By Doug Hare EBS Staff
“Unearthing Paradise: Montana Writers in Defense of Greater
Yellowstone” is an impassioned plea and call to arms to protect our
public lands from greed, hubris and unnecessary environmental
degradation. This anthology of essays, poems, and short fiction is
shot through with righteous indignation and heartfelt arguments
against letting multinational mining conglomerates dig for gold at
Yellowstone National Park’s doorstep.
On a more general level, this collection pits deep ecology against
unbridled profiteering, and public interests against private
exploitation. “We wanted a chorus giving voice to the mountains and
rivers,” writes co-editor Max Hjortsberg in the introduction.
There are poems that heighten our appreciation of the region, essays
that explore Montana’s history of mining catastrophes, and fiction
that subconsciously illuminates why we should value pristine
wilderness areas more than precious metals.
Too often in the Rocky Mountain West, mineral extraction companies
have privatized massive short-term profits and then, when their mine
dries up, skipped town and left the public with the bill for cleaning
up—toxic metals, poisoned waterways and industrial refuse that has
ravaged the ecosystem, sometimes irreversibly.
The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana, is a prime example of how these
corporations rarely seem to be held accountable for the negative
impacts that accompany removing megatons of earth for
pounds of metal. Edwin Dobb memorably calls this the “perverse alchemy
of contemporary capitalism.”
The better pieces in the book are more than anti-mining diatribes;
they make a strong case for much more accountability, transparency
and less myopic decision making from Emigrant, to Helena and
EBS Environmental Columnist Todd Wilkinson writes in the anthology, “I’m not anti-mining … Creating jobs is important, but creating resilient communities compatible with
nature [is] what lasts.”
This is a timely book given that the new presidential administration has
expressed interest in selling off federal lands to private
interests. It is also a call to activism.
Without sustained and organized resistance by the people who live around and
recreate in the Greater Yellowstone region, large oil, gas and
mineral extraction companies will continue to try to commodify places
close to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and the headwaters of the
Yellowstone River, without understanding their true worth to the American people.
Give this book a chance and 32 of Montana’s most talented wordsmiths
will reveal that the aesthetic, cultural, economic and environmental
value of the Greater Yellowstone region far exceeds whatever we can
get from beneath its surface.
Doug Hare is the Distribution Coordinator for Outlaw Partners. He studied philosophy and American literature at Princeton and Harvard universities.
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