Orion Blog

Listen: “Origin Stories”

Over two years ago, my mother died from lung cancer at sixty-one years old.
While she never smoked, she did grow up downwind from Rocky Flats, a major nuclear weapons complex which manufactured plutonium triggers from 1952-1989. Located fifteen miles northwest of Denver, this factory was responsible for leaking horrifying amounts of toxins into the air, water, and soil of the surrounding areas, including Wheatridge, Colorado where my mom grew up.

While I have participated in many forms of activist work and writing to spread awareness about the continued threat of this Superfund site, this audio piece honors the humanity and tenderness of the families impacted by such devastation. 

April Tierney’s first collection of poetry, Singing to the Bones, was published in 2018 by Fire Feeders Press; this is the title piece in her forthcoming collection, Origin Stories

Billy Shaddox is a California-born songwriter living in the mountains of Colorado with several albums available for streaming online. April and Billy weave their work together in performances along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, and are fortunate enough to call the same ponderosa pine and elk-laden hillside their home. 

Australia Under Fire: Three Articles from Down Under

With Australia’s bush fires engulfing many areas of the country, we reached into the Orion archives to pull out three of our most-memorable articles either set in Australia or written by an Australian author. Orion’s hearts extend to our friends — both human and non-human — threatened by the scale of destruction and loss.

    14 Smells That Remind you to Breathe by Megan Hippler (Summer 2018)
A writer from Queensland send us this fragrant Enumeration.“1. LIGHTNING. When the thunder begins to rattle your soul, throw open your windows. Count the seconds until lightning flickers or forks or explodes. As the wind whips around you, watch for the one bolt that illuminates the darkness and shatters molecules. Breathe in the burst of ozone…”
    The Nature of Violence by Jeffrey A. Lockwood (January/February 2006)
How does the will to live become a willingness to kill?“I HAVE BEEN ATTACKED by animals for thirty years. Working at a veterinary clinic in high school, I learned the skill of keeping snarling dogs at bay with a squeegee and the art of restraining injured cats. Later, in college research laboratories, I encountered the occasional frightened rat willing to use its yellowed incisors in self-defense…”
  Green Across the Globe by Polly Stupples (Winter 2002)
Activists from seventy nations met in Canberra in 2001 to forge a global Green network.“IT WAS A MUGGY AFTERNOON in Canberra. Australia’s capital city, deserted over the Easter holiday, was ghostly quiet. As I approached the National Convention Center, a vibrant hum spilled out onto the leafy grounds, rattling the air. A multilingual crowd thronged the lobby…”

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Orion’s 25 Most-Read Articles of the Decade

The world has changed a lot in the past ten years, and Orion has been there for all of it. From 2010 to the present, we’ve produced over fifty issues full of personal essays and science reporting, poetry and book reviews, photography and art, all responding to the most pressing issues facing the planet. 

We’ve done the math. Here are the 25 most-read Orion articles published within the last decade. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did:​

#1. Deep Intellect by Sy Montgomery (November/December 2011)

When you gaze into the eye of a giant octopus, don’t underestimate what’s going on inside that big, squishy head.

  #2. Defending Darwin by James J. Kupra (March/April 2015) 

A biology professor reflects on teaching evolution in the South.

#3. Dark Ecology by Paul Kingsnorth (January/February 2013) 

 Technology isn’t likely to save us, but neither is environmentalism.
#4. Speaking of Nature by Robin Wall Kimmerer (March/April 2017) 

Finding language that reveals our kinship with the natural world.
#5. State of the Species by Charles C. Mann (November/December 2012) 

Will the unprecedented success of Homo sapiens lead to an unavoidable downfall?

  #6. Landspeak by Robert Macfarlane (May/June 2015) 

The Oxford Junior Dictionary drops acorn, bluebell, fern, and nectar from its entries and adds blog, broadband, celebrity, and chatroom instead.

#7. 9 Rules for the Black Birdwatcher by J. Drew Lanham (November/December 2013) 

Number one: Be prepared to be confused with the other black birder. Yes, there are only two of you at the bird festival.
#8. Facing Fear by J.B. MacKinnon (May/June 2015) 

How nature cured one man’s anxious mind.

  #9. How to Queer Ecology by Alex Carr Johnson (March/April 2011) 

Even nature—defined impossibly as the nonhuman—becomes unnatural when it does not fit the desired norm.

#10. Women and Standing Rock by Layli Long Soldier (35th Anniversary Issue)  

Where does the body end and sacred nature begin?

#11. The Island Wolves by Kim Todd (October/November 2017) 

Scientists’ understanding of the balance between predators and prey is upended in a remote ecosystem.

#12. Soldier and the Soil by Barrett Swanson  (35th Anniversary Issue)

An Iraq War veteran’s struggle to cultivate peace, both inside and out.

#13. Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist by Paul Kingsnorth (January/February 2012)

Once noble and redemptive, environmentalism has devolved into an engine of consumerism and a platform for partisanship.

#14. The Only Way to Have a Cow by Bill McKibben (March/April 2010)

What a new meat ethic could mean for the atmosphere.

#15. Wild and Domestic by Wendell Berry (Summer 2018)

Thirty-three common sense statements from America’s poet farmer.

#16. Gods Among Us by Terry Tempest Williams (Autumn 2019)

Humanity is not the center of the universe but part of an expanding, contracting, and uncertain future.

#17. The Fracking of Rachel Carson by Sandra Steingraber (September/October 2012)

Fifty years ago a book changed the way we think about nature—or did it?
#18. Conscience and Resistance by Scott Russell Sanders (Spring 2018)

On reading Thomas Merton in the rain.

#19. Waste Land, Promised Land by Kimberly Meyer (Spring 2018)

Refugee farmers replant home in post-hurricane Houston
#20. Young Readers Ask: Uninhabitable Earth Interview (April 2019)

A seven-year-old asks David Wallace-Wells about climate crisis. 

#21. The People’s Forest by Alexandra Tempus (Autumn 2018)

Their future threatened, the Menominee are turning to their relationship with the land to find the vision to fight climate change.

#22. Between Worlds by Anya Groner (Spring 2019)

As the climate changes, cultural resilience will be defined by a community’s ability to adapt, rather than resist.

#23. Where It Begins by Barbara Kingsolver (November/December 2013)

Knitting as a creation story.

#24. Fear Itself by Melanie Challenger (Spring 2018)

The biological and cultural origins of being scared.

#25. Dear Mr. Abbey by Amy Irvine (Autumn 2018)

Support Orion so that it thrives for another decade by subscribing, renewing, gifting a subscription, or donating today. Every contribution goes into sharing these stories with you, 100% ad-free. Thank you. 

Introducing Winter 2019

The Winter 2019 issue of Orion arrives into homes and stores everywhere starting this week. This issue includes a number of stories in which the ground, and the stories it tells us, takes center stage.

Here’s some of what’s included: 

  • In Meera Subramanian’s tour of middle America (“United in Change”), she bonds with strangers across the political spectrum in the most literal place: the land beneath their feet.
  • Lisa Wells, in “Views of the Apocalypse,” encounters the ghost of Freud while walking the grounds of Orvieto, a city built above an underground network of caves.
  • Heather Altfeld’s “Unearthing the Mammoth” is a personal atlas of woolly mammoth fossils and a meditation on excavating the past from the ground and examining it in the present.
  • Derrick Jensen asks if those who come after us will wonder why we didn’t do more to save planet.
  • Will Hunt goes on a pilgrimage, following the footsteps of those who came before.
  • In “Sharing the Table,” Samantha Harvey plants and harvests alongside a community of artists, activists, and farmers.
  • Gabrielle Brady watches nature’s cycles continue on an island where time has stopped for refugees.
  • Priscilla Solis Ybarra sits down with Cherríe Moraga for a discussion on identity and environmentalism. 

Other essays cover bioluminescence, migration, Ed Abbey’s ghost, Instagramming nature, the disappearance of olives, Bangalore’s urban wilds, and more.

Poetry by Rajiv Mohabir, Kevin Young, Ellen Bass, Stuart Dybek, and Cecily Parks. 

Books reviews include Greta Thunberg’s No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House, Jedediah Purdy’s This Land is Our Land, Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones), and Sarah Wolfson’s A Common Name for Everything

Broadside by Ilya Kaminsky, with artwork by Nikki McClure. 


The Spring 2020 issue will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day by looking closer at hope and despair through new narratives of resistance, resilience, and survival. Also in the issue, Jay Griffiths superglues herself to the highway, Tim DeChristopher challenges Wendell Berry on localism, and we trace the environmental legacy of man-eating crocodiles.

Subscribe, renew or gift a holiday subscription today to start your issue cycle with this issue. Already a subscriber and wish to deepen your support? Consider donating or becoming a sustaining partner