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Know the West

A conversation with Chuck Bowden from 2002

The late writer discusses the 'cannibalism of society' and other ills.


Charles Bowden, whose writing investigated cross-border issues between the U.S. and Mexico, including heavy criticism of the U.S. war on drugs, died Aug. 30, 2014, at the age of 69. Bowden was a prolific journalist and author who published numerous books on the Southwest, as well as features for national magazines and for High Country News.

Journalist and author Charles Bowden died in August 2014. Photograph by Jack W. Dykinga.
HCN Radio, a weekly broadcast in the early 2000s, aired this interview with Bowden in September of 2002. Adam Burke interviewed Bowden about his then-recent book Blues for Cannibals: The Notes from Underground, environmental politics, deserts, survival and hope. Bowden reads two passages from the book and discusses the "cannibalism of our society" – excessive consumption and the destruction of the environment.

"The changes I've seen in my lifetime should normally take a couple generations," Bowden said. "Where I used to go out hunting with my .22 now is endless miles of subdivision."

He said of living in Tucson and the desert: "It's impossible to live in this town without a sense of guilt, without a sense that you're failing; that you're going to have to answer to someone someday. That nobody will ever accept your explanation of why you let this obliteration of such a beautiful place occur. You're like a beaten person half the time and an enraged warrior the rest of the time." And yet: "My glass is always half full; I may not like to drink but at least it's half full."