Marriott Library Hopes to Facilitate Environmental Awareness with Edward Abbey Exhibit

by Erica Hartmann

SALT LAKE CITY- On March 4, 2012 the Gould Auditorium in the Marriott Library was filled with many fans of famous author, Edward Abbey. Abbey supporters gathered anxiously as they waited for the “Edward Abbey Exhibit” to open later that afternoon.

 A lecture and reception was held in Abbey’s behalf prior to the opening of the exhibit. Abbey passes away on March 14, 1989 and was a man who was famous for his environmental efforts. At the lecture, questions were raised about the way Americans live today and whether Abbey would be proud of the current society.

            Ken Sanders, a man who has been in the rare books business for many years, was the speaker for the event “R. Crumb meets the Monkey Wrench Gang: Edward Abbey and the Modern Environmental Movement from Earth First!” held on Sunday. He knew Abbey personally and was very knowledgeable about Abbey’s life.

Abbey spent most of his life in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, where he lived and worked for the state parks. He is best known for his novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang”, which has become a highly inspirational book for environmental groups.

Sanders said, “Abbey was a man that many people related to.” He went on to say, “The writing of Ed Abbey defines a group of people living in the west. We know we belong together.”

It’s been said that he moved people with his passion for the environment. According to a close friend of Abbey, Charles Bowden, “Abbey was angry with post-world commercialism, and he wanted to share that anger to motivate people to change the way they choose to live.”

Sanders shared his ideas with Abbey’s fans at the lecture. He said, “Wilderness needs no defense, just more defenders.” He also made his listeners laugh when he said, “Society is like a stew, if you don’t keep it stirring, you get a lot of scum on top.” Everyone in the audience smiled and nodded their heads.

Most everyone agreed that Abbey would be disappointed with the changes that have occurred since his death in 1989, especially how the government wants to privatize all the public land in Utah. Most believe that if Abbey were alive today, he’d have a lot to say about this issue.

Jonathon, a recent Utah graduate and fan of Abbey said, “It’s up to us to do something about it.” He explained that Americans are only concerned about money and said he believes that more people should live the way Abbey did. “He struggled to make a living, but he was proud of his work.”

Mary, a woman who works for the Marriott Library, has been a fan of Abbey for many years. She agreed that Abbey would be disappointed in the changes that have occurred, but is hopeful for what lies ahead. She expressed, “I think Abbey would be proud of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. It’s something he would have supported.”

Mary also explained, “the new collection is a step in the right direction to make people aware of what Abbey was all about.” She believes that if younger generations become familiar with him, changes can be made to the way Americans live their lives and treat their environment.

The Edward Abbey Exhibit holds over 30 years of collected work by the author and will be held on the 4th floor of the University Library. Everyone is encouraged to visit the exhibit. Getting to know Abbey and his passion for the environment will facilitate change and inspire readers to think twice about how their actions effect the environment.