Environmentalists celebrate the legacy of the late Edward Abbey

By. R. Ammon Ayres

SALT LAKE CITY- The author of popular radical environmental novels was remembered thanks to the generous donations Calif. attorney Eric Hvolboll.

Last Sunday afternoon in the University of Utah’s Marriot Library, former appraiser for the popular television program “Antiques Roadshow” and book collector Ken Sanders hosted a presentation for the late author Edward Abbey. This celebration preceded the opening of an exhibit of a historical collection of Abbey’s autographed books, contracts, movie posters, essays and just about everything with Abbey’s name on it. The many supporters that showed, both old and young, came to remember the author and sustain his environmental ideals.

“Ed Abbey still lives… Abbey is selling books better than ever now that he’s dead,” said Sanders. Sanders said Abbey’s books are an important part of history, the radical words in his novels drive his ongoing growing fandom towards going green and advocating the environment to preserve the earth and its beauty.

“I believe Ed Abbey’s environmental ideals are relevant more than ever today,” said a friend of Sanders and attendant John Dalton.

“The Wilderness needs no defense, only defenders,” said Sanders quoting Abbey. Sanders quoted Abbey’s humorous yet serious view on the environment, allowing the late Abbey to speak for himself and resonate his beliefs.

Abbey believed in enjoying his problems, but also said, “I enjoy my enemies problems too,” said Sanders quoting Abbey. Sanders used this occasion of celebration to remember Abbey and create awareness of the danger the environment is facing.

Sanders proclaimed the recently sentenced Tim DeChristopher as an environmental hero. DeChristopher was found guilty when tried in federal court for bidding on public land that he couldn’t pay for, to protect it from the oil companies.

Dalton had a different point of view on whether DeChristopher was a hero not. “Whether Tim is a hero or not, is debatable. Being a lawyer, I believe there are better ways to protect the environment, especially through the legal system,” said Dalton.

“What he had to say in both his fiction, and essays resonate… people still see his beliefs as relevant, which is key,” said Associate Dean of Special Collections Greg Thompson when asked why Abbey was an important figure to be remembered.

Thompson was hopeful that the ultimate outcome of the presentation would “help the public understand the importance of research libraries, and collecting pieces to further environmental movements and bring attention to Ed’s books.”

Hvolboll’s donation to the University of Utah was well received by those who came to the program. Thompson believed that Abbey’s collection would bring many who have yet to read one of Abbey’s classic novels to an understanding of why the environment is such an important asset, and why extraordinary measures must be taken to preserve the earth. The actions to take care of the environment must be drastic to make the world a better place for tomorrow, according to Sanders.

“I have yet to read any of Ed’s books, but I’m excited to see what all the hype is about,” said attendant Rosa, (who wishes to have her full name withheld).

“I’m most interested in discovering how Ed Abbey writes his books,” said Rosa.

Abbey’s legacy and confidence about the environment has made an incredible effect with his ecological devout followers, and Abbey continues to find new fans, which share the same ideals. The Edward Abbey collection will be on display all month.

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.

Edward Abbey lives on at the University of Utah

By: Kristin Bingham

“I am going to try to let you see Ed Abbey and Hear Ed Abbey,”said local and rare book dealer Ken Sanders.

Sanders, a member of Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, spoke to many listeners about Abbey at the event that took place in the University of Utah Gould Auditorium of the Marriott Library March 4th, 2012. Sanders is currently a full time bookseller with other works including a project on Abbey.

The event also includes an exhibit, including a 174-piece collection containing everything Ed Abbey.  The collection includes first edition publications, signed editions, contracts with publishers, magazine and news articles about Abbey as well as posters of books that have become movies. The exhibit with Abbey’s collection took place on the fourth floor after Sander’s speech.

Eric Hvolboll, Attorney and book collector, donated the 174 piece collection containing pictures, films and books of Abbey to the U of U. Hvolboll had other universities fighting over his collection like Arizona State and Standford.

“I chose Utah because it seemed like the right thing to do,” said Hvolboll.

After recognizing such an honor, Sanders began to tell the story of a true legend.

“I am going to try to let you see Ed Abbey and Hear Ed Abbey,” said Sanders as he mentioned that he has not spoken about Abbey so publically. Sanders did just that after his friends passing of about two decades ago.

Edward Abbey, an American author, passed away March 14, 1989. Even though Abbey is no longer among us, books that he wrote like The Monkey Wrench Gang still thrive about.

Throughout Abbey’s life he wrote 20+ books. Millions of copies sold.

“Ed your selling books better dead than you ever did,” said Sanders.

“The Monkey Wrench Gang”, published in 1975, one of Abbey’s most popular, caused a lot of commotion amongst readers. With characters trying to blow up Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam, Abbey wanted it to come across satirically but to make a point as well. He wanted to enforce how important our environment is.

The Monkey Wrench Gang’s environmental content of sabotage inspired Earth First, which is a non-governmental organization formed in 1979, aims at protecting the wilderness. Abbey didn’t like being considered an environmentalist, but definitely played a part in environmental movements, especially since a lot of his writings had to do with the environment, like Deseret Solitaire, which illustrates the beauty of the Southwest, especially Utah where he worked as a ranger.

Rural Land Legislation Unpopular with Environmental Activists

by Evelyn Call

Choice words were expressed towards Utah state legislators on Sunday at an event held to honor the writings of Edward Abbey, beloved environmentalist and author.  Ken Sanders, guest lecturer and close friend of Abbey, criticized local government officials for legislation introduced that would take back 30 million acres of federal land to be managed by the state.

The legislation introduced would set a 2014 deadline for the federal government to relinquish lands that are not national parks, military installations or wilderness.  In all, this constitutes about 50 percent of the entire state. The bill received final approval by the state legislature and is headed for the governor’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law.

“Whom are they taking back the land from? Utah has never owned that land.  Are they going to take it back to give to the Indians and Mexicans?” said Sanders.

Sanders’ sentiment was met with thunderous applause by the mostly older, environmentally conscious audience at an event held at the Marriott Library on University of Utah campus.  The hour-long event featured the writings of Edward Abbey, author of most notably “The Desert Solitaire” and “Monkey Wrench Gang.”   Both books, which became famous for their picturesque description of the landscape that surrounds southern Utah and northern Arizona, also became rallying cries for the modern environmental movement.

Abbey’s influence on environmental preservation was evident by the people who showed up Sunday to enjoy his writings and to honor him even 23 years after his death.  Many in the audience shook their heads and clapped, mirroring Sanders’ outrage at the current rural land legislation introduced by the state legislature.  The fear held by many is that the land, once under state and county domain, will be over developed by the oil and gas industry.

“I understand the need for oil and gas development.  I drove a car to this event but it is a trade off and not one I think we should make.  As Abbey would say ‘Growth for the sake of growth is a cancer’s ideology’,” said Sanders.

Jim, an employee of the federal government who didn’t feel comfortable disclosing his last name because of his position, said, “I think it’s a mistake to pass this legislation, the state legislature should be embarrassed.”

“I thinks it’s ridiculous what they are doing, this land was never Utah’s land.  We only got this state because it was understood that this would be federal land,“ said Krista Bowers, an environmental activist.

While discussing the current legislation, Sanders said, “I don’t think I know what Edward Abbey would think about some of the things that are going on.  I’m just not sure his old school monkey wrenching, burning down billboards, wrecking bulldozers is really going to have any impact anymore.  The stakes have gotten more and more serious.”

While there was much debate over the current environmental movement, part of the event also included the unveiling of a new exhibit at the Marriott Library. The exhibit showcases the history of Abbey’s writings and memorabilia from the author’s life long love affair with his surroundings in the deserts of the southwest. The exhibit will be available to the public for the entire month of March.  (543 word count)

Legacy of radical environmental activist and author is showcased in exhibit

by Ryly Larrinaga

SALT LAKE CITY –  “He didn’t need anyone to talk for him alive and he still doesn’t being 22 years dead,” said local rare book dealer Ken Sanders.

Nearly two decades after author and radical environmentalist Edward Abbey’s death in 1989 at the age of 62, Sanders is finally able to speak of the man he knew and his work that has spurred such a drastic movement in environmental crusades.

Before the opening exhibit containing Abbey memorabilia at the J. Willard Marriot Library on Sunday, about 150 attendees listened as Sanders gave his lecture, “R. Crumb meets the Monkey Wrench Gang: Edward Abbey and the Modern Environmental Movement, from EarthFirst! to Tim DeChristpoher.”

“I hope to bring a taste and flavor for what Abbey was all about,” said Sanders of his lecture that showcased footage of Abbey during his life.

Abbey, whose writing became a crusade surrounding the destruction of the environment, considered himself an entertainer and expressed that his main goal was to just write good books, according to Sanders.

Abbey’s writings are filled with themes of anarchy and rebellion, much like in his prominent novel, “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” that centers on activists who plan to sabotage the destruction of the Glen Canyon Dam. “The Monkey Wrench Gang” is cited as being a major inspiration to several radical environmental groups such as the creation of EarthFirst!.

“People need to do more. We need more people standing up and saying the emperor has no clothes,” said Sanders.

Sanders, said that Abbey’s view on environmentalism will just not cut it these days, emphasized that issues have become more frightening, which require a modern, stronger approach in order to create change.

“The new generation of people coming of age now, they’ve inherited the planet that we’ve messed up. It’s up to them to do something about it,” Sanders said in relevance to Tim DeChristopher.

DeChristopher, who falsely bid on oil and gas leases at a 2008 Bureau of Land Management auction, was convicted last July to two years in prison.

However, Abbey’s work was just not an attempt to stop the destruction of the environment through crusades of chaotic events like in “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” Several of Abbey’s writings were themed around the relationship between man and nature.

In his 1968 novel, “Desert Solitaire,” Abbey uses sharp and poetic descriptions to bring the reader close to the natural beauty of the desert without actually being there.

‘Desert Solitaire,” has since gone on to become one of Abbey’s most noted publications. However, as Sanders described, Abbey was not fond of how popular the novel became. Abbey refusing to allow excerpts to be reprinted from the novel for over three years, Sanders said that Abbey became upset when requests for “Desert Solitaire” became overwhelming.

Abbey successfully attempted to intensify the anger of moral people who share similar beliefs on the importance of preserving the environment. Saying that Abbey had a unique way of incorporating the reader with his writing, whether that is through mesmerizing or infuriating the reader, Sanders believes that the legacy of Abbey will continue to be carried on through those who become involved with reading Abbey’s writings.

Having known Abbey, this lecture and exhibit was monumental for Edward Leuders, who hired Abbey to be the first writer for the creative writing department at the University of Mexico.

“This collection of Abbey material is a blessing. Abbey’s work was so influential that this collection of material the university has accumulated is unparallel,” Leuders said of the collection.

The exhibit showcases 174 items including Abbey’s handwritten notes, manuscripts, signed publications of Abbey’s books and various articles written by and about Abbey.

Eric Hvolboll, a recently retired attorney from Santa Barbara, Calif., donated the large collection to the Marriot Library in 2008. Included in the collection are first-edition signed publications and several original Abbey proofs that Hvolboll has gathered over a period of 30 years.

The exhibit, “Brave Cowboy: An Edward Abbey Retrospective,” is free and open to the public until April 27 on the fourth floor of the J. Willard Marriot Library.