On a few occasions in the past, while at major gatherings of travel journalists, I have been in the presence of Michael Frome, the noted conservationist. I always sensed that he was a man of substance in shaping the American environmental landscape, but didn’t know too much about him.
Recently, however, I became aware of two of his books, HEAL THE EARTH, HEAL THE SOUL (Bartram Books, Milwaukee) and REBEL ON THE ROAD (Truman State University Press).
Looking at these books is an inspirational read.
Frome returns again and again the central theme of his journalistic life–that he could never be just an “objective” journalist, that becoming an advocate for wilderness, national parks, and conservation was his calling.
In the HEAL THE EARTH book there are affectionate portraits that Frome has penned over the years to the great pioneers in the American environmental movement. To those of us who did not know these personalities, their life stories are intriguing.
There is a lot to learn in these pages. Though I grew up in Minnesota, for example, I didn’t know that Hubert Humphrey was an author of the original Wilderness Act.
Frome has been around longer than most of us, thriving now at age 86 in Wisconsin. It is touching to read of his plane ride as a WWII -era airman across the Amazon, when that area was indeed a trackless wilderness.
Frome knew the politics and the players, large and small, in the developing American environmental movement.
Early on, Frome took to heart Thoreau’s comment, “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” After internalizing those comments, there was no allowance for mere dispassionate reporting on the American great outdoors. Frome became the advocate. He always had opinions, and editors hired or fired him on that basis.
The REBEL ON THE ROAD book is more of an autobiography, just as the HEAL THE EARTH is more of a collection of philosophical reflections.
The subtitle for REBEL ON THE ROAD says it all: WHY I WAS NEVER NEUTRAL.
If you seek an engaging look at the philosophical writings and life story of one of the great American conservationists, pick up these two books by Michael Frome.