Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1927

Edward Abbey is born

Uncompromising environmentalist and author Edward Abbey is born in Home, Pennsylvania.

A self-proclaimed “enemy of the modern military-industrial state,” which he believed was destroying the natural world and human freedom, Abbey’s passionate dedication to protecting and preserving wilderness lands began in 1944, when he first visited the American Southwest as a 17-year-old hitchhiker. Enraptured by the beauty and untouched wilderness of the deserts and canyons, the young Abbey believed he had found his true homeland, and for the rest of his life, he never strayed far from the Southwest.

In 1951, Abbey graduated from the University of New Mexico, where he had edited a student literary magazine; and after several attempts at graduate school, he decided to try to make a career as a writer. Abbey did not initially plan to become a “nature writer,” a term he later came to despise. His earlier works, like the 1956 novel The Brave Cowboy, focused more on the modern destruction of the western spirit of independence and self-reliance than the destruction of the land itself. In 1968, though, Abbey put together a collection of essays and diary entries he had written during several summer stints as a ranger at Arches National Monument in Utah and published them as Desert Solitaire. A celebration of the “hard and brutal mysticism” of the Utah desert, Desert Solitaire won Abbey a national following and an enduring reputation as a zealous advocate for wilderness preservation.

Whereas Desert Solitaire offered a philosophical argument of why humans needed to preserve wilderness, Abbey’s most influential book, The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), offered a radical plan for exactly how they might do so. A fictional story of an irreverent band of wilderness advocates battling against the encroaching forces of modernization, the book became something of a blueprint for radical western environmental groups like Earth First! Environmentalists adopted the term “monkey-wrenching” to refer to the non-violent sabotage of development projects that threatened the wilderness. Abbey’s book offered advice on how to sabotage heavy earthmoving equipment or road-building projects, and a small but highly visible minority of wilderness proponents actually put his ideas into action.

In 1989, Abbey died of cancer at his home outside of Tucson, Arizona. At the author’s request, friends and family buried him in an unmarked grave somewhere in the vast reaches of the Arizona desert.

Tags
terms:
Environment

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Liliuokalani proclaimed queen of Hawaii

Following the death of her brother, King Kalakaua, Liliuokalani becomes the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii, first settled by Polynesian voyagers sometime in the eighth century, saw a massive influx of American settlers during the 19th century, most coming to exploit ...read more

King George III dies

Ten years after mental illness forced him to retire from public life, King George III, the British king who lost the American colonies, dies at the age of 82. In 1760, 20-year-old George succeeded his grandfather, George II, as king of Great Britain and Ireland. Although he hoped ...read more

Divided Kansas enters the Union

The territory of Kansas is admitted into the Union as the 34th state, or the 28th state if the secession of eight Southern states over the previous six weeks is taken into account. Kansas, deeply divided over the issue of slavery, was granted statehood as a free state in a ...read more

Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter sign accords

On January 29, 1979, Deng Xiaoping, deputy premier of China, meets President Jimmy Carter, and together they sign historic new accords that reverse decades of U.S. opposition to the People’s Republic of China. Deng Xiaoping lived out a full and complete transformation of China. ...read more

Fighting continues in South Vietnam

The fighting continues in South Vietnam despite the cease-fire that was initiated on January 28, 1973, under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords. This latest fighting was part of the ongoing battles that followed the brief lull of the cease-fire. The Peace Accords had left ...read more

Baseball Hall of Fame inducts first members

On this day in 1936, in Cooperstown, New York, the Baseball Hall of Fame announces the election of five charter members: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. The idea of a Baseball Hall of Fame began gathering steam in 1935, when members of the ...read more

William McKinley is born

On this day in 1843, future President William McKinley is born in Niles, Ohio. McKinley fought bravely as a Union infantryman in the Civil War and was awarded a battlefield commission by Union officer and fellow future President Rutherford B. Hayes. After the war, McKinley ...read more

School shooting in San Diego

Brenda Spencer kills two men and wounds nine children as they enter the Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego. Spencer blazed away with rifle shots from her home directly across the street from the school. After 20 minutes of shooting, police surrounded Spencer’s home ...read more

Dr. Strangelove premieres

Stanley Kubrick’s black comic masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb opens in theaters to both critical and popular acclaim. The movie’s popularity was evidence of changing attitudes toward atomic weapons and the concept of nuclear ...read more

Kansas enters the Union

On this day in 1861, Kansas is admitted to the Union as free state. It was the 34th state tojoin the Union. The struggle between pro- and anti-slave forces in Kansas was a major factor in the eruption of the Civil War. In 1854, Kansas and Nebraska were organized as territories ...read more