Challenging, eclectic, feisty, gritty — and above all, grounded
The global EarthLines headquarters: a tiny old stone cottage in a wood, by a river. In the hills around Mount Errigal, Co Donegal, Ireland.
EarthLines is a professionally produced magazine with high-quality content from a wide range of writers and artists – but we are very different from most other publishers. EarthLines is unique in that it springs from a way of life that is rooted in the natural world and in the wild: it was originally created in 2012 on our working croft on the remote far western coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, and since July 2014 has been published from a small stone cottage by a river in the beautiful foothills around Mount Errigal, Donegal, Ireland.
EarthLines is not a funded project; we are entirely reliant on sales, a very small amount of relevant advertising, and donations to cover our costs. We produce the magazine for love, as a voluntary, unpaid activity.
Where did we spring from?
EarthLines was launched by Sharon Blackie and David Knowles, writers and the original founders of indie publisher Two Ravens Press (now under new ownership) in May 2012. ‘A quiet publishing revolution’ was how Scotland’s Herald newspaper referred to our publishing initiatives in 2007, and for sure we meant to cut against the grain. Our manifesto always included the following statement: ‘Each book … in its own way, fights back against formulas and homogenization, against the analgesic washing-out of colour that threatens to fade our bright thoughts … And no, agreed, a battle-cry is not enough. We need to put substance behind it. We need tooling up for the job. We want scalpels and spanners and great big wrenches; we want literature: literature that follows conventional narrative structures, or literature that goes beyond them. Innovative literature, beautiful and ugly literature that speaks of its time and its people. We want the beautiful that breaks your heart – the real one, not the mawkish, sentimental one that can grow in its place. We want clever – much cleverer than us – we want not-afraid-to-be-clever, we want something to aspire to in its entirety. Not the clever elements of a formula, and not the clever charlatans who hide behind ‘clever’ and disappear up their own backsides. This is not a game. This is the Alamo. We want ideas, we want the language that Albert Camus demanded should ‘disorientate and challenge us’. We want literature as a rallying flag, as a sanctuary, a bayonet, a broom. We want what Cormac McCarthy wanted when he said that a book only matters if it deals with issues of life and death.’
We want no less for EarthLines.
Is this ‘nature writing’?
We’ve always had a problem with the term ‘nature writing’, as the editorial in the first issue of EarthLines made clear. It’s a genre that’s curiously hard to define – should we confine use of the term to nonfiction prose, or do we also include fiction and poetry? Getting a handle on what the term means is complicated by the fact that different countries have different ‘nature writing’ traditions, and they have changed in emphasis over time. But we’re not focused on straight ‘environmental writing’ either – writing which catalogues a world in the midst of ecological crisis. Truth is, we prefer not to use genre labels, and instead to do our best to describe what we stand for.
We believe that the most interesting and necessary writing is emerging from a place that goes far beyond the traditional boundaries of nature writing or environmental writing. We believe that the kind of writing we need now is the kind of writing which delves deeply into the relationship between humans and the natural world, in these times of turmoil and ecocide. We need writing about authentic ways of living and being in a world whose systems and values are crumbling. Writing which inspires change, and which helps us to transform the stories we tell ourselves about the world and our place in it. Writing which gives us courage to defend a world in crisis. Writing which, like us, is challenging, feisty, gritty — but above all, grounded in place. EarthLines is eclectic, for sure. The kind of transformative writing we’re looking for will be inspired as much by the ideas of philosophers, psychologists, ecologists and anthropologists as by those of storytellers, mythographers, visual artists, and others who live close to or work with the natural world. We aim to be as inclusive as possible.
Many of the problems that we and the planet face today spring from a disconnection between humans and the rest of the natural world. We believe that positive change can’t be accomplished until we have begun to re-evaluate and re-establish that connection. Writing is only one of the ways to do this, but it’s an important one. However, EarthLines is more than a magazine. Our aspiration is to become a positive force in inspiring and nurturing a closer connection between people and the natural world. We aim to do this not only by publishing the magazine, but by working with a network of individuals and groups who, like us, are committed to this task, using our website, Facebook and Twitter and all the other communications tools we have available. We want to encourage and participate in the conversations that lead to change.
Why ‘the culture of nature’?
Often, nature and culture are considered to be dichotomous concepts; the separation of nature and culture is one of the most deeply engrained divisions in Western thought. So our tagline for EarthLines Magazine, ‘the culture of nature’, is a carefully selected group of words. We don’t say ‘culture AND nature’, because we don’t think of the two elements divided that way. We say the culture OF nature – because ultimately, the two are inseparable.
‘Culture isn’t the opposite or contrary of nature. It’s the interface between us and the non-human world, our species’ semi-permeable membrane,’ says Richard Mabey in Nature Cure. But what do we mean by ‘culture’, specifically in the human context? Oral historian Robert Bringhurst says that culture is ‘everything we transmit from generation to generation by nongenetic means … Culture is not a luxury, it is life-support … Culture is the thin but sometimes lovely web of answers we keep spinning for ourselves’. We’re not always sure of finding answers, but we’re looking for ways of being in the world. We’re looking for life-support.
For more information about who we are, click here.