Daniel Quinn (born 1935 in Omaha, Nebraska) is an American writer described as an environmentalist. He is best known for his book Ishmael (1992), which won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award in 1991.
Quinn himself does not, however, identify as an "environmentalist," pointing out that the term evokes the notion of something that is "out there," and somehow "not us." The typical conception of environmentalism, Quinn argues, is one of a false-dichotomy --- a false division that says there's "the environment," and then there's "us humans" living in the environment (and somehow not a part of it).
Daniel Quinn was born in Omaha, Nebraska, where he graduated from Creighton Preparatory School. He went on to study at Saint Louis University, University of Vienna, Austria, and Loyola University, receiving a bachelor's degree in English, cum laude, in 1957.
In 1975, he abandoned his career as a publisher to become a freelance writer. Quinn is best known for his book Ishmael (1992), which won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award in 1991. This fellowship was established to encourage authors to seek "creative and positive solutions to global problems". Ishmael is the first of a trilogy including The Story of B, and My Ishmael. The 1999 film Instinct started from parts of this story.
Ishmael and its sequels brought ever-increasing fame to Quinn throughout the 1990s, and he became a very well-known author to certain segments of the environmental movement, the simplicity movement, the anarchist movement and Anarcho-primitivism movements. Quinn has traveled widely to lecture and discuss his books.
Daniel Quinn offers readers a way out of the dilemma between inattention and blame. It is tough to hold the attention on global problems and still imagine solutions and reasons for hope. Some blame humanity in general, and claim "human nature" necessarily leads to species loss and habitat degradation. In Quinn's writing, one can find a perspective that is pro-sustainability and pro-human, countering the view that humans are inherently toxic to the world.
While response to Ishmael was mostly very positive, Quinn inspired a great deal of controversy with his claim (most explicitly discussed in the appendix section of The Story of B) that since population growth is a function of food supply, sustained food aid to impoverished nations merely puts off and dramatically worsens a massive population-environment crisis. This crisis is born of a disconnect between local humans and the local habitat with its food. Quinn points out that ending this disconnect is a proven way to avoid famines.
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