CORVALLIS - Two new books published by the Oregon State University Press reveal the variety of human responses to the natural world.

"American Nature Writing" has become the leading showcase for contemporary nature writing, highlighting both new and distinguished voices. This year's annual includes the work of two Oregon writers, Barbara Drake of Yamhill and John Noland of Coos Bay.

Sierra Club Books has published the series for the past five years. Beginning with this new volume, the OSU Press takes over as publisher and reinforces its commitment to introduce the work of younger, emerging writers. Two-thirds of the contributors have not yet published their first book; seven of the essays are in print for the first time.

The 18 selection shows the rich variety of human responses to natural places. Readers encounter a wide range of settings: a village on the Baja peninsula; the high mountain trials of Glacier National Park in Montana; the undersea kelp forest near La Jolla, Calif.; and the Chihuahuan desert in New Mexico. That a Civil War battlefield and an Arizona prison cell are the settings for two essays demonstrates the surprising vitality of this literature of place.

"The Left Hand of Eden: Meditations on Nature and Human Nature" is a new book by noted environmental author William Ashworth, who lives in Ashland. It is an important contribution to the growing debate over the protection of wilderness areas and it comes from an unusual perspective - that of an environmentalist arguing against preservation.

Ashworth has written about and participated in the environmental movement for many years, an involvement that led him to question the wisdom of such hard-won achievements as the Endangered Species Act and the establishment of wilderness preserves. As much a realist as a naturalist, he recognizes the fatal flaw at the heart of strategies to "save" nature: The idea of separateness from it, of nature as "other."

In "The Left Hand of Eden," Ashworth explains why efforts to protect individual species and officially designated patches of wilderness do nothing to change the attitudes that have caused man's exploitation and condescension toward nature.

Both books are available in bookstores, or can be purchased directly by calling 1-800-426-3797.

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Tom Booth, 503-282-9801