Read! Read!


A recent Facebook post by the Protectors of Crown Hill Woods supplied a video of a classic 1970 episode of Mayberry RFD (titled The Mayberry Road) which was spot-on in so many ways both obvious and subtle.  It featured a battle between the Mayberry Garden Club and the County Commission road-builders who planned a destructive short-cut designed to save time in the drive to Mount Pilot.  It’s a must see:

In making her woods preservation case, Aunt Bea points out to the Garden Club “this latest step in the desecration of our woodland areas” and she later makes an appeal to Sam Jones, the president of the Town Council.

After he balked, she incredulously asks “Sam, don’t you read?  Don’t you know there’s a battle raging on behalf of conservation – saving our natural resources?”  Scholarly Howard, the Town Clerk/Postmaster, then pitches in with a reference to supportive information he had recently read.

Of course, having read nothing about conservation issues, Sam is clueless about the case for preserving natural heritage and instead argues that progress reasonably requires the loss of a few trees.  Eventually however Aunt Bea prevails, after some civil disobedient direst action, and the planned road is re-aligned by the County to avoid destroying the woods—the classic “win-win” for each side.

I thought Aunt Bea’s remark about the importance of reading the current literature on conservation issues, although a subtle remark, was one of the important messages of the story and one of the main reasons that there is so much ignorance by public officials and the general public about the importance of preserving our natural heritage.  We are so fortunate, especially during the past couple of decades, to have such a great wealth of brilliant literature of place by such a wide variety of great writers and experts.  But are their works widely read?  Unfortunately, not enough!

I first became interested in environmental and place literature in the late 1980s after reading a book of essays (Where We Live—Essays about Indiana) published in 1989 by The Indiana Humanities Council (now Indiana Humanities).  Since then, the range of available titles about global environmental protection and good place-making have greatly expanded.  We can only hope that these books are being read by both conservation advocates and public officials who have the power and authority to act.

When my daughter was about 3 years old, she perched on my lap one evening as I read children’s stories to her.  After some time, I started to drift off to sleep whereupon she forcefully grabbed me with two fists by the shirt front at demanded that I “Read! Read!”.   It’s universal good advice—whether we’re reading bedtime stories or prescriptions on how to save our planet.







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