Beneath the violet pillar, in the vacuum before the roar of the cloud, there came a soft sound that might have been heard by those who listened closely: the gentle sigh of an idea unbound.
When it comes to American Indians, mainstream America suffers from willful blindness.
The question of one versus two species of African elephants isn't about settling an arcane DNA argument; it's about life or death for these majestic, extraordinary creatures.
I can be pretty dense about my own basic needs, when my focus is getting through the many small tasks of a day's work and a day's caretaking.
Without even knowing why, we believe that to learn how to be human - which we have many years to do, for human beings have longer childhoods than any other species, a feature that to biologists and philosophers alike is one of our race's distinguishing characteristics - children must be surrounded by animal imagery.
I've seen a few wild grizzly bears, mostly in Alaska and British Columbia, and always from a distance. But each grizzly I've caught sight of was as fearsome and sublime as the last. You never get used to their raw power and massive bodies, or the mysterious intelligence in their dark, close-set eyes.
The comic novels I did when I was in my 20s had a harder edge - less sympathy for people. Or a sympathy that was harder to detect: Characters' foibles and obsessive bents were unrelenting, like caricatures.
Historically, grizzlies ranged from Alaska to Mexico, with at least 50,000 bears living in the western half of the contiguous United States. With European colonization, the bears were shot, poisoned, and trapped to the brink of extinction.
African elephants have long been thought of as a single species, but a critical mass of genetic studies now proves there are two.
For almost two centuries, American gray wolves, vilified in fact as well as fiction, were the victims of vicious government extermination programs. By the time the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, only a few hundred of these once-great predators were left in the lower 48 states.
In the 1970s, Safari Club International asked the federal government to approve its import of 1,125 not-yet-killed trophies of 40 endangered species, including gorillas, orangutans and tigers, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
'Dept. of Speculation' contains numerous enviable lines.
Fiction should be an ethically safe space, free of fancy ideas. It should be dedicated modestly to relationships or escapism or the needs of luscious voyeurs.
Trophy hunters are not Everyman. These world-traveling endangered-species shooters are a far cry from the hunters who spend weekends in the American outback near their suburban or rural homes.
In 1805, the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, making their way across the West, were warned by American Indian tribes of grizzly bears' awesome strength.
Most climate debates have focused on cutting the use of fossil fuels. But besides a few high-profile scuffles over fuel extraction in vulnerable wild places like the offshore Arctic, political leaders have ignored fossil fuel production as a necessary piece of climate strategy.
About half of all potential future global warming emissions from United States fossil fuels lie in oil, gas and coal buried beneath our public lands, controlled by the federal government and owned by the American people - and not yet leased to private industry for fuel extraction.
What makes 'The Lorax' such a powerful fable is partly its shamelessness. It pulls no punches; it wears its teacher heart on its sleeve.
I think the best fiction is a form of psychological suspense, even though I don't really write in that idiom.
The summer after I got divorced, my children asked to sleep in my bed again. It would be the first time we'd shared a bed since they were infants.