Book Review

Coming of Age at the End of Nature

Edited by Julie Dunlap & Susan A Cohen, written by various authors. Trinity University Press, 2016.

If you’ve ever felt a connection to the natural world around you, been overwhelmed by time that seems to be running out, or feared for the lives of your grandchildren on a dying planet, you may find the catharsis you need in Coming of Age at the End of Nature.

This diverse collection of essays from the young generation depicts how growing up in an environmental crisis can shape a life. Through twenty-two eloquent voices, we hear the pleas, the frustrations, the encouragements, and the calls to action of those who are left to clean up the mess that our past has left untended. This is not just a book–this is a much needed reality check from the very people we now rely on to save our planet.

Perhaps the greatest appeal of Coming of Age at the End of Nature is its modest origins that relate to every reader. Within these pages are not the highfalutin musings of extremists, experts, or celebrated authors, though the writing is beautifully wise and indisputably significant. Here we find the voices of the people we pass on the street—our fellow compatriots—who know, simply from experience, that it is time to fight for our world.

In reading this anthology, you will hear from journalists, academics, editors, adventure seekers, naturalists, and recent college graduates, all with a different story to tell. The essays are brilliantly organized by the themes of resilience, conservation, and creative solutions, but in the end, they all work together to provide the reader with viewpoints that embody an entire generation—a seemingly impossible feat. Regardless of where you come from or whether or not you like the dirt, these essays will call on you to think about your own interactions with nature. Whether it was transcendent, or miserable, it was probably a memory that stuck, and within it lays an inescapable love of place.  

I, too, came of age at the end of nature, and reading these essays only further corroborated every flash of anger, moment of despair, nostalgia for simplicity, and longing for answers that I have ever had. These may seem like hopeless sentiments, yet hope is exactly what you find in this work. Climate change has never been an easy subject, or a hopeful one. But somehow, hearing from an entire generation about what they feel, see, and aspire to be, gives every one of us the assurance that times are changing. Change has never been so necessary and so appealing as it is today. Change is the hope we need, and in Coming of Age at the End of Nature, we can see that change has finally begun. It turns out we have a great deal to learn from our peers; all we have to do is listen.


Kiersten UteggComment