On January 29, 1927, Edward Abbey was born in Home, Pennsylvania. Abbey became one of the most influential and controversial environmentalists of the 20th century.
 
The environment and habitats of the American Southwest captivated Abbey during a trip he took after high school. He went on to work as a park ranger in such diverse landscapes as Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona; Glacier National Park, Montana; Everglades National Park, Florida; Lassen Volcanic National Park, California; and Arches National Park, Utah. His experiences in the isolated desert of Arches inspired Abbey’s collection of essays, Desert Solitare.
 
Abbey was passionate in his support for national parks, but increasingly critical of their management. He opposed industrial development and the park service’s reliance on cars and technology-based tourism
 
This criticism inspired Abbey’s novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. The misfit “gang” uses illegal, nonviolent acts of sabotage to prevent industrial development of wilderness areas. The title is taken from a character throwing a wrench into a moving piece of machinery to stop it from working. 
 
The Monkey Wrench Gang was enormously influential among radical environmentalists, inspiring groups to disable industrial equipment, block roadways, and graffiti tools and machinery used to develop wilderness areas. (One of Abbey’s popular quotes is “Keep America Beautiful—Burn a Billboard!”) Such “monkeywrenching” acts of sabotage can result in economic and physical damage to property, and even threaten people’s lives. For these reasons, the controversial term “eco-terrorism” is sometimes used to refer to some radical environmentalists.
captivate
Verb

to hold the attention of.

controversial
Noun

questionable or leading to argument.

Noun

area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

development
Noun

construction or preparation of land for housing, industry, or agriculture.

disable
Verb

to weaken or make useless.

economic
Adjective

having to do with money.

enormous
Adjective

very large.

environmentalist
Noun

person who studies or works to protect the Earth's ecosystems.

equipment
Noun

tools and materials to perform a task or function.

essay
Noun

short piece of prose, usually nonfiction and on a specific topic.

graffiti
Plural Noun

(singular: graffito) writings or drawings that have been illegally scribbled, scratched, or sprayed in a public space.

Noun

environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

illegal
Adjective

forbidden by law.

influential
Adjective

important; having the ability to lead the opinions or attitudes of others.

inspire
Verb

to influence to act.

isolate
Verb

to set one thing or organism apart from others.

Noun

the geographic features of a region.

machinery
Noun

mechanical appliances or tools used in manufacturing.

national park
Noun

geographic area protected by the national government of a country.

novel
Noun

fictional narrative or story.

park ranger
Noun

person who protects and informs the public about local, state, and national parks. Also called a forest ranger.

passionate
Adjective

enthusiastic and emotional.

property
Noun

goods or materials (including land) owned by someone.

sabotage
Noun

action aimed at weakening, destroying, or delaying an action or set of initiatives.

technology
Noun

the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

terrorism
Noun

use of violence and threats of violence to influence political decisions.

tourism
Noun

the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.

violent
Noun

strong, destructive force.

Noun

environment that has remained essentially undisturbed by human activity.

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