Scott Nearing (August 6, 1883 - August 24, 1983) was an American conservationist, peace activist, educator and writer. Nearing is the father of John Scott. Born in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, Nearing is still viewed as a radical 20 years after his death. In 1954 he co-authored Living the Good Life: How to Live Simply and Sanely in a Troubled World with his wife Helen (see the entry for Helen and Scott Nearing). The book, in which war, famine, and poverty were discussed, described a nineteen-year "back to the land experiment," and also advocated a modern day "homesteading." Eugene V. Debs, the five-time Socialist presidential candidate, called Nearing the "greatest teacher in the United States," and Allen Ginsberg, the famous Beat Generation poet, referred to Nearing as a "grand old man. A real mensch." Nearing's anti-war activities cost him two teaching jobs, and he was even charged under the Espionage Act for opposing the First World War.
Largely self-reliant, Nearing lived in the wooded areas of Vermont and Maine, self-publishing his own books and pamphlets. Interestingly, Nearing made a cameo appearance in the film Reds, starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton. The movie centered on Nearing's close friend John Reed (who was portrayed by Beatty in the film). Feeling a sense of dignity in the common man, and wanting to serve, Nearing wrote pamphlets on low income, peace throughout the world, feminism, and many different environmental causes. Nearing wrote a political autobiography titled The Making of a Radical, published in 1972.
Nearing was notably critical of the U.S Government. On August 6, 1945, the day President Harry S. Truman ordered the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Nearing wrote a damning letter to the president, stating "your government is no longer mine."
As the Vietnam War took center stage in the mid 1960s, and as a large back to the land movement developed in the U.S., a renewed interest in Nearing's work and ideas began. Hundreds of anti-war believers flocked to Nearing's home in Maine to learn practical-living skills, some also to hear a master radical's anti-war message.
As he approached his first century, Nearing was hardworking and still in good health. An avowed vegetarian in his last years, on August 6, 1983, Scott Nearing celebrated his 100th birthday. A month or so before this he stated, "I think I won't eat any more." Soon after that, Scott's wife Helen began to give him just liquids, consisting of various fruit and vegetable juices. Then, about ten days before his death, he began to just drink water.
Eighteen days after his 100th birthday, the celebrated radical, educator, conservationist and centenarian Scott Nearing died.
"War is an attempt of one group to impose its will upon another group by armed violence."
"War drags human beings from their tasks of building and improving, and pushes them en masse into the category of destroyers and killers."
"Your government is no longer mine."
"Do the best that you can, wherever you are, and be kind."
Selected list of writings
- Anthracite; an instance of natural resource monopoly
- Black America (Sourcebooks in Negro History)
- Bolshevism and the West
- Building and Using Our Sun-Heated Greenhouse: Grow Vegetables All Year-Round
- Civilization and Beyond: Learning from History
- Continuing the Good Life: Half a Century of Homesteading
- Free Born
- Freedom, Promise and Menace
- The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living
- The Great Madness
- Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World
- The Making of a Radical: A Political Autobiography
- Man's Search for the Good Life
- The Maple Sugar Book: Pioneering As a Way of Living in the Twentieth Century
- The New Education
- Oil and the Germs of War
- The Trial of Scott Nearing and the American Socialist Society
- Whither China?
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