Introduction of Barry Lopez


Peter’s public interview of Barry Lopez

National Land Trust Leadership Summit

New Orleans, Louisiana

September, 2013

Thank you. I would like to introduce all of you to Barry Lopez.

From The Passing Wisdom of Birds:

What disappears with a debasement of wild landscapes is more than genetic diversity, more than a homeland for Henry Beston’s ‘other nations’, more to be perfectly selfish, that a source of future medical cures for human illness or a chance for personal revitalization on a wilderness trip. We stand to lose the focus of our ideals. We stand to lose our sense of dignity, of compassion, even our sense of what we call God. The philosophy of nature that we set aside eight thousand years ago in the Fertile Crescent we can, I think, locate again and greatly refine in North America. The new world is a landscape still overwhelming in the vigor of its animals and plants, resonant with mystery. It encourage still an enlightened response toward idigenous cultures that differ from our own whether Aztecan, Lakotan, lupine, avian or invertebrate. By broadening of sense of the intrinsic worth of life and by cultivating respect for others ways of moving toward perfection, we may find a sense of resolution we have been looking for, I think, for centuries.”

What I have always found for myself in Barry Lopez’s work is a measure of courtesy, of wisdom and of respect, and always the essential pathways to find our way back to a more equitable set of relationships between people and between people and the land.

Barry Lopez was born outside of New York City but grew up in the San Fernando Valley of

California. Since 1968, he’s lived in Oregon and has devoted his life to observing those relationships and patterns in nature and culture. And he’s done that deep observation in remote places as well as in cities.

The writing that has emerged over those 45 years of very close observation have earned the

National Book Award (for Artic Dreams) and the John Burroughs and Christopher Medals (Of

Wolves and Men) and the appreciation of many thousands of people for his eights works of fiction and two collections of his essays. He contributes regularly to

Granta, The Georgia

Review, Orion, Outside, The Paris Review, Manoa

and other publications in the United States and abroad. His work has appeared in dozens of anthologies, including

Best American Essays,

Best Spiritual Writing,

and the “best” collections from

National Geographic, Outside, The

Georgia Review, The Paris Review,

and other periodicals.

With us this morning is one of the finest writers and thinkers in our nation. Page 1

And among that tribe of great writers, I know that Barry Lopez is seen by his peers as the wise elder, perhaps the wolverine himself.

His work are not books on shelves, they are “minds alive” on the shelves. He is a man who recounts the stories that get us through the night, he remind us who we are, and who we might become.

For me, Barry Lopez’s work is a reminder of the role of story in renewing one’s sense of life purpose, of the role of wild animals in understanding the land itself, and the insight to know there are always two landscapes – the outside of the self, and the other within. The interior landscape being how the land touches us all and shapes us inside.

To say he is a nature writer is to miss the point, I think. Mr. Lopez writes about intimacy, identity, culture and meaning, all from his keen observations of nature.

His work has illuminated many truths for me, including what is a dignified human response to life itself, or why the human heart and the land have been brought together so regularly in human history. These ideas have sustained and challenged me, and I bet many of you.

As a farmer and a conservationist, there are two writers who have helped me to understand that the health of land, of nature, of water shares a destiny with the health of our communities:

Wendell Berry and Barry Lopez. These two individuals have done the most to shape our thinking about a closer, more intimate relationship between all people and the land. These writers have tested our ethics and inspired our action.

Barry, now I want to introduce you to these fine people. Barry, before you are 70 executive directors, program directors and board members of the leading land trusts in our nation from

Maine to Oregon, from Alaska to Alabama. Here before you are people who have dedicated themselves to these places: North fork, Piedmont, Otsego, Allegheny, Crested Butte, Little forks,

Peconic, Low country, Lookout Mountain, Kachemak, Elkhorn slough, Kaniksu, Mojave, Lemhi,

Bitterroot, Leelanau, Columbia, Shasta, Solano, Okanogan, Big Sur, Molokai.

They’ve devoted their lives to the practical realities of buying and protecting “the land” and they know that the story and the meaning of their work are far bigger than these real estate transactions. They, too, see their work as protecting sets of relationships, some understood and some not.

They’ve spent years building the skills, credibility, and organizational muscle to be able to be a

“force for nature” and in that process they moved from the edges to the mainstream of culture.

Many of these conservation groups are now 25-40 years old and their worked has evolved from protecting scenery to protecting ecosystems to protecting whole systems including people. All along the way, they have been re-defining conservation as they expand their understanding of community Page 2

They’ve been hugely successful.

With that success has come questions: What does conservation mean today to our community?

Who did we do this work for?

This is a moment for re-imagining the propose and meaning of conservation. And this is why it’s so important that you are here to help us. Page 3