In my eight semesters of college, I’ve taken twelve and a quarter classes that are either explicitly about environmental issues or that combine them in some way with the humanities (and, over the course of those eight semesters, have used three different platforms to view my course history – I’m liking the transition to myPugetSound!). I’ve read William Cronon’s essay “The Trouble with Wilderness” for class at least four times in the past four years and definitely did not appreciate it the first time I read it in my freshman writing seminar. However, I’ve fortunately had a decent amount of time to correct that oversight on my part, and it’s now probably my favorite assigned reading I’ve ever had.
So I was just a little bit excited to learn that William Cronon himself was coming to campus this semester. I’m taking one final class this semester in the environmental policy minor program, and one of our assignments was to attend at least one of the lectures. Well, duh. Like I wouldn’t be doing that anyway. He gave two lectures last week about environmental history, on which he is a leading thinker and actually sort of the creator of that area of academia. I also attended his lunch Q&A session, which is where I learned that he dropped out of school as a sophomore to try and write a novel.
What I found fascinating was how he successfully combined his three passions – writing, history, and wilderness – over the course of his academic career. I’ve had multiple conversations with my cousin, who’s a computer programmer, about the importance of interdisciplinarity in the real world and therefore in academics, so it’s always satisfying to see that endorsed by established, eminent people and not just a couple of 20-somethings. Regardless, it’s a little late in the game for me to drop out of school to write a novel – but I’ll keep that plan in mind for grad school.