In 1960, when I was born, the world was still whole and precedented. The publication of Rachel Carson’s prescient warning Silent Spring was two years away. Earth Day wouldn’t happen for another decade. The term ‘global warming’ would not debut for fifteen years. By 2020, the world had become unprecedented in big, worrisome ways. During my lifetime, humans went from a having a small impact on the planet to being the predominant force for change on a geological scale. Only sixty years! How did this happen? This site is my attempt to answer this anguished question. It is part history, ethnography, art project, adventure story, biography, and reflection. It chronicles my lifelong interest in the diverse and dynamic interdependence between land and people which I explore in words, images, and grassroots activism.
CREATIVE ANSWERS TO ANGUISHED QUESTIONS
Author Wallace Stegner once said every book should try to answer an anguished question. I took his advice to heart and over the years tried to answer an array of ‘left-brain’ questions with creative ‘right brain’ answers ranging over the fields of archaeology, conservation, ranching, the radical center, regenerative agriculture, and climate change – introduced in MY STORY.
Core questions emerged quickly: What is land for? How can we use it without using it up? How should we live? How do we heal damaged land and repair relationships? Over time, as the scale of our accelerating impact on the planet increased, new anguished questions arose: Can we restrain ourselves? How do we build resilience? What are practical solutions to climate change? Eventually, they merged into one general question: WHAT IS EARTH FOR?
MY WORK falls into two phases: A West That Works (1988 – 2005) focused on archaeology, collaborative conservation, progressive ranching, and land use. The Age of Consequences (2006 to present) tackles resilience, carbon, climate change, regeneration and other issues as we head deeper into our unprecedented future.
I didn’t follow a prepared path in seeking answers. Instead, I purposefully produced creative work in diverse formats:
- Two Fine Art Photography Projects: THE INDELIBLE WEST (1988-1998) and THIS MOMENT IN TIME (2005-2015)
- A Documentary Photography Book (with text): IN THE LAND OF THE DELIGHT-MAKERS
- A History Book: KNOWING PECOS
- A Peer-reviewed Archaeology Paper: ADOBE TYPOLOGY AND SITE CHRONOLOGY
- A Nonprofit Organization (1998-2015): THE QUIVIRA COALITION
- A Play: CANYONLANDS
- Two Nonfiction Books: GRASS, SOIL, HOPE and TWO PERCENT SOLUTIONS FOR THE PLANET
- Two Collections of Essays (books): REVOLUTION ON THE RANGE and THE AGE OF CONSEQUENCES
- Three Columns (published as a book): GRASSROOTS: THE RISE OF THE RADICAL CENTER
- A Novel: CONSILIENCE
- A Mystery novel (first book in the Sun Ranch series): THE SUN
- A Blog: THE STORY OF CARBON
- A Journal (published by the Quivira Coalition): RESILIENCE
- A Lecture: THINKING OUTSIDE THE HOLOCENE
- Coedited Book: CONSERVATION FOR A NEW GENERATION
- Coauthored Books: DIRT TO SOIL and FIBERSHED and THE GREAT REGENERATION
- Coauthored Declaration (2003): INVITATION TO JOIN THE RADICAL CENTER
- Senior Writer on REGENERATION: ENDING THE CLIMATE CRISIS IN ONE GENERATION
- Cattle rancher and producer of grassfed meat: the Quivira Coalition’s VALLE GRANDE GRASSBANK
- Authored fifteen ANNUAL CONFERENCES for the Quivira Coalition
THE GRASS CANOE is an autobiography (in essays) about a life of asking questions and seeking answers.
Additional projects are upcoming, including THE THRESHOLD (a memoir) and the DE LACY PROJECT (a genealogy-inspired history of land and people stretching back 35 generations)
William Faulkner – A Family Connection and Inspiration
In 1986, I learned I was related to William Faulkner on my father’s side of my family. At the time, I had dropped out of graduate school (in filmmaking at UCLA) and was very unclear about next steps in my life. When I learned that Faulkner was a cousin, I reacquainted myself with his work and biography, reading book after book. The geographical unity of his vision in combination with his focus on the intersections of land, culture, and history struck a deep chord in me. I especially loved his map of Yoknapatawpha County. I decided I would try to do something similar for my home ground – the American West – though in my own way. In 2011, when I began to focus on writing books I returned to my cousin for once more for inspiration.
I cofounded the Quivira Coalition in 1997 with the goal of building a radical center among ranchers, conservationists, federal land managers, and scientists around practices that improve economic and ecological resilience in working landscapes.
This is a collection of essays written during my years at the Quivira Coalition. Topics include: the radical center, collaborative conservation, grassbanks, ecological restoration, The New Ranch, carbon farming, land health, and local food.
Since 2017, I have been coauthoring books with farmers, ranchers, and nonprofit directors in regenerative agriculture to help them get their words into print. The regeneration movement (of which the Quivira Coalition was an early leader) is worldwide now.