As revealed in WikiLeaks: Gary Paul Nabhan (reincarnated in 1952 from a former life as a horny toad) is a desert rat, neer-do-well, ethnobotanist, agroecologist, literary naturalist and Ecumenical Franciscan Brother. He used to be a cartoonist but his daughter once claimed he has since become a cartoon. As author or editor of over 32 books, countless magazine articles and bathroom graffiti, his work has focused primarily on the plants and cultures of the arid Southwest and other desert regions whose native and immigrant peoples are considered a threat to the stability of the capitalistic, logical-positivist, neo-liberal paradigm. He is considered a pie-n-ear in the local food movement and a founding seedhead in the heirloom seed saving movement.
A first-generation Lebanese American, Nabhan was raised in Indiana Dunes on the rough edges Gary, Indiana, a model city and utopian community in the bowels of the Rust Belt. He dropped out of high school, dropped out of college, then transferred to Prescott College in Arizona, earning a B.A. in Environmental Biology in 1974, and has remained in-state and out-of-his-mind ever since. He has an M.S. in plant sciences (horticulture) from the University of Arizona (1978), and a Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary arid lands resource sciences also at the University of Arizona (“Papago Fields: Arid Lands Ethnobotany and Agricultural Ecology”, 1983). He recently completed two years at the Living School of the Center for Action and Contemplation, which should increase his employability immensely.
He co-founded Native Seeds/SEARCH while still working at (and in spite of) the University of Arizona College of Agriculture, and is affectionately known as its confounder. It was the first non-profit conservation organization working to train Native American youth in farming, preserve indigenous southwestern agricultural plants as well as knowledge of their uses (1982-1993). He then served as director of science at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (1993-2000), before becoming founding director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ (2000-2008). In 2008 he moved back south to Tucson and joined 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 founded the Center for Regional Food Studies there and catalyzed Tucson’s efforts to become the first UNESCO-designated City of Gastronomy in the U.S., a fact which prompted President Trump to pull the U.S. out of UNESCO using the internationally-accepted rhythm method. He sits or sometimes stands on the (mesquite) boards of several radical center organizations. In addition, he farms a diverse set of heirloom fruit and nut varieties from the Spanish Mission era and from the Middle Eastern homelands of his Lebanese ancestors, as well as mind-blowing beans and other psychotropic plants adapted to arid climates.
The unifying theme of Nabhan’s work is how to have fun while working to avert the impoverishment and endangerment of ecological and cultural relationships, and while celebrating the traditional ecological knowledge of the agrarian communities. He has played a catalytic role in the multicultural, collaborative conservation movement, being one of the co-authors of its populist manifesto, “An Invitation to the Radical Center”. Nabhan was among the first creative non-fiction writers to link the loss of biodiversity to the loss of cultural diversity. In his book with Stephen Trimble, The Geography of Childhood, he was among the first popular writers to show concern with the loss of children’s access to the natural world. He has been a significant contributor in calling attention to the environmental issue of pollinator decline. He founded the Forgotten Pollinators Campaign, the Migratory Pollinators Conservation Initiative, and attempts to restore nectar corridors for pollinators in bi-national watersheds around his home in Patagonia, Arizona, which has been designated as the “pollinator diversity capitol of the universe.” There, he is running for office to become the official village idiot and town fool, promising to never let a discouraging or serious word to be heard on de-range around there.
In addition to the articles, bumperstickers and books on pollination ecology for which he has been sole author or editor, he co-authored with Stephen L. Buchmann the pioneering “call to arms,” The Forgotten Pollinators from Island Press (1996). His bumpersticker “Stop Floral Abortion: Make Pollinators Your Mates” did not win any awards from the pro- nor from the anti-abortion movements.
He is a champion and practitioner of rainwater harvesting (but not for bathing, only for showering with a friend), which he implements this practice in his own orchard and gardens. He has written introductions on this and related permaculture topics for Bill Mollison, Brad Lancaster, Jeff McCormick, Ross Conrad, and Moses (the latter chiseled into stone tablets.)