Literature, Art, and the Environment

From College8CoreWiki

Although we mostly think of writing and thinking about the environment as the work of scientists and scholars, important contributions have also been made by artists, writers, painters and photographers.

No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear: Toni Morrison on the Artist’s Task in Troubled Times 11/16.

Art can also be found on Multimedia page, as well as Graphic Novels.

See also Writing page

Science fiction dealing with the environment can be found on the Ecological and Social Utopias page



This Visionary Sci-Fi Author Sees the Destruction of Human Civilization: Predatory Capitalism; Ted Chiang examines how Silicon Valley has become its own worst nightmare. 12/17.

The McCall Initiative is a story told in serial form. If you’re a fan of edge-of-your-seat dystopian thrillers with a twist of romance, you’ll love Lisa Nowak’s glimpse at a future that’s all too plausible. Great for fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Legend. 7/18 see Ecotopia

Barbara Kingsolver is one of a handful of novelists with a science background, and she puts it to use in her new novel Flight Behavior. Kingsolver discusses the book and why she chose to look at the the issue of climate change in a fictional work set in rural Tennessee. (audio interview) see also text and audio interview andexcerpt. (Also nonfiction: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, about being a locavore.)

When the Killing's Done by T. Coraghessan Boyle (see below for other books). Traces an incrementally violent confrontation between a National Park Service biologist who would eradicate invasive wildlife on the Channel Islands and two locals who are fiercely opposed to the killing of any creatures. By the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of World's End. Santa Cruz Island Fox recovery inspired novelist TC Boyle to write about it, When The Killing's Done.T.C. Boyle's A Friend of the Earth about a possible near future of global warming, includes a character presumably based on Julia Butterfly Hill, but also makes reference to other eco-folk we should all know about. Recommended

The Dog Stars follows a man named Hig who survives a superflu that kills most of humanity by Peter Heller, a contributing editor at Outside Magazine, National Geographic Adventure and Men's Journal. He is also the author of several nonfiction books, including Hell or High Water, about kayaking Tibet's Tsangpo River; The Whale Warriors, about illegal whaling near Antarctica (he went out with Sea Shepherds)video) (disturbing images); and Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect interview).

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (Guardian review) was a Grist Book Club selection, and he participated in a video interview More. He visited UCSC in 2007 Link. Grist update 11/11.

Three new novels feature climate change, Mark Nykanen’s Primitive and Far North by Marcel Theroux . Ian McEwan's new comic novel, Solar. John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming.


Wikipedia book list ,

Wikipedia author list

E. Abbey Desert Solitaire

W. Berry, Unsettling America video of him reading a poem

Mike Davis City of Quartz McHenry Stacks HN80.L7 D38 2006 summary
excerpt on urban space

Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac is a 1949 book by American ecologist and environmentalist Aldo Leopold. Aldo Leopold's "The Land Ethic" (from Sand County Almanac) Link.


(See also Multimedia)

Robinson Jeffers

Jane Hirschfield

Mary Oliver "Straight Talk from a Fox"

Gary Snyder Beat poet (Kerouac based a Dharma Bum character on him), now the subject of a film (video intro). See also The Practice of the Wild. video of conversation including Wendell Berry. extensive interview on poetry and ecology.

Billy Collins poem on why we need to protect nature. TEDtalk video with animations.

Plume by Kathleen Flennike. In PLUME, her second book of poems, Kathleen Flenniken chronicles growing up during the Cold War in Richland, Washington—a small community nestled between the Columbia and Yakima rivers. Richland has traditionally been home to employees of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a plutonium production plant that fueled the nation’s atomic defense since the Manhattan Project in the 1940s. After many cases of radiation-related illness surfaced among employees and their families, the government declassified documents in the late 1980s revealing a decades-long history of contamination despite official assurances to residents that the area had always been safe. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the Hanford site is now home to the world’s largest environmental cleanup project.


Many anime movies by Hayao Miyazaki carry environmentalist themes. The best-known is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, but also well known is Pom Poko as well as Princess Mononoke, which is based on a conflict between technology and nature


Ansel Adams. Jonathan H. Spaulding, Cowell '82 Ansel Adams and the American Landscape, U. of California Press, 1995

The Roots of California Photography [videorecording] : The Monterey legacy c2002 McHenry Library Film & Music VT8907

Edward Burtynsky


Can Art save cities? For example, Dr. Dirt: Street artist scrubs images into the urban landscape. 11/11. Art on climate

7 Days, 7 Artists, 7 Rings, is a living, responsive work of art created by Rebecca Campbell and Nicole Walker. Each week the painter and poet, respectively, alternate kicking off the current week’s collaborative artist project. Painters and poets, photographers and essayists, musicians and story writers will collaborate to create ongoing, live-made art. The responses will come daily, with artists having only twenty-four hours to respond to each others’ work. Here, Rebecca Lindenberg responds to Rebecca Campbell 's "For Fever Babies."

Questions About Beauty

How wind finishes
wood into bone socket,
breath-only intoning over
and over it. How
summer's fevered mind
gathers spool and frond
into nests lovely as they are
curious - I have
so many questions
about beauty. How black
shimmers in a wing,
why crickets remember light
in their shrill purr,
how unstill is any given leaf,
how many words there aren't
for the idea of green. Why
does beauty elicit longing,
for what god? What if
splendor's not in things but
transformations? The same
wind tarnishing a trunk,
thin reeds can capture into song.
Chrysalis, snakeskin, bay
wreath, splendid remnants
of change not wrought,
just witnessed. Attention
into ecstasy, feather
into moonrise, stem
into instrument and branch
into artifact, itself, again.

See Greenmuze for Art, and Waste and Space

Vik Muniz, Atlanta and Hippomenes after Guido Reni (Pictures of Junk)

Artist Dianna Cohen shares some tough truths about plastic pollution in the ocean and in our lives. TEDtalk video



UCSC's Elliot Anderson and Jennifer Parker are featured artists in Groundswell. Parker and Barney Haynes present a new media installation that interactively engages gallery viewers with solar wind data. Anderson examines the technological landscape with a hydroponic garden that phytoremediates water polluted with mercury and other heavy metals left from 19th century mining operations.

Local singer-songwriter Vienna Teng, whose songs are hauntingly beautiful, has raised money for green efforts and walked her talk on merchandising; she's going back to school to study green business but performing 5/17 in Santa Cruz Link

Laura Veirs often writes about the joy of being in nature, inspired by farmers' market peaches and canoe river trips.

Cuyahoga On June 22, 1969, an oil slick and debris in the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland, Ohio, drawing national attention to environmental problems in Ohio and elsewhere in the United States and led to the Clean Water Act. Recently, the reclamation of the river was celebrated.


Environmental art

Jellyfish made out of plastic bottles

Giant robot elephant from recycled materials (from Greenmuze)

elegant sculpture with sticks

"Without a doubt, with no hyperbole: Theo Jansen is an absolute genius. Listen to his talk about the new creatures he builds from 'plastic tubes and lemonade bottles'"...Link

Polar Bear suicides

UCSC Digital Arts bio-art [1]


Oil Spill portraits

A Muir Web is a complex mapping of an ecosystem. The term was coined by the Mannahatta Project, which has an amazing recreation of New York City. (here are some images). Here's an artist's interpretation of its symmetry, beauty and complexity.

UCSC has produced at least three world class nature photographers: Gordon Wiltsie (NPR audio interview), Frans Lanting (a TEDtalk video), and Kennan Ward.

Jim Balog won the Rowell Award. Here he documents global warming. Photographer James Balog shares new image sequences from the Extreme Ice Survey, a network of time-lapse cameras recording glaciers receding at an alarming rate, some of the most vivid evidence yet of climate change.Link

Five Gyres project is sailing to all major subtropical oceanic gyres (North and South Pacific, North and South Atlantic, and Indian Ocean) in order to study the every growing problem of marine plastic pollution. See slideshow

In this image-filled talk, Yann Arthus-Bertrand displays his three most recent projects on humanity and our habitat -- stunning aerial photographs in his series "The Earth From Above," TEDtalk video. Download his amazing new movie Home.

Andy Goldsworthy uses natural materials for his sculptures/photographs Interview Rivers and Tides (video)

More nature inspired art, but groovier

Crop circles another one

Frans Lanting presents The LIFE Project, a collection that tells the story of our planet, from its eruptive beginnings to its present diversity. Hoping for a glimpse of the world the way it was in the age of photosynthesizing stromatolites, "back before the sky turned blue," Lanting journeyed to a remote lagoon in Australia, the only place in the world where stromatolites still exist. The story moves forward from there, via a lyrical collection of photographs set to a soundtrack from Philip Glass. TEDtalk video

Stunning images of accumulated consumer goods and resources by Chris Jordan. TEDtalk video PBS episode. Chris Jordan's heart-rending images of Albatross chicks who starved to death with their stomachs full of plastic.

Photographer Edward Burtynsky documents how humans alter the world, and to a lesser degree the people engaged in doing the work (example). Video of TEDtalk accepting his award. A video, Manufactured Landscapes, (trailer) was made about his trip to China and its factories and the Three Gorges Dam. Excerpt.

Eco-disaster slideshow

Jesus Bubu Negron, a Puerto Rican artist, made this rug out of cigarette butts found on the streets. link

"Empty Los Angeles" pictures remind me of best-selling book The World Without Us multimedia

60 Stunning satellite images of Earth

Valerie Ucumari's photos of animals

Sophie Gerrard's images of e-waste in India

Other Media

Graphic Novel on Diane Wilson Wilson's book, An Unreasonable Woman

Webcomic by XKCD TEDtalk. Google talk 2014: Millions of people visit each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have an enormous, dedicated following, as do his deeply researched answers to his fans’ strangest questions. The queries he receives range from merely odd to downright diabolical: • What if I took a swim in a spent-nuclear-fuel pool? • Could you build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns? • What if a Richter 15 earthquake hit New York City? • Are fire tornadoes possible?

Course Themes
Ecological and Social Utopias
Literature, Art, and the Environment
Environmental Science and Skeptical Challenges
Activism and Entrepreneurship