The best outdoor writing, I believe, is about people. Nature writing can be pretty, and environmental books can be convincing, but I ultimately crave the raw emotion of fellow human beings struggling to find and protect their place in the world.People are both the problem and the solution. Good outdoor writing reconnects people to nature—not through lectures, but through living, flesh-and-blood examples of courage and commitment. We feel the landscape through them.Here are a few of my favorite classic outdoor voices and books that should be on every environmentalist’s must-read list. Instead of preachy diatribes or flowery descriptions, they inspire me with gritty, gutsy characters—some legendary, some overlooked—who stand their ground and speak for the wild.The Last American Man by Elizabeth GilbertA 21st century pioneer living nearly self-sufficiently on a wild reserve in Appalachia, Eustace Conway embodies the ideals of American masculinity—ruggedness, courage, and independence. However, those hard-fought ideals have a price. Gilbert shows us the tired, lonely man behind the bravado. A tough, buckskin-clad maverick hunts for the one thing missing from his mountain refuge: love.Into the Wild by Jon KrakauerChris McCandless is either a stupid kid or self-reliant hero. He gives away all of his savings and wanders the wild, seeking adventure and an authentic relationship with the land—until he finds himself starving to death alone in the Alaskan wilderness. Barely able to lift a pen, he scribbles this final message, which continues to haunt and shape my own life: “Happiness only real when shared.”Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPheeMcPhee masterfully captures the nuances of one of the most influential modern environmentalists, David Brower. But don’t expect classic confrontations with battle lines clearly drawn; both McPhee and Brower are far more kaleidoscopic.Zoro’s Field by Thomas Rain CroweLiving alone and off-grid in an Appalachian cabin for four years (twice as long as Thoreau) and growing nearly all of his own food, Crowe’s memoir is a modern-day Walden, filled with wisdom gleaned only through a consciously simple, self-reliant life in the wild.Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse RayRay’s hardscrabble upbringing in a south Georgia junkyard is an unlikely start for an environmental luminary, but the rusted scrap heaps of her childhood are chock full of raw, resourceful characters—including an authoritarian father who locks his family in a closet and a snuff-dipping coon hunter who introduces her to the wild woods.The Lost Grizzlies by Rick BassGrizzly bears had not been seen for 15 years in southern Colorado until a small group sets out to find them. Bass seeks more than bears, though; he is tracking wildness and the longings of the human heart, which only are revealed in the presence of something larger.Desert Solitaire by Edward AbbeyIt’s definitely the most sermonizing selection of the bunch, but Abbey’s coarse, thunderous voice crying out for the wilderness still echoes across the desert he called home. Amid his nerve-tingling adventures as a park ranger, the monkey-wrenching anarchist unleashes forceful, full-blooded pleas for the last scraps of wildlands.
Jan 15, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – A state agriculture minister in India today confirmed that a disease outbreak involving 35,000 recent poultry deaths in West Bengal state was caused by the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus.Anisur Rahaman, West Bengal’s minister for animal resources, told Reuters, “The outbreak is of the deadly H5N1 strain and it has been confirmed to us in a central government notification today.”Over the past few weeks, large numbers of chicken and other poultry deaths have been reported in and around the village of Margram in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, according to the Reuters report. Rahaman told the news service that a second outbreak was detected in West Bengal’s South Dinajpur district but said the sites are not adjacent.Naresh Dayal, India’s health secretary, told Reuters that medical teams have been dispatched to the area, that residents would be monitored for flulike symptoms, and that the government had adequate stockpiles of the antiviral drug osteltamivir.Officials said culling operations affecting about 400,000 birds within a 3-kilometer radius of the outbreak areas would begin tomorrow, Reuters reported.Authorities have sealed off one stretch of West Bengal’s border with Bangladesh, according to Reuters. Bangladesh is also battling H5N1 outbreaks.India’s last H5N1 outbreak in poultry occurred in July 2007 among chickens at a poultry farm in the country’s remote northeastern state of Manipur, near the border with Myanmar, according to previous reports. India has reported no human H5N1 cases.Meanwhile, animal health officials in Bangladesh said on Jan 13 that the H5N1 virus had struck a poultry farm in the northeast. The outbreak killed 500 chickens at the farm in Moulavibazar district, about 155 miles from Dhaka, the capital, according to a Jan 13 Reuters report. About 800 chickens, ducks, and other birds were culled within 1 kilometer of the outbreak site, the report said.The country’s first H5N1 outbreak was recorded in March 2007, according to previous reports. Since then, outbreaks have occurred mainly around Dhaka and in the north.In Vietnam, government officials announced that the H5N1 virus struck a flock of ducks in Thai Nguyen province in the northern part of the country, according to a Jan 11 Thanh Nien News report. On Jan 3 officials said another outbreak in the same province had also affected a duck flock, according to previous reports.In other developments, animal health experts in England have determined that the H5N1 virus strain that infected three swans at a tourist destination in Dorset County on the country’s southwest coast is similar to one that was confirmed in the Czech Republic, Romania, and Poland in 2007, according to a statement today from Hilary Benn, secretary of the United Kingdom Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).Benn said the H5N1 strain found in the swans is also similar to the one that caused outbreaks in November among turkeys at two Redgrave Farms sites in Suffolk.Animal health officials are conducting further tests on a few more dead mute swans at the Dorset County outbreak site, but so far all have tested negative, the UK Press Association reported on Jan 13.Earlier reports said the three infected swans were tested after they were found dead, but today’s DEFRA statement said reports suggest that two of the swans were still alive when found and were euthanized because they were injured and in poor condition.John Houston, general manager at Abbotsbury Swannery, told the Press Association that the number of dead swans at the site is lower than normal because of warmer-than-usual winter weather.See also:Jul 25, 2007, CIDRAP News story “India finds H5N1 in poultry after 1-year hiatus”Jan 15 DEFRA statement