April 23, 2001
Nature writer Doug Peacock to tell of grizzlies, wilderness, and survival
By John Newman
On Monday, May 7, there will be a public screening of his film Peacock's War, with a Q&A to follow. Peacock's War, a documentary about Ursus horribilis--the American grizzly bear--premiered on the PBS program Nature, was a Grand Prize winner at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival and the Snowbird Film Festival, and garnered top honors at the International Wildlife Film Festival.
The following evening, Tuesday, May 8, Peacock will deliver a lecture, "The Most Perilous Times on Earth: Wilderness and Survival in the 21st Century." Both events will be held in UCSC's Media Theater at 7:30 p.m.
Peacock, like others of his generation, returned from the Vietnam War in spiritual and psychological crisis. He found the balm to sooth his troubled soul in wild places and in the company of North America's largest predator. Grizzly Years (Henry Holt, 1990) is his account of that time. Peacock is believed to have spent more time with grizzlies in the wild than anyone else in the world. His intimate knowledge of their ways is unparalleled, and Grizzly Years has become a recognized classic in nature writing. He has also published numerous stories in periodicals such as Audubon, Outside, Backpacker, and Mother Earth News.
Peacock may be even more famous as the model for George Hayduke, a fictional character in the best-selling novel The Monkey Wrench Gang and the follow-up novel Hayduke Lives!, by his close friend, the late Edward Abbey. Abbey's Hayduke was the original wilderness avenger and saboteur. His type of activism is believed to have inspired the creation of Earth First! and the practice of "monkey wrenching," or "eco-terrorism" as the mainstream media would have it.
Peacock claims to be not nearly as colorful as the character Abbey imagined; he prefers solitude to groups and battles for the protection of wilderness with his pen and his voice.
Although living with the Hayduke legacy strained Peacock's friendship with Abbey, they remained close until Abbey's death in 1989. But there's a lot more to Peacock than there is to any fictional character, even one by a writer the stature of Abbey, as Peacock's own books, articles, and film clearly demonstrate. When he's not communing with the wilderness, he is dedicated to working for its preservation.
In Peacock's view, wilderness is essential to the survival of Homo sapiens as a species, and the question he poses is relevant to everyone living on Earth in the 21st century: Where is our modern, consumer lifestyle taking us?
Both evenings with Peacock are sponsored by the Literary Guillotine, the Institute for Humanities Research, Cowell College, College Eight, and the Departments of American Studies, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, History, Literature, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, and Philosophy. Both nights are open to the public, and there is no charge for admission.