Saturday and Sunday, we joined the 13th Annual Green Man Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland, “celebrating the star whose light and warmth has brought life to our planet.” But the festival also continues to be a leafy green one that encourages planting of trees and native plants. Tree-man creatures stalked the festival beating drums and chanting.
“Festival activities will reconnect us to the folklore of ancient civilizations through science, art, music and myth by featuring many local artists, musicians and performers from Maryland as well as other parts of the country.”
This is the festival where we feel especially comfortable promoting Canoedling in Cleveland, my novel about three teens canoeing all the polluted waters around Cleveland in 1960, when the Cuyahoga River was dead between Akron and Cleveland–no fish, no shore birds, and stands of black dead trees in adjacent swamps–when the river was used as a sewer for industrial and residential waste and the oil on the surface caught on fire thirteen times. Now, thanks to the Clean Water Act and the work of many people, the river is clean, with 54 species of fish, shore birds, and eagles in what is now Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The festival is also where we can promote my Vietnam War satire, Cologne No. 10 For Men and mention how destructive war is to the environment–destroying vegetation as well as people. In Vietnam our army sprayed Agent Orange over 4.5 million acres of land from 1961 to 1971 to defoliate mountain jungles that concealed enemy soldiers and supply routes (destruction of 20% of the jungles of South Vietnam and 20-36% of the mangrove forests), and rice fields, to remove sources of food for enemy soldiers and to move people out of rural enemy territory and into the cities (Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington noted the impact of a doubling or tripling of the urban population). I will not forget landing in a Huey chopper on top of a hill above Khe Sahn in January 1968 as part of the First Cavalry Division move to end the North Vietnamese Army siege of Khe Sahn. The hill was pocked with B-52 bomb craters and stripped of vegetation so that we could set up a fire base and preclude the enemy from using it to rain fire down on the Marine base at Khe Sahn. The defoliation was effective, but demonstrated the destructiveness of war to the environment. I generally stayed away from discussing the generations of health problems and birth defects caused by Agent Orange, which still afflict the American troops and their families and the Vietnamese people.
Other people purchased Well Considered for its history–the thriller about life in the Jim Crow tobacco fields surrounding plantation mansions, where forests had long before been removed to plant crops, in southern and eastern Maryland, and which now have been converted to other crops and housing and commercial developments. One scene in the book where much important action takes place is a leafy running trail that a century earlier was trolley track.
Some bought my new novel, Masjid Morning, an interfaith romance between a Muslim college student whose father is building a mosque, and a young Christian woman whose father is trying to stop the construction. Thematically, this has the least to do with environmentalism, except that I am reminded that “Before engaging in battle, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instructed his soldiers:
“Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees.” (Al-Muwatta)
“Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food.” (Al-Muwatta)
“Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle.” (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)