“Simply put: the destruction of the wild sparks militancy in the heart,” Jeffrey St. Clair writes in “Born Under a Bad Sky,” one of his two new books — along with “Red State Rebels” — on the state of the environment and the politics of its preservation.

Dedicated readers of the left-leaning press will know St. Clair’s work from Counterpunch, the muckraking political newsletter and Web site he edits with Alexander Cockburn, a fellow contributor to The Nation, or from his many books, including “Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me,” “Grand Theft Pentagon” and “Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press.” But many may not know that Oregon’s ancient forests have had an important influence on his work.

To find out where an unreconstructed liberal directs his rhetorical energy now that we’ve entered the Age of Obama, I sat down for coffee with St. Clair, an Indiana native and two-decade resident of Oregon. In contrast to Counterpunch’s strident, nonstop criticism of the powers that be, St. Clair is reflective and philosophical when asked to explain his politics and how they’ve been shaped by the Pacific Northwest.

Having cut his activist teeth in the late 1970s protesting construction of the Marble Hill nuclear power plant in Indiana with what he calls “a mosaic of radical environmentalists, farmers and rednecks,” St. Clair began visiting Oregon in the 1980s. He and his wife settled here in 1990 and raised their now college-age children. They live in Oregon City.

“Oregon was where it was at in the 1980s,” St. Clair said. “The new conservation movement: This is where it was born and really erupted. It was a grass-roots movement that took on one of the largest industries in the country — timber — on its own turf and nearly brought it to its knees. I wanted to be a part of it and understand how you could put that template of activism to work in other parts of the country. It was a confluence of ideas and exceptional characters.”

Ever since his Indiana experience, St. Clair has been drawn to indigenous and endemic uprisings and kind of strange, unexpected coalitions.

“My interest is in searching out the resistance, sometimes in odd fusions of left and right,” he said. “I have a Midwestern sensibility, rooted in skepticism.”

To this St. Clair attributes what he calls his profound suspicion of government institutions and their ability to solve fundamental social and environmental problems. There was great hope after the years of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush for what the Clinton administration might achieve environmentally, he said. But from his perspective, that promise soon faded as environmentalists got positions in the administration. “There was too much compromise.”

He worries that the same pattern may repeat with Obama. “A new generation of activists is invested in Obama with even more expectations,” he said. “We’re in an ever more tender state this time, with so much faith being placed in Obama as a change agent.”

St. Clair also worries about the faith being placed in technology as a social and environmental cure-all. He’s leery of those who view green technology as a way to salvage the economy.

“Green consumerism is very perilous all around,” he said, particularly the idea that “all we have to do is transform our consuming habits.” And he remains skeptical of technology as a panacea for what he calls real social networking.

“On the one hand, technology is uniting us in ways we’ve never been united before, but I worry about one-click activism. It seems easier than it should be.

“It’s one thing to hold the Bush administration to a bright light through litigation, lobbying and direct action — it’s another challenge entirely to hold an Obama administration to a bright light,” he said. Fighting off what he calls the Visigoths is clearly much easier than navigating resistance with the people’s choice for progressive change.

But, St. Clair said, echoing the contrasting threads of lyrical landscape meditation and full-throttle political provocation that run through his work: “I cling to hope. I’m an optimist in permanent battle with my nihilism.”

Given economic and environmental challenges, this tack may coincide more closely with prevailing political winds than the skeptic in St. Clair may find comfortable.