Terry Tempest Williams

born 1955

A Brief Biography

“What do we wish? — To be whole. To be complete.
Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”

From, “Statement of Terry Tempest Williams, Naturalist-in-Residence
Utah Museum of Natural history, Salt Lake City, Utah, before the Senate Subcommittee on Forest & Public Lands Management regarding the
Utah Public Lands Management Act of 1995. Washington, D.C. July 13, 1995”

Of all the voices of the wilderness, none speaks with deeper passion or greater effect than Terry Tempest Williams. She evokes an austere vision of the beauty of the wild lands of the American West and evokes in the reader a passionate attachment to that beauty. As an environmental activist, she’s been a leader in the ongoing struggle to save the wild from development and to protect the once-wild from over-exploitation. Moreover, she combines all the major strains of environmental passion. Like Rachel Carson, she opposes destruction of the environment for its effects on human health. Like Wendell Berry, she is tied to the land she inhabits and evokes a love born of generations of land stewardship. Like Aldo Leopold, she teaches that humans are part of the land community and can learn from the land and its ways. And like Edward Abbey, she sings the beauty of the desert.

To all of this, Williams brings one more theme that she explores to greater depth and intensity than any other prominent environmental writer. She brings her gender. Rachel Carson and other important women who were champions of the environment spoke as human beings, but Williams often takes a specifically female point of view. She argues persuasively for a female view of her relationship with nature. Furthermore, she addresses women’s health as it’s affected by nuclear power and other assaults on the health of the biosphere.

Web Links

  • Coyote Clan is the most extensive website devoted to Williams’s life and work, both as an author and as an activist.
  • Britannica online has an interesting article by Scott Slovic, “Giving Expression to Nature,” which surveys American environmental literature with extensive comments on Williams’s work.
  • The Southwestern Literature website has a page devoted the Williams’s writings.
  • A recent interview by Tom Lynch is also at the Southwestern Literatuve website.
  • “The Clan of One-Breasted Women,” a 1991 essay by Williams, is on a website concerned with the health costs of nuclear technology.
  • “A Prayer for Bolsa Chica” — a poem by Terry Tempest Williams.
  • Orion Online has published a recent essay by Willaims, “Scattered Potsherds.”
  • Williams’s testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Forest & Public Lands Management regarding the Utah Public Lands Management Act of 1995
  • Now, with Bill Moyers, at the PBS website, has a commentary by Williams on the environmental downside of some recent actions by the Bush administration.

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