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.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry captivate Verb
to hold the attention of.
questionable or leading to argument.
area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.
Encyclopedic Entry: desert development Noun
construction or preparation of land for housing, industry, or agriculture.
to weaken or make useless.
having to do with money.
person who studies or works to protect the Earth's ecosystems.
tools and materials to perform a task or function.
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.
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: habitat illegal Adjective
forbidden by law.
important; having the ability to lead the opinions or attitudes of others.
to influence to act.
to set one thing or organism apart from others.
the geographic features of a region.
Encyclopedic Entry: landscape machinery Noun
mechanical appliances or tools used in manufacturing.
national park Noun
geographic area protected by the national government of a country.
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.
enthusiastic and emotional.
goods or materials (including land) owned by someone.
action aimed at weakening, destroying, or delaying an action or set of initiatives.
the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.
use of violence and threats of violence to influence political decisions.
the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.
strong, destructive force.
environment that has remained essentially undisturbed by human activity.
Encyclopedic Entry: wilderness