In 1979, Dave Foreman had a successful career as the Wilderness Society's top Washington, D.C. lobbyist. A decade later, he was dragged from his bed at gunpoint and put on trial for conspiracy. Coyotes and Town Dogs is the story of Foreman and his friends, the best and the brightest of the 1970s environmentalists, who formed the radical group Earth First!, as well as a vivid account of the fascinating personalities, flamboyant tactics, epic confrontations, and philosophical, legal, and ethical dilemmas of the entire American environmental movement, from grassroots activists to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Adopted as a text by many universities, Bill McKibben called Coyotes and Town Dogs "a primer for how to face our earth's predicament with wit and courage."
Susan Zakin's writing is brilliant and irreverent, tough and funny, opinionated and sometimes outrageous. But this is also a serious work, the most thorough and thoughtful survey of the American environmental movement I have seen.
—Brad Knickerbocker, The Christian Science Monitor
Like most Easterners, I really never understood Earth First!, although I had been following environmental issues for many years and even had talked a number of times with Dave Foreman, one of its founders. I knew what they did, and, more or less, why they did it. But I never understood what made them tick.
Now I do. Reading Susan Zakin's "Coyotes and Town Dogs," a sprawling, rollicking and, ultimately, melancholy history of Earth First!, is like spending a week around a campfire with its hard-core "buckaroos," drinking heroic quantities of beer, singing scatological songs and plotting the next foray into eco-sabotage.
Zakin, a journalist by trade, is a fair-minded observer who clearly sees the flaws and failings of the Earth Firsters and the accomplishments of the Sierra Clubs and Wilderness Societies. But there is no doubt where her heart lies - it is with the irreverent, anarchistic, trouble-making coyotes. Her environmental perspective is firmly rooted in the West.
—Philip Shabecoff, The Los Angeles Time
Reads like a new Edward Abbey novel.
Catches the rowdy, passionate utopianism of the first non-elite generation of environmentalists. They changed the game and woke a lot of people up.
—Gary Snyder, poet and essayist,
A vivid, comprehensive history...If we're still here 200 years from now, it will be due in no small part to groups like Earth First! and to writers like Susan Zakin who understand why we must heed their warnings.
—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost
Through fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir, this edgy anthology could have been titled "The New Environmental Writing" as Tom Wolfe once dubbed an anthology "New Journalism." Taking as a mantra the idea that nature is not divorced from what most of us consider real life, Naked includes writing by James Lee Burke, Alexandra Fuller, Bruce Chatwin, T.C. Boyle, A.L. Kennedy, Joy Williams, Carl Hiassen, and Ted Mooney, along with emerging authors such as Lydia Millet and Stacey Richter. These challenging and quirky writers address issues that concern us today: genetic research, globalization, technology, urban alienation, suburban sprawl, immigration, animal rights, colonialism, wilderness preservation, and much more. With politically charged rants, outrageous personal journeys (including a hyped-up ode to the Amazon by actor Klaus Kinski), and fiction that shocks and challenges, Naked updates the passionate environmentalism of Edward Abbey and his generation.
Zakin assembles this anthology of essays as a response to current writings on the environment, in which, she says, writers "muse endlessly upon a rock and‚ . . .share their uplifting reveries at interminable length." The writers in this collection, she says, have a more honest and interesting take on things. Their 31 essays, which indeed do not ramble interminably, address topics ranging from bullfighting to nude beaches and do so in an array of quirky styles. Accomplished writers selected include Zakin herself, who deals with the desert, divorce and more in "Tierra Incognita"; Edward Abbey, whose unpublished letters are annotated by Zakin; and Elizabeth Royte, who spent part of a pregnancy in the wilds of Panama. Reading through the essays proves a diverse and varied journey, during which one experiences many intriguing and bold perspectives on the natural world and our human place in it.
Naked often scrapes the bottom of that which is the human experience, yet, at times, alludes to the highest qualities in our nature. Zakin sets out to "uncover the way we live on Earth." She does exactly that, and it is by casting such a wide net upon that experience that she neither condemns nor condones us, but sets forth an artist's view for our own interpretation.
—Mark Flanagan, About.com
Photographer Chris Jordan, whose striking images have been showcased on CNN and in numerous magazines and newspapers, captures a catastrophic beauty in the devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina. His poetic images are accompanied by clarion essays by environmental writers Bill McKibben and Susan Zakin, making this an exceptionally artistic and thought-provoking response to a never-to-be-forgotten calamity. McKibben ties the Katrina debacle to the larger crisis of climate change, while Zakin reveals how the intimate relationship between nature and culture conspires to create danger and beauty in Louisiana's bayou country. Book proceeds go to hurricane relief.
In "A Fallen Corner of the World" Zakin shuffles together a psychological anatomy lesson on New Orleans and an elegy for it —a clever, intuitive meditation that should be required reading on these subjects.
—Allen Williams, The Simon