a team of archaeologists are excavating and restoring the poet’s orchard and gardens: “The restoration of the Homestead’s greenhouse and backyard revives a less well known yet crucial fact about Dickinson: In addition to being a poet, she was an amateur naturalist and a renowned gardener with a considerable knowledge of botany.” Read more about The Lost Gardens of Emily Dickenson.

The 2016 O’Henry Prize stories have been announced. Wendell Berry won for his “Dismemberment” published in The Threepenny Review.

News & Notes (May 10)

Robert Michael Pyle has a new poetry collection, Chinook and Chanterelle. You can find two poems from the collection, “February Third: Spring Has Many Hungers” and “Evensong” at Terrain.

Utah Public Radio interviews David Quammen about Yellowstone and the May issue of National Geographic.

Shelley Armitage has a piece at Terrain, too. Check out “A Habit of Landscape.”

News & Notes (May 3)

At The Daily Beast Doug Peacock addresses the latest federal plan to delist Yellowstone’s grizzly bears. Weigh in here by May 10.

A new documentary about farmer-philosopher Wendell Berry, The Seer, premiered at South by Southwest in Austin in March. NPR reviews it here.

News & Notes (April 19)

The 2016 Sowell Collection Conference is this week (April 21-23)! David James Duncan, Robert Michael Pyle, James Perrin Warren, Lisa Couturier, Toni Jensen, Kurt Caswell and others will be in attendance.

News & Notes (April 12)

Ethnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity edited by Gary Paul Nabhan is now available from University of Arizona Press.

At the Guardian Robert Macfarlane discusses how artists and writers are responding to the Anthropocene: “I think, though, that the Anthropocene has administered – and will administer – a massive jolt to the imagination. Philosophically, it is a concept that does huge work both for us and on us.”

Lone Star Literary Life interviews Skip Hollandsworth, executive editor for Texas Monthly, about his latest book The Midnight Assassin.

In Memoriam

Native American artist Rick Bartow died Saturday, April 2. He is widely known for the cedar sculptures “We Were Always Here” installed outside the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Bartow visited Texas Tech several years ago with Barry Lopez, and his painting Pink Clouds graces the cover of James Perrin Warren’s Other Country.

News & Notes (April 5)

Sowell Collection writers Rick Bass, Bill McKibben, and Andrea Peacock join other notable voices in the new anthology Fracture: Essays, Poems and Stories on Fracking in America. The Orion blog has an interview with the collection’s editor Taylor Brorby.

Listen to David Quammen discuss National Parks, Viruses, and Science Expeditions on the Art of Adventure podcast with Derek Loudermilk.

In Memoriam

Jim Harrison, best known for his story Legends of the Fall, died Saturday, March 26 at 78. He published both a poetry collection, Dead Man’s Float, and a novella collection, The Ancient Minstrel, earlier this year.

News & Notes (March 29)

David James Duncan’s The Brothers K is headed to stage! Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theater will present a two-part adaptation to run May 3-June 26, 2016.

News & Notes (March 22)

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced a new Secretarial Order that aims to make the process easier, faster and less costly for disadvantaged and disabled youth to explore wild public lands.

The New York Times reviews Rick Bass here.

News & Notes (Spring Break Edition)

E.O. Wilson’s latest book Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life was published March 7.

Writer and adventurer Kate Harris and documentary film maker Lindsay Marie Stewart completed a six-week, all-woman ski traverse of the Pamir mountains and documented the impact of border fences on migratory wildlife. Check out the trailer for their film Borderski.

The Paris Review has an excerpt of Homero Aridjis’s The Child Poet.

If you enjoyed our recommendations of Kurt Caswell’s and Sarah Marquis’s adventures-on-foot, check out another book about walking: Levison Wood’s Walking the Nile.

In Memoriam

Nature photographer Gary Braasch died Monday, March 7 while snorkeling near Lizard Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Braasch dedicated his life and work to documenting climate change around the world.

Berta Caceres, the Honduran indigenous rights leader and environmental activist, died Thursday, March 3. She was awarded the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for South and Central America for her work with the Lenca people campaigning against the Agua Zarca Dam.

News & Notes (March 8)

How does protecting the environment change human behavior? A recent study “finds that protected areas may actually change the social structure of their associated human communities…with a net outcome that, in the right circumstances, can give a boost to overall social cohesion.”

News & Notes (March 1)

The Chicago Tribune interviews Rick Bass about his newest collection of short stories, For A Little While: “My goal in writing a short story is to enter into a dream world, and for the reader to enter that dream, a dream of the senses. That’s the journey, and that’s what I strive for with these stories.”

The Missoulian reviews Annick Smith’s Crossing the Plains with Bruno: “This is the story of Annick Smith, told through the winding highway of her consciousness.”

Paul Hawken was in Scottsdale last week for the GreenBiz 16 event to discuss carbon drawdown. Listen to the highlights on the GreenBiz 350 podcast.

In Memoriam

We lost two literary greats last week. Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, died at age 89 in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Italian author and philosopher Umberto Eco died at age 84 in Milan.

News and Notes (February 24)

Check out Shelley Armitage’s Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place: “Armitage charts a unique rediscovery of the largely unknown land, a journey at once deeply personal and far-reaching in its exploration of the connections between memory, spirit, and place.”

News and Notes (February 16)

The Spectator reviews Susan Brind Morrow’s The Silver Eye: Unlocking the Pyramid Textsthe British release of her latest book The Dawning Moon of the Mind (Dec. 2015).

Gary Paul Nabhan looks at the relationship between immigrants and food security in Arizona: “Without these immigrants, as much as 15 to 25 percent of Arizona’s crops might go unharvested.”

Alex and Andrew Smith (sons of Annick Smith) talk about their latest project Walking Out: “For us landscape is the character, and we don’t want the setting to ever feel as if it were generic.”

News and Notes (February 9)

The Society of Ethnobiology has named Gary Paul Nabhan as the 2016 Distinguished Ethnobiologist, acknowledging his outstanding contributions to the field and his work facilitating socially-just environmental movements.

On shelves today: Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot by Sarah Marquis.

PEN New England has awarded Linda Hogan the Henry David Thoreau Prize for Nature Writing. Previous winners include Gretel Ehrlich, E.O. Wilson, Gary Snyder, Peter Matthiessen, and T.C. Boyle.

News and Notes (February 2)

On Friday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. Written on Water, a film focusing on West Texas and its relationship with the Ogallala Aquifer, will show at Lubbock’s Alamo Drafthouse. The film’s director and other water experts will host a Q&A after the screening.

Mark the National Parks’ Centennial with a visit to the latest exhibit at Southwest Collections/Special Collections: Celebrating the National Parks: The Photography of Ro Wauer.

David Quammen discusses the Zika virus for National Geographic: “Bottom line: This is not something that is merely happening to us, a cosmic misfortune, a one-off event…It is, on the contrary, a result of things we do as a modern society.”

In Memoriam

Henry Worsley spent 70 days alone attempting to complete the first-ever solo and unassisted crossing of the Antarctic landmass. He died January 24 just 30 miles short of his goal.

News and Notes (January 19)

The 2016 Sowell Collection Conference is coming up soon (April 21-23). Attendees include David James Duncan, Barry Lopez, Kurt Caswell, Toni Jensen, John Lane and James Warren. We are accepting paper and panel proposals through March 23, 2016.

News and Notes (January 12)

Portland Literary Arts has published a conversation between Barry Lopez and John Krakauer from Wordstock 2015. Listen here.

2016 marks the 100th year of the National Park Service. NatGeo will feature a year-long celebration of the 408 U.S. national parks. Start with David Quammen’s “How National Parks Tell Our Story – and Show Who We Are,” and check out the TV series here.

Thirty years ago Robert Michael Pyle published Wintergreen – the book that propelled him to national recognition.

News and Notes (January 5)

We wrapped up The Orion Society Papers in December, and the collection will open for research early this year. In the meantime, check out some of the Sowell’s authors appearing in OrionDavid James Duncan, Gretel Ehrlich, Barry Lopez, Gary Paul Nabhan, and Robert Michael Pyle.

David Gessner will host NatGeo’s Explorer: Call of the Wild on January 10.

News and Notes (December 22)

There’s a Book Flood in Iceland: “Icelanders love books. And that love involves most of the population.” Merry Jolabokaflod!

Amid the flurry of literary awards and Best of 2015 lists, you may have missed the 2015 National Outdoor Book Awards announced back in November. Winners include Sean Prentiss’ Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave and Diane Ackerman’s The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us.

Check out Claire Vaye Watkins’s Battleborn (2012) and Gold Fame Citrus (2015). Public Books describes Watkins as a regional writer in the best sense: “The level of attention that Gold Fame Citrus pays to the geography, history, and culture of California and the American West signals to its readers that they ought to pay attention to those surroundings—that the true plot may in fact be there.”

Gretel Ehrlich spoke with Radio West back in November. Pair with In the Empire of Ice, The Future of Ice, and This Cold Heaven.

News and Notes (December 15)

At LitHub check out Bill McKibben’s 5 Books to Read If You Care about the Planet. Big Oil, Exxon, Keystone, climate change conspiracies – it’s all there.

David Gessner’s All the Wild That Remains has been named a 2015 Southwest Best Books of the Year by the Arizona Daily Star: “At the top of each reviewer’s lists this year was “All the Wild that Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West,” by essayist and nature writer David Gessner. Part travel journal and part meditation on the lives of writer-environmentalists Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner, Gessner’s engrossing book underscores the need to accept the reality of the West’s vulnerability.”

Tucson is officially a World City of Gastronomy according to UNESCO! To coincide with the designation, University of Arizona will establish the Center for Regional Food Studies with Gary Paul Nabhan as director. Projects will include pollinator scarcity, food systems innovation and nutritional status in borderland states.

In Memoriam 

Doug Tompkins, founder of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, the Conservation Land Trust, and Conservacion Patagonia (and North Face), died yesterday. Tompkins worked to protect wild lands worldwide.

News and Notes (December 9)

Susan Brind Morrow published her latest book, The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts, yesterday (Dec. 8). Morrow argues the Pyramid Texts, some of the world’s oldest poetry, should be recognized as a coherent piece of art and as a formative event in the evolution of human thought.

Michael Blair examines the intersection of country music and land art in a western landscape for the LA Review of Books: “Driving through Amarillo, Texas, you’ll pass Smithson’s unfinished earthwork Amarillo Ramp on the way to the office where Buddy Holly first applied to become a card-carrying professional musician in the mid-1950s.”

Have you heard about the bees? From Nature to the Xerces Society to The Guardian, the connection between neonicotinoids and declining bee populations seems to be real. Scott Hoffman Black examines the common comparisons between DDT and neonicotinoids here. Pair with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

News and Notes (December 1)

Check out High and Dry, a photographic exhibition of the world’s dry lands at the International Cultural Center of TTU. Seventy-four images by sixty-two photographers respond to aspects of life in arid and semi-arid regions with the “hope that these images will not only prompt aesthetic appreciation but also elicit reflection upon the realities of life on our increasingly thirsty planet.”

In case you missed it in the pre-Thanksgiving flurry, Lucy the Australopithecus turned 41 (plus a few million years) on November 24. Google honored her with a doodle.

The 21st Conference of the Parties began in Paris yesterday. Officials from 195 countries are discussing an action plan to reduce carbon emissions. Read more about COP21 and find the latest updates here. For a look at what scientists and researchers think of the conference, check out the Nature Special 2015 Paris Climate Talks.

Howard Axelrod spent two years in a remote Vermont cabin which he chronicles in his memoir, The Point of Vanishing. Laura Miller reviews the Thoreauvian endeavor for Slate: “He’s come in from the woods with a strange tale to tell, but what makes you want to stop whatever you’re doing and listen to him is the frosty breath of the wild that still clings to his coat.”

News and Notes (November 23)

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, over-eating and leftovers, check out Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. The filmmakers talked to NPR last week: “Really, we shouldn’t even call it food waste, because of all the connotations associated with that word. It’s surplus. It’s extra food in our system that should not be in the landfill, that needs to get to people who need it.”

At The Millions Bill Morris looks at “How the West Was Lost”: “In the end, [they] come to very different conclusions about How the West Was Lost, but they share a sense that the loss is as irreversible as it was wrong-headed.” Come for Ivan Doig; stay for Edward Abbey, Jim Harrison, and Joan Didion.

Tobias Carroll looks at great writing about place for LitHub: “Why have a location be a kind of character when it can be so much more?”

Chytrid fungus, the bane of amphibious existence, has wiped out hundreds of species of frogs. But, the Midwife toads of Mallorca have been rid of the fungus thanks to some dedicated “toad doctors.” Nature covers the treatment and what it might mean for other frogs. Pair with Elizabeth Kolbert’s chapter on chytrid fungus in the Panamanian golden frog in The Sixth Extinction.

News and Notes (November 18)

In the aftermath of last week’s events in Paris, which followed too quickly the tragedies in Beirut and Egypt, we can only share these two videos.  Hope for a brighter future.

Father’s Talk with Young Son and someone playing John Lennon’s Imagine.

News and Notes (November 10)

In October Annick Smith published Crossing the Plains with Bruno. Gretel Erhlich called it “a delightful road log and reverie—fascinating, funny, and poignant.” Read an excerpt at Triquarterly or a review at the Missoula Independent.

At the Center for Humans and Nature, David Taylor writes about the importance of story in helping kids reimagine the natural world around them: “The lesson of such books wasn’t just that other animals’ knowledge of their surroundings made them different and valuable, separate from human dominion; their very existence, full of struggle, learning, and danger are presented as heroic.”

When Ed Abbey died in 1989, four of his closest friends (including Doug Peacock) illegally buried his body in the desert. Sean Prentiss searches for Abbey’s final resting place in his latest book Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave (University of New Mexico Press, 2015) Read an excerpt at Terrain.

In mid-September Inside Climate News launched a six-part investigative series of Exxon’s engagement with the emerging science of climate change prompting New York’s Attorney General to subpoena the company’s records, and just last week President Obama rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline on environmental grounds. Bill McKibben proposes three causes behind these moves at The New Yorker.

News and Notes (November 3)

Kurt Caswell guest blogs at Writing Wyoming: “Walking is a contemplative practice, a practice that offers a reprieve from, and an ignition for, art. Going out for a walk each morning or afternoon to make a space for the work is a contemplative practice suitable to most anyone.” After your evening walk on Thursday, November 5, come hear Caswell and Curtis Bauer, for the semester’s final reading in Creative Writing Program Reading Series.

National Geographic looks at how climate change is threatening Greenland: “Now a culture that has evolved here over many centuries, adapting to the seasonal advance and retreat of sea ice, is facing the prospect that the ice will retreat for good.” Explore the region further with our own Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams. has announced the winners and finalists for its 6th annual contests in poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Pattiann Rogers selected G.L. Grey for poetry: “I like where these poems take me, places that make me glad and afraid at the same time, that cause me to remember again the release of the universe, the need for the near and the tangible, the limitations of the human.” Check back throughout November to read all the nominated pieces.

The Los Angeles Review of Books considers “The Nature of Wilderness” in its review of Summer Brennan’s The Oyster War. Brennan “forces us to think beyond an easy binary of wilderness (pure, moral, natural) and business (corrupting, foul). The ‘war’ reported here isn’t between the usual foes, plunderer and defender (say, Shell and Greenpeace), and the wilderness in question isn’t a remote, pristine battleground (the Arctic, say).”

News and Notes (October 27)

Former Texas Tech faculty Stephen Graham Jones talks to Lone Star Literary Life about growing up in small-town Texas, genre writing in the academy and how the business has changed. His advice for aspiring writers? “Read outside your genre. Keep a weather eye on the best-seller lists. Don’t talk bad about any book you haven’t read. And, finally, obviously, choose writing.”

The staff at Texas Monthly has named ten writers making the “golden age of Texas literature” happen. Stephan Graham Jones made the list, as did Merritt Tierce who will be at Tech on October 29 as part of the Creative Writing Program Reading Series.

 Doug Carlson of The Georgia Review looks at artistic statements of constructs in nature – work that “invites a close look at the forms human culture imposes on the natural world.” See Robert Smithson’s spiral jetty on the Great Salt Lake, Chris Taylor’s garden nests in the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and Andy Goldsworthy’s driftwood dome near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Before Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Lyell, and John Muir, there was the Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. (Re) discover “The Very Great Alexander von Humboldt” with Nathaniel Rich at the NYRB: “The man may be lost but his ideas have never been more alive.”

News and Notes (October 20)

Travis Hale writes about coming home to Lubbock, about the beauty and the quirks of our city on the Llano. Read “Lubbock, in pieces” at Staking the Plains, and join the conversation about the “Hub City.”

Part of what makes our Sowell writers great is their willingness to experience nature firsthand. Doug Peacock lived with grizzlies; David Quammen walked through the forests of Central Africa, and Barry Lopez explored the Far North. Follow their lead and get outside. If you’re here at Tech check out the RecSports Outdoor Pursuits Trips Program.

John Lane interviews Texas Tech’s Kurt Caswell, “our current poet laureate on the subject of wandering,” for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Trinity University Press published Caswell’s latest book Getting to Gray Owl: Journeys on Four Continents in July.

The American Prairie Reserve was founded in June 2001 in order “to create and manage a prairie-based wildlife reserve that, when combined with public lands already devoted to wildlife, will protect a unique natural habitat, provide lasting economic benefits and improve public access to and enjoyment of the prairie landscape.” At The Atlantic James Fallows shares APR’s latest video “The Transect” – an overview of a 200-mile trek across the prairie.

News and Notes (October 13)

Due out March 2016 E.O. Wilson’s latest book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life proposes a world in which humans occupy only half of the planet’s landmass, leaving the rest as “human-free zones” where endangered species could recover and thrive. Wilson talks about the extinction crisis with Audubon in the September/October 2015 issue. 

Bryon Darby and Craig Childs look at Phoenix’s “Water Maze” for Orion: “The hydrological cycle taught in textbooks— precipitation, evaporation, precipitation, evaporation —has been greatly manipulated. Dams plug canyons where reservoirs drown wild cliffs. Artificial lakes gather beneath freeways.” Pair with our own Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert.

Tim Flannery explores the animal intelligentsia in his review of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel: “The evolution of intelligence, of empathy and complex societies [in nonhuman animals], is surely more likely than we have hitherto considered. And what is it, exactly, that sets our species apart? We clearly are different, but in light of Beyond Words we need to reevaluate how, and why.” Read the rest of Flannery’s review at New York Review of Books.

Terrain interviewed Robert Michael Pyle in May: “I’m encouraged by the fact that over the 50, no, 60 years—I started around age seven—that I’ve been paying attention to natural history and conservation, both have become acceptable and of general interest in our culture…I came out of the period of the purge of the naturalists in academia, to a time when there are some naturalists again at the universities. Natural history has recovered some of its respectability and stature since its nadir, following Sputnik and the revolution in hard sciences in the ‘50s and ‘60s.” Read the rest of “Reflections of 50 Years of Engagement with the Natural World.”

In Memoriam

Lawrence Levine, assistant professor of English at Umpqua Community College, we wish we could have known him. According to The Oregonian, Levine lived in a rented cabin on the North Umpqua River where he guided fly fishers: “He was at home in the wilds of Oregon.”  We like to think that he would also have been at home in the Sowell Collection, as a writer, a reader, a teacher, and a person who loved the world and its inhabitants.

Our thoughts are with all the victims, their families and friends: Lucero Alcaraz, Treven Taylor Anspach, Rebecka Ann Carnes, Quinn Glen Cooper, Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, Lucas Eibel, John Dale Johnson, and Sarena Dawn Moore.

News and Notes (October 6)

David Quammen investigates the source of the latest Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa for National Geographic (July 2015). Check out his books Spillover (2012), Ebola (2014) and The Chimp and the River (2015) for more in-depth look on the movement of viruses from non-human animals to humans.

Joy Williams’s latest short-story collection The Visiting Privilege arrived in bookstores September 8, 2015. Debra Gwartney called Williams “a writer who gets under your skin” in her review for The Oregonian. Read an excerpt of The Visiting Privilege on Catapult.

Lisa Couturier writes about bugs for the Center for Humans and Nature. Read about the Scot saved by spiders, the mad prophet, and the origin of molasses in “Manhattan Mantis” – oh, and try not to itch.

In Memoriam C.K. Williams (1936-2015)

Pulitzer Prize winning poet C.K. Williams died at his home on September 20. Williams published his first poem “The World’s Greatest Tricycle Rider” in The New Yorker in 1966, thus launching a fifty year career which established him as one of the most distinguished (and awarded) poets of his generation. The New York Times remembers his life and work here.

 News and Notes (October 1)

In August Bill McKibben reviewed Pope Francis’s latest encyclical for the New York Review of Books: “Instead of a narrow and focused contribution to the climate debate, it turns out to be nothing less than a sweeping, radical, and highly persuasive critique of how we inhabit this planet—an ecological critique, yes, but also a moral, social, economic, and spiritual commentary.” Read the rest of McKibben’s review here.

Over at Salon David Gessner writes about his encounter with the real Grizzly Man, Doug Peacock: “At that point in my life I was rarely star-struck, but Doug Peacock was different. I didn’t have many living heroes left; Peacock was one. It wasn’t just his lofty place in the Ed Abbey firmament. It was the fact that I was a great admirer of Grizzly Years, which was as packed full of wildness as any book I had ever read.”

To raise awareness about the plight of America’s wild horses, four Texas A&M University graduates filmed a 3,000 mile-ride though the backcountry of the American West. Read about the riders and mustangs of Unbranded; watch the trailer and find a screening here.

If you find yourself in Lubbock, check out the Ansel Adams: American Master exhibit at the Museum of Texas Tech University: “This exhibition of 103 works of art surveys a lifetime of creative insight and photographic acumen by American master Ansel Adams (1902-1984). Adams prevails as a premier artist of the 20th century, and his images established a standard for American landscape photography.”