On this episode we welcome Brother Coyote himself, Gary Paul Nabhan. An agricultural ecologist, an ethnobotanist, a MacArthus “genius grant” winner, a professor and an Ecumenical Franciscan Brother, Nabhan is a true polymath. He’s a pioneering figure in the local food movement as well as the modern heirloom seed saving movement. He’s also the author of an almost countless number of books, including The Nature of Desert Nature, Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Land and Communities, and Mesquite: An Arboreal Love Affair.
His most recent book is called Jesus for Farmers and Fishers: Justice for All Those Marginalized by Our Food System. The book is a challenging, poetic and hopeful exploration of what the teachings of Jesus have to tell us about our modern food system and our relationship to the natural world. Even if you’re not religious, or even spiritual, I think this interview is still well worth your time — Nabhan has tapped into a deep and universal store of wisdom just when we need it most.
I’ve been a long-time admirer — of his endless curiosity, of his versatility as a writer and of his rare insight when it comes to ethics, agriculture and science. He isn’t someone who spends much time raging at powerful institutions. He’s not always shaking his fists at corrupt corporations. Instead, he offers us pathways of hope, healing, purpose, abundance and justice.
Nabhan’s spent much of his life working, often in the fields, to preserve both cultural folkways and biological diversity, two things he see’s as being inextricably linked. And his biography is so full of milestones that it’s impossible to fit all but a fraction of them here.
Born in the early 1950s, Nabhan is a first-generation Lebanese American who was raised in Gary, Indiana. He has a B.A. in environmental biology from Prescott College in Arizona, an M.S. in plant sciences from the University of Arizona, and a Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary arid lands resource sciences, also from the University of Arizona.
He’s served as director of conservation, research and collections at both the Desert Botanical Garden and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, where he did the research to help create the Ironwood Forest National Monument.
He was the founding director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. He’s on the University of Arizona faculty as a research social scientist with the Southwest Center, where he now serves as the Kellogg Endowed Chair in Southwestern Borderlands Food and Water Security.
He and his wife currently live in Patagonia, Arizona on a five-acre spread near Tucson. I could go on, but I’m eager to share this interview with you today. I hope you find as much inspiration as I did in this conversation with Gary Paul Nabhan.
For more information, visit garynabhan.com.