On Wednesday, Feb. 16, nature writer and environmental activist Rick Bass spoke about his early introductions to a common view of the natural world as a resource to be exploited for personal gain.
Bass spoke in Daughtery-Palmer Commons (DPC) as part of the VOICES series.
Bass’ soft voice drifted over the crowded hall as he began to speak on the difficulties of being an activist and the strengths of being a writer: “you have so much power when you have a pen in your hand.”
After this brief introduction Bass read his nonfiction story “Titan.” He started with a description of his older brother, Otto, who grew up to be an investment banker while Bass became an environmental activist.
This stark difference in careers and viewpoints was a concept that Bass returned to several times during his reading.
Speaking about Otto, Bass said, “there was nothing he did not see as a commodity,” which he compared to his own “hunger for closeness and a connection.”
Bass described his yearly family vacations in which his family, whose parents had lived through the Great Depression and were very frugal, traveled to a resort hotel where they shared space with “men and women no less than corporate titans.”
He spoke about his own feelings of disconnect from these individuals and their “different types of gluttony.”
As a child he was “free to inhabit the reckless lands of [his] imagination,” and had different interests than the other resort guests.
He would explore the grounds of the resort and catch a type of frog that is now almost extinct. On this fact he said, “what other bright phenomena will vanish in our lifetime?”
During one of these yearly vacations Bass heard about an event called the Jubilee, a natural, but unusual mixing of high concentrations of salt and fresh water which stuns fish and sea life causing them to subsequently float to the surface in high numbers.
A tradition in the area, Bass and his family participated in gathering up huge numbers of stunned fish with pillowcases, baskets and buckets.
During this event, “class distinctions fell away” as staff and patrons of the hotel gathered fish together for a fish fry hosted by the hotel.
Bass said that people gathering the fish were “unwilling to stop even though the feast was waiting…[and] they had taken enough, taken more than enough.”
He said there was “too much gluttony and not enough humility.”
Bass’ experience with his family vacations, the people at the hotel and the Jubilee were influential in developing his need for connection to others and the preservation of the environment.
During the question and answer session Bass gave advice to young activists. “It’s really important to have a community of activists…you can’t do it alone.”
He ended on a somber note, “I fear we are devolving as a species…[as we become] disengaged with the natural world.”
Student attendees enjoyed Bass’ lecture. Sophomore Caroline Sellers said, “It makes you think in a different perspective about nature…I see things in more of a natural way than a commercial way.”
Sophomore Jocelyn Baltz said Bass’ writing “help[ed] me appreciate landscapes I’ve never been to.”