I’ve logged more experience than most with simplicity and the complexity you discover inside simplicity, minimalism and asocial behavior, endurance and landscape.
Here is the truth: I think some deep wisdom inside me (a) sensed the stress, (b) was terrified for me, and (c) gave me something new and hard to focus on in order to prevent me from lapsing into a despair coma — and also to keep me from having a jelly jar of wine in my hand.
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“One Nation, Indivisible” features excerpts from The Sun’s archives that speak to the current political moment.
We are the children of the Age of Enlightenment, and we have brought the world to the brink of ruin by acting under the delusion that humans are separate from the earth, better somehow, in control of it. We believe that humans are the only creatures of spirit in a universe otherwise made up of stones and insensate matter; that the nonhuman world was created for us alone and derives all its value from its usefulness to humanity; that we are the masters of the universe. Because of our technological prowess, we see ourselves as exceptions to the rules that govern the “lower” forms of life. We believe we can destroy our habitat without also destroying ourselves. How could we be so tragically wrong?
“If Your House Is on Fire,” Kathleen Dean Moore, interviewed by Mary DeMocker, December 2012
Regardless of our envirocredentials, we builders of new homes (for I am one) are committing habitat destruction, and not only where we build our homes, but also in the places where our lumber comes from. By this, and by all the rest of our consuming, we play our modest roles in the earth’s sixth great extinction crisis. Owing in large measure to humankind’s long, steadily accelerating career of habitat shattering, the rate of extinction is currently about a thousand times what is normal. That’s how fast the planet’s biotic community is losing member species these days.
Living in the heyday of North American consumerism, being mistress of my own estate, and having my choice of cars, computers, espresso machines, blow-dryers, and designer T-shirts (assuming I can pay for, or charge, them) is no consolation. I can’t get that extinction crisis out of my mind. Extinction is not abstract in the least. It’s the thousands of instances of the desolation of being the last of one’s kind.
“The One Who Steals the Fat,” Stephanie Mills, January 2001
Private property is theft, we all know. It doesn’t take a Communist to figure it out. But if you are a thief, you can dream up a million and two methods to defend your right to steal. Everything we take from the earth, every drop of rain and every blade of grass, every bit of flower and fruit, the sinew and muscle of the animals we kill, we borrow these things for a brief time and we will pay them back. . . .
In winter the snow falls from the unowned sky to the ground. In spring the snowpack melts into creeks and streams, the runoff pours downhill into rivers and reservoirs owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Reclamation and Fisheries helicopters thwunk-thwunk-thwunk their way into the air and over water release a silver cloud, a sheen, sparkling and dappling in the air — fingerling fish of many kinds, and the bureaus own the fish. Bureau airplanes seed the clouds to see if perhaps the renegade sky might become property. The Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior own the trees. They own the sage and the wild raspberries.
Somebody owns everything. Everything is private property. This way no one — no person, no other animal, no plant, no rock or clod of dirt — owns itself. Everything belongs to someone else and will be used by its owner.
“Inventing Wyoming,” David Romtvedt, July 1990
Both the wildlife biologists and the conservation biologists in Yellowstone and Grand Teton and elsewhere are well-intentioned human beings. They’ve spent considerable time out in the natural world, and they really do love it. But the ways they interact with the natural world and what their jobs entail are often intrusive. It’s one thing to talk in the abstract about putting collars with radio-tracking devices on wild animals, but in practice it’s ugly. They shoot nets over mountain sheep from helicopters. The sheep become hysterical. They run into avalanche zones and sometimes fall and get buried. . . .
There are few animal species in Grand Teton National Park that are not part of a management program. Everything is studied, everything observed. Ravens are collared. Microchips are implanted in fish. The studies raise further questions that need to be answered. Now you need to put radio collars on more animals. This kind of science feeds on itself in a horrible loop. You end up with more and more biologists collaring more and more critters. The numbers generate more numbers. The intrusion grows.
“Not on Any Map,” Jack Turner, interviewed by Leath Tonino, August 2014
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, all flights were grounded. Human activity took a break in a rare moment of quiet reflection. The next day, on September 12, my wife and I were sitting in back of the house, and there wasn’t a plane in the sky or any traffic on the road. We could hear nothing but the birds and the breeze and the insects. We actually felt a little guilty about enjoying that moment of tranquillity together. Then I started getting e-mails from my colleagues around the world who were out in the field with recorders in Germany and Austria and France and Great Britain. They were all remarking on what a peaceful day September 12 was. We needed serenity right then. So that’s what inspired the idea for a National Day of Tranquillity. Of course, it isn’t going to happen. Far too much commerce depends on air and road travel. Someone once calculated in response that the economy would lose something like $8 million a second!
“Call of the Wild,” Bernie Krause, interviewed by Leath Tonino, September 2014
I had a deep sense of ownership of [the] woods behind my house. They were my woods. My sense of ownership was so strong that as an eight-year-old I pulled up hundreds of survey stakes, because I knew they had something to do with the bulldozers that were taking out other woods nearby. . . .
I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a few months ago, speaking to . . . a group that unites ranchers and environmentalists in support of common causes. Around half of the five hundred people in attendance were wearing cowboy hats. I told the story about the stakes, and afterward, during the Q and A, a rancher stood up. He was the real deal — big white handlebar mustache, sunburned face, in his sixties — and he said that when he was a boy, he’d pulled out survey stakes. And then he began to cry in front of all these people. He was embarrassed, but he continued to talk about his deep sense of grief that his generation might be the last to have an intimate connection to the land.
“Nature-Deficit Disorder?” Richard Louv, interviewed by Arnie Cooper, February 2007
Where a bias against hunting does exist in this country today — essentially in the large population centers — it’s a perfectly understandable phenomenon. Put people in an environment where hunting has not been a part of their families or culture for generations; where almost every visible aspect of wild nature has been erased and paved over; where hunting is no longer necessary to satisfy our natural cravings for meat; where guns are used only to commit crimes and enforce laws; where nothing about hunting’s essential role in human evolution is to be found in any schoolbook below the university-graduate level — and naturally those people won’t know or care about hunting. . . .
Hunters and anglers are the original conservationists. Teddy Roosevelt and his “group of one hundred” influential sportsmen imposed laws that restricted their own activities just in time to prevent the annihilation in the wild of many game species in North America, if too late for others. It was sportsmen who saw what we were losing and stopped it. It’s been sportsmen and -women over the century since then who, through their license fees, have allowed us to restore our wildlife-rich continent, despite a booming, land-devouring human population explosion. But it’s always been a minority of hunters and anglers who’ve pulled the real political weight, while the majority crow about how their license fees fund conservation efforts but never lift a finger to help. For every hunter who’s been actively involved in conservation, there are probably ten more who have been co-opted by the NRA . . . or their misguided ilk into thinking that environmentalism is a liberal sin.
“The Good Hunter,” David Petersen, interviewed by Jeremy Lloyd, December 2009
A grizzly bear isn’t here for our benefit. She’s here for herself, and I think we need to recognize that. For that reason, when I go into grizzly-bear country, I don’t carry a gun, because I don’t want to have to deal with the possibility of shooting a bear.
I think it’s OK to use economic arguments to a certain degree, but at the same time, conservationists need to make it clear that the reason we do what we do is because we love nature. I think that nature appeals to an awful lot of people. After all, why do people watch nature shows on television? Why do they buy wildlife calendars? It’s not because animals are worth money. We’re just fascinated by them. And so I’ve taken on the task, as I travel around the country, of telling conservationists: Don’t apologize for loving nature. Don’t apologize for caring about other species. Celebrate that.
“Redneck for Wilderness,” Dave Foreman, interviewed by Jeremy Lloyd, December 2005