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The End of the World As We Know It

The End of the World As We Know It

In Erosion, Terry Tempest Williams bears unflinching witness to what gets stripped away.

Like all Williams’s books, Erosion manages to be many things at once. It is a well-researched account of the Trump administration’s gutting of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monuments and the president’s disregard for the rights and values of the tribal communities who live there, and it is simultaneously an animal howl on behalf of the decimated desert landscape Williams loves. It is a precise record of the correspondence she had with her beloved brother Dan in the months leading up to his suicide, and it is also a ceremony of bottomless grief, sibling intuition, and unbounded love. It is an overview of the influential activists in Williams’s life, among them anti-apartheid crusader Breyten Breytenbach (who tells her, “You Americans, you’ve mastered the art of living with the unacceptable”) and Tim DeChristopher, a young man who went to jail for bidding on Utah oil and gas leases that were being auctioned off to corporations for $2 an acre. Finally, Erosion is an investigation into Williams’s faith, and her loss of it, describing both her respect for the traditions of the Mormon church and her own contrasting decision to baptize herself by the power invested in her and not in God.

Written: Monday December 2nd, 10:29am 2019