April 27, 2016


Trespassing Across America: A Hike Along the Keystone Pipeline (NATHAN GELGUD, April 27, 2016, Signature)

Somewhere around the middle of Trespassing Across America, author Ken Ilgunas ponders what it means to be an environmentalist. He's been hiking from north of the Canadian border, on his way down to where Texas hits the Gulf of Mexico. When roadside strangers or table neighbors in pizzerias ask him why, he tells them the truth: that he's following, on foot, the path of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a massive energy project to be built by TransCanada. The pipeline has lots of populist support because of the jobs it would supposedly provide and the buyouts that landowners are getting. But it also faces opposition from people concerned about what it will do to their drinking water and because of what it represents: big oil companies contributing to global warming.

In his travel memoir, Ilgunas doesn't get into all of this with the farmers, cops, shop proprietors, and other strangers who ask him where he's headed. But this doesn't stop him from being asked frequently, in accusatory tones, if he's an environmentalist. Eventually, Ilgunas gets to wondering about this question, and gets frustrated that it's even a question at all. Do I care what we do to the earth? Does it matter what happens to the air we breathe and the water we drink? Do I want the planet to continue to exist? Are you really asking me this?

For all his disagreements with the people he encounters, Ilgunas's book is also the story of someone with liberal tendencies venturing through very conservative country, and gaining tolerance, respect, and occasional appreciation for the red-staters he meets. He gets annoyed with the suspicious glares he gets, but when he faces a test of his own ability to trust, he fails. He has to get over his long held grudge against conversion-happy Christians when he learns that he can often spend the night in small-town churches.

...Nickled and Dimed would have been readable.
Posted by at April 27, 2016 7:01 PM