First, congratulations to James Annan for accepting the Woodie for services to Earth Science Blogging, and best wishes to John Nielsen-Gammon who passed it on, but somehow, Eli thinks that folks are becoming a bit unclear on the concept. You get a hint of that from the sign on Woodie Guthrie's guitar. Guthrie was, in the current parlance, a premature anti-fascist.
Guthrie was an Okie, chased out of OK by the dust bowl, who wandered out to CA and then all around the US. His environmentalism was love of the land and concern for his fellows. He didn't think much of the idea that corporations could own the Earth. The verse you never hear from This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land is
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;and through all of his work, there is the theme of shared responsibility for the environment and all people. Neither was very fashionable at the time. Guthrie was a very dangerous man for those who desecrate the Earth for power and profit. Pete Seeger talks about the disneyization of Guthrie in an interview which touches on many relevant themes
The sign was painted, it said 'private property';
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
Guthrie wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Bound for Glory, the subject of a study by Matthew Sutton, while a graduate student at William and Mary. The abstract of a presentation by Sutton summarizes what the Woodie should be about,
Guthrie's semi-fictional 1943 autobiography Bound for Glory has long been examined as a protest work, a vivid chronicle of the Dust Bowl, and a proto-Beat travelogue. What has been overlooked up until now is its power and relevance as an ecocritical text. What Bound for Glory advocates, ultimately, is neither Romantic pastoralism nor a green Utopia, but rather a reciprocal sustainability between working people and the land.Woodie Guthrie was a fighter, a clear thinking fighter, but a fighter none the less. He used words to move mountains and he was always pushing past respectability. He didn't care much for that.
To illustrate the stark dialectic between sustainability and rapaciousness, citizen and subject, Guthrie employs the trope of the Ghost Town. Using his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma as a synecdoche for the nation, Guthrie lambasts the civic irresponsibility of oil companies, who pollute the environment with their hit-or-miss wildcat drilling, deplete the region of its natural resources, and leave despair and economic disaster in their wake. As the book's protagonist "Woody" wanders a seemingly endless highway of lifeless Ghost Towns abandoned by oil speculators, Guthrie shows us fear in a townful of dust.
When his journeys take him West out of oil country into California, Guthrie discovers a similar system of exploitation toward migrant fruit pickers. Guthrie, whose guitar was emblazoned with the legend "This Machine Kills Fascists," draws clear parallels between the European fascist and the American corporation that strips the most vulnerable laborers of their identity and rights. As migrant workers are herded into makeshift camps amid squalid conditions, they are systematically robbed of the three necessities William Morris outlines in his 1884 essay "Art and Socialism": honorable and fitting work, decency of surroundings, and leisure. With little recourse but to sacrifice their health and overtax their land for a substandard wage, the migrant-citizens in Bound for Glory still cling to hopes of recovery, tied not simply to wealth and land ownership, but responsibility and land stewardship.
Depicting the Depression era as a crossroads, with the nation's ideals tested by hard times, Guthrie appropriates the rhapsodic cadences of Whitman and Steinbeck to express optimism and dignity in story and song. Neither the Ghost Town nor the migrant camp defines America so long as Guthrie and his chorus of characters commit themselves to working the land judiciously and productively. Bound for Glory deserves reconsideration and a fresh reading as we reach another crossroads, as issues such as environmental protection, immigration/migration, and the rebuilding of New Orleans demand that we find common ground at a place where citizenship and stewardship meet.
Eli nominates Joe Romm for the next pass on (Eli is not very optimistic about his suggestion being followed).
If you want to learn more about Woodie Guthrie, take a look at the Official Woodie Guthrie Website, and finally a concert for the new winner