I’ve recently agreed to write a 2500-3000 word article on the history of the environmental movement in Canada since 1970 for a US magazine. Easy, right? I mean, there’s got to be a seminal text out there on the subject I can just crib some notes out of – at least that’s what I thought. Turns out, that isn’t really the case and in fact there is no sweeping overview text that some professor wrote in order to support her environmental studies course sometime in the last decade. There are histories of Greenpeace, Clayoquot Sound and a few other specific instances of protest environmentalism out there…. but nothing that surveys the whole gamut, and very little produced outside of British Columbia.
Fortunately I have enough of my own personal knowledge of Canadian environmental movement that I have an idea of where to start (Farley Mowat) and finish (Tar Sands protests), and who the key players and organizations are (GreenPeace was the only thing for the better part of a decade), so instead of being daunted at the moment I’m a little bit excited to sculpt something out of the bits and pieces that do exist around me. I have comandeered my roomate’s old editions of the Earth First Journal to scour for Canadian action items, I have started to note every action that comes to mind in an expanding chronology. Even with the little research I’ve done so far, plus my own history of involvement in protest movements I’ve got enough material to at least start myself off. Now I’ve just got to decide on what form the essay should take. Personal narrative, historical/factual, literary? Do I start with a story of the first clearcut I ever saw? How that moment in 1986 was the same moment that people across the country were having around that same time when they woke up to the industrial slaughter and fought to change it?
Not sure yet. But with 3000 words I’ve got room to maneuver a little between personal narrative and the more chronological/historical piece. I just really don’t want it to be dry! That’s my biggest worry with something like this. The tendancy towards pedantic writing looms large.
If any of you out there have any thoughts – either about sources or approach, I would love to hear them. What tips or techniques could help make an article like this really work?