Writing Assignments from Peter Lourie:

Writing Your Own River Dispatch

On every trip I make down rivers, I keep a journal about the people I meet and the things I see. When you read the dispatches from my Rondonia journal, you might think how you would keep such a journal about a river near you or the watershed you live in.

ACTIVITY 1: Writers often go to places to describe them. Pick a place along a river, or in a watershed, that you can get to. Go there. Spend some time listening, looking, just being quiet. Now write out the scene, paying attention to details. When you return home, revise this scene into one paragraph. Throw out anything that does not contribute to the scene. Selection of detail is the most important job of a writer. What details did you leave out? What details must you include to create the scene? Now put the paragraph away, and in a few days try writing the same scene purely from memory. What happens?

ACTIVITY 2: In my journey I was deeply impressed and concerned about the changes people were making to the Amazon watershed's rain forests as they chopped and burned the trees to grow crops. How do people use natural resources in your watershed? See if you can find and interview people doing these activities. Are there any problems caused by those activities? Are people active in improving problems caused by past or current land-use activities? If you talk to people involved in activities that may be harmful to the environment, can you see reasons why they might be doing those activities even if they are harmful?

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Center for Global Environmental Education
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