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Scott Russell Sanders, The End of Nature Series

In 2017 we started a new feature at The Humble Essayist called The End of Nature Series in honor of Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking essay and book The End of Nature. He argued that the idea of nature as a wilderness beyond the touch of humans was no longer conceivable. A cataract may be beautiful, but if it is loaded with “a mix of chemicals we’ve injected into the atmosphere,” its meaning has changed for us. This redefinition leads to the realization that nature is “not another world," leaving us with the grim reality that "there is nothing except us alone.” It is the end of nature.

In the series we choose on a regular basis a Paragraph of the Week by an author on the topic and write a commentary to explore its meaning for us. To do so we draw from many of the writers in McKibben’s anthology American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau as well as other sources. We would like to devote the month of October to this important series.

This week we turn to essayist Scott Russell Sanders

once again for a paragraph from his 1993 collection Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World. The essay describes his return to his homeplace in Charlestown Ohio in the Mahoning river valley that had been flooded by a dam. Although he mentions the politics of these “acts of erasure” that “we have repeated from coast to coast as we devour the continent,” he is more interested in the feeling of nostalgia that these losses create in us, attempting to do justice to a term that we often dismiss as sentimental. Both The Paragraph of the Week and the Commentary come from Sanders’ essay. ”—THE

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