Edward AbbeyEd Abbey: writer, preacher, curmudgeon. Orion magazine has just published some of his previously unreleased letters. My favorite is one to an elected official (“Why, Senator Moss, why, I ask you, do you believe that ‘more’ is the same as ‘better’?”). These missives offer some mischief and inspiration for those battling on the front lines of defining sustainability.

This reminds me of a vacation I took a few years back in Moab, Utah, the setting for his masterpiece, Desert Solitaire. Actually, my fondest memory of that trip is not the rare rainy day in Arches or backpacking along slick rock trails in Canyonlands, or even exploring Zion Narrows. It’s the ice cream.

When I visited the Living Rivers (then Glen Canyon Action Network) shop in downtown Moab, I witnessed one of the best organizing tactics I’ve seen. Hot and hungry tourists, weary from the Utah canyonlands, come across the shop and perk up with a scoop of ice cream (The flavors are references to the local geography and Abbey’s canon. I had “Abbey’s Rocky Road”). While they’re reviving, they look at newspaper articles and posters decorating the shop–“What’s this about 1% to the Colorado Delta?”

“Well, let me tell you,” the organizer/ice cream vendor says … voila, a captive and content audience finishing a delicious cone! Sure beats going door to door.

I watched a guy from LA make the connection between the depletion of the Colorado and the kitchen sink in his home. He signed up for their list. And that was in April, a cool and rainy period for the Utah desert. Imagine the possibilities in August, and during family vacations!

Moral: Ice cream and organizing mix, even in damp Cascadia.

P.S. The definitive text on water in the West: Rivers of Empire.