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Bill Belleville is an award winning author and documentary filmmaker specializing in nature and conservation issues. He has authored four non-fiction books, over 1,000 magazine articles and essays, and scripted and produced six films. He has traveled overseas on Discovery Channel expeditions and has been named Environmental Writer of the Year by the Florida Audubon Society and the Florida Wildlife Federation. his latest book is "Losing it All to Sprawl: How Progress Ate My Cracker Landscape" (University of Florida Press 2006)
Critical Description of Work:
ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING: WHAT'S THE POINT?
The information superhighway can be a busy, congested place, and we're all trying to navigate it without becoming roadkill.
One of the best ways to navigate anything, I've found, is to simply slow down. I feel there's a lot of wrong turns made by going way too fast, by wanting to be somewhere else other than where we are at the moment.
The natural world helps me slow down. It's a bit like fly tying---the behavior itself affords a certain grace. It just doesn't allow us to rush through it. That's one of the reasons I've chosen to write about experiences that take place under the sky, on the water, deep in the woods somewhere. Learning about habitats and ecology---of people and place---is an abiding theme. But, really, it gives me the chance to spend a lot of time playing outside.
Like naturalist Aldo Leopold, I don't think we can really connect or care for a place unless we have a gut relationship with it. We're losing our natural lands at an alarming rate---especially in Florida where I live. Citizens who years ago might not have wanted to rock the boat now feel a need to speak up and express their concern over this loss. Maybe my books, articles and films might suggest how urgent it is to forge a connection with these places. But, anything I can say in way of advocacy is only rhetoric; it pales next to a personal experience a reader or viewer may have with a natural landscape.
Jim Harrison has written that the danger of civilization is that "We piss away our lives on nonsense." Web sites, books, films---they can only do so much. They are tools, honestly, ways to lead us to authentic and real places in the world. But if we obsess on them, they lose their context. And, it's a conceit to think that only writers or artists have an exclusive grasp on blazing trails to these places. Celebrity can be very seductive, both for the one being celebrated as well as for the ones engaging in the celebration. We can help read the maps and use the compass. But, the experience of finding your way to a rare place that affords redemption is yours alone.
So, after you make your way through this site---or maybe sometime before--- turn off your computer, go outside, and breathe deeply. Take a walk in the woods. Snorkel or scuba dive in a spring, a lake or river, an ocean. Paddle your canoe or kayak until you can no longer hear the hum of the mechanized world. Travel to a distant rainforest or reef and get to know the people whose lives are shaped by the wonder of it all. Or just sit under a tree and relax. Let our genetic predisposition for the natural world kick in. You don't need me or anyone else to preach to you about protection or preservation. You'll know what to do.