A collection of 42 essays meditating on both California’s natural gifts and its natural disasters, Natural Consequences: Intimate Essays for a Planet in Peril (Chin Music, 2022) urges readers to consider their role in the environment, no matter where they live. Char Miller’s approach to his topic is intimate and immediate but also incorporates his perspective as a historian. He weaves the present dilemma of Hetch Hetchy dam in Yosemite into a reflection on the injustices wreaked upon Indigenous peoples, and a discussion of the Weeks Act of 1911 (read the essay “Upper Reaches” if you’re wondering what that is) into a tale of two environmental historians’ conferences.
Organized into six sections, the book is like a meander through a broad topography, including urban areas, total wilderness, and the uneasy liminal spaces between. Throughout, Miller acknowledges his own, and our collective, role in arriving at this perilous place – and manages to strike a balance between hope and concern. His disarmingly brief essays linger after the words are gone.
Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author living in Cambridge, England. Long before moving to the UK, she was an Environmental Studies student at UC Santa Cruz.
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