Utne Magazine Founder Eric Utne Links Nature to Urban Life

Eric Utne helps urbanites connect with nature through his urban almanac.

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Photo By Kelly Rogers

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“It’s wonderful to make pilgrimages to wild places, but we can connect with nature from the heart of Manhattan as well.”—Eric Utne

Eric Utne, founder and longtime editor of Utne magazine, set out to create a modern-day answer to Ben Franklin’s 1733 Poor Richard’s Almanack. The result? A delightful compendium of tips and tools to help us slow down and connect with nature and ourselves.

Urban epiphany

Soon after a four-day fast in California’s Death Valley, Eric Utne found himself standing on a busy street corner in Manhattan. Catching sight of the full moon cresting over the Chrysler Building, he realized that despite the concrete, skyscrapers, and crowds that “we are always in nature, wherever we are.”

Back to Nature

From Utne’s epiphany came Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac: Celebrating Nature and Her Rhythms in the City (Cosmo’s Urban Almanac, 2006). Like Franklin’s book, the Urban Almanac includes weather forecasts. It also offers regional field guides to metropolitan flora and fauna, seasonal meditations and poems, lunar charts, and pointers to “urban sanctuaries” in cities across America, such as Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.

Doogood for the Plane

Through his almanac, Utne (AKA: Cosmo Doogood) intends to help people slow down and connect with the natural world. “In urban life, much conspires to separate us from nature and each other,” he says. “When we open our eyes to nature in the city, we realize it’s around us and in us. Ultimately, I hope that by deepening our sense of nature’s rhythms—the phases of the moon, the migrating songbirds that alight on our windowsills—we’ll become better caretakers of the planet, each other, and ourselves.”