Editor’s Note — M.P. Jones

Last year, as the #NoDAPL movement united indigenous rights and environmental protests throughout the country, here in Florida, protests of the Sabal Trail pipeline began picking up inertia. They continue to grow. Defending Florida’s massive aquifer from existential threats of pollution from farming and petroleum industries unities many Floridians as water protectors. These movements are part of massive shifts in the way we relate to and advocate for the environment.  In five years editing this journal, I have witnessed many transformations: in the variety of media through which we compose, submit, and publish; in a staff who labor, often invisibly online, to bring writing to a public; and in the development of numerous writing communities devoted to expressing a growing environmental consciousness. This rising ecological thinking is deeply enmeshed with the digital worlds through which it circulates. In the ontological shifts produced by vast changes in both media and the environment, we seek new ways of expressing and responding to change. Though we have greater access to data than ever, we live in a time of profound skepticism. In an era of post-truth politics, we need writing more than ever to remind us of what we value outside ourselves.

This double issue features potent examples of how we use writing to advocate, value, and interact with the natural world. Robert Walker’s “The Fountain of Youth” provides a first-hand account of visiting one of Florida’s most iconic springs. He observes the degradation of Silver Springs while reminding us of why these springs have been so important to a great range of people, from the Timucua Indians to Europeans seeking magical pools of crystal water, to his own childhood experiences with the springs.  Lisa Roney’s essay, “Gimlet-Eyed in Paradise” depicts her travels to the West. She recounts her experiences growing up, discusses being an outsider and learning to more fully experience her surroundings, both natural and social. She tries to find a true “home” but finds that the transition is what feels most comforting to her. Matthew Bruen, “The Lost Place: The Valley of the Minisink” depicts a region ravished by tragedy and greed, a people displaced, and mourns a place which longer exists. Continuing on the idea of loss Melanie Martin meditates in “The Ecology of Grief” on how we deal with grief while on a trip to a mountain range in Utah. In “Lucky and Jasper Go Missing,” Lesley Instone recounts losing her two dogs in NSW, Australia. As she goes through a range of emotions while trying to locate them she contemplates what separates the domestic from the wild. At an agricultural exhibit, Stephanie Anderson mourns the western prairies of her childhood while telling the history of grass in American agriculture in “In Search of Lost Grass.”

Our poetry includes a rich variety of topics in ecoopoetics. Among the many excellent poems you’ll find, Tara Betts considers seeds as “the one currency that remains/ unspent until they root in pockets of soil” in her poem “The Simple Price of Seeds” (Betts), white Pia Taavila-Borsheim gives us eco-exile with “more to this than sorrow” in her poem “Estrangement” (Taavila-Borsheim). In “Island Processional,” Daniel Barton wonders “If there is place beyond language/ let us find it” (Barton), while Jack Bedell gives us the beautiful image of “old men back home” who “claim they can tell/ what’s on the end of their lines/ by the tug it gives when their hooks snag” (Bedell). Mercedes Lawry leads us (not) “into the fields of catastrophe,/ eager for wounds or miracles” (Lawry). There are many other incredible poems in this issue, and I hope you relish each of them.

Our two scholarly articles examine key issues in ecocriticism. Benjamin Bateman’s article “Thalia Field’s Unbuilt Fields, or, The Anthropocene’s Slippery (Textual) Surfaces” explores the relationship between surface reading and “the Anthropocene’s increasingly unstable environmental surfaces” (Bateman). Bateman moves us beyond seeing “sur-face” to understanding ways in which ecological violence is always “surfacing” (Bateman). Jenna Gersie’s article, “Climate Change as ‘Evidence of Upheaval’: Insights from Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams” examines an essential text on climate change “through the lens of what we know about climate change today” (Gersie). Gersie catalyzes the need for environmental action through her ecocritical reading of Lopez. Both texts respond to drastic changes in the ways we read and write in material environments and through media as they are transformed by global ecological changes.

Among our excellent pieces of fiction, I would like to first draw your attention to Bob Armstrong’s piece, “Succession,” which offers a lovely counterpart to  Lesley Instone’s “Lucky and Jasper Go Missing,” taking the perspective of a pack of Canidae as they struggle to survive by maintaining pack order. Dan Fields’ “And Every Living Thing After Its Kind” follows a researcher who has made an incredible discovery in Ecuador. Anne Coray’s “Bobo” is a hilarious and even haunting meditation on evolution, parenting, and nose hair. Jeffery Perso’s “The Problem with Cows” depicts some of the enormous impacts that cattle farming has on the environment and the people who farm and consume cows. The piece resonated with me in particular as protests here in Florida abound for the controversial Sleepy Creek Lands water permit, which could jeopardize many of North Florida’s first magnitude springs. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that we will have to choose between our habits and our habitats.

Each of these pieces offers an important perspective, each speaking, witnessing, and advocating in the face of global ecological threats and rampant denialism. We’re grateful to all of our wonderful readers, staff members, and contributors who have brought this issue together. We hope you enjoy their as much as we have! Thanks so much for reading, and as always: may the Kudzu grow!



M.P. Jones, Editor-in-Chief