Resist Much, Obey Little: The Writer As Social Critic with Edward Abbey

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The environmental movement stands on the shoulders of one of the American West’s leading advocates, the late Edward Abbey. Here he admonishes us to make a difference, "to oppose injustice, to defy the powerful, to speak for the voiceless." Recorded just before his death in 1989, he presents his philosophy with a refreshing candor and wry humor. He points to the serious environmental crises caused by "simple greed" and "stealing from our children." Abbey also reads a portion from his novel, The Fool's Progress, which captures much of his outlook on the world. His views are often surprising, even shocking, but never fail to express truths which are not so self-evident - truths best heeded if we are to continue to enjoy our lives on this planet of limited resources. Interviewer Michael Toms was unaware of Abbey's impending death when, at the end of the interview, he asked, “Ed, we have about one minute left, is there anything that you’d like to leave our listeners with before we wind this one up?” Abbey poignantly replied with some prescience, “One minute before doom, eh? Well I would say don’t take anything too seriously. My advice is to be a half-assed crusader, a part-time fanatic, don’t worry too much about the fate of the world. Saving the world is only a hobby. Get out there and enjoy the world, your girlfriends, your boyfriends, husbands, wives, climb mountains, run rivers, get drunk, do it while you can before it is too late.” (hosted by Michael Toms)


Edward Abbey was one of our foremost Western essayists and novelists. He was also a militant conservationist. Abbey describes himself in his book Abbey’s Road, "I am a redneck myself, born and bred on a submarginal farm in Appalachia, descended from an endless line of dark-complected, lug-eared, beetle-browed, insolent barbarian peasants, a line reaching back to the dark forests of central Europe and the alpine caves of my Neanderthal primogenitors." He’s been described as an environmental writer which is “a title not of his choosing or liking. He preferred not to categorize his style at all, but rather to ‘let his prose do his talking for him.’ ” He wrote about the earth and his love of it. “He was a desert anarchist, a character of elaborate contradictions and eccentricities whose words either infuriated or delighted his readers.” He was a unique voice for the preservation of wilderness.

His books include:

To learn more about the work of Edward Abbey go to

Host: Michael Toms        Interview Date: 10/28/1988         Program Number: 2115