Friday, September 5, 2008


Photo: Is there any reason to go out here, to the ice caps and other immensities, and travel on or through or above or under them? Haven't they all been seen and traversed and described a hundred times already? Giving it a lot of thought, I conclude that yes, there are dozens of good reasons...A misty crag in Iceland, Winter 2004; it only appears lifeless, cut off from humanity and other living things, when viewed through the lens of mainstream adventure writing.

Excerpt from a rich, wise, thought-provoking piece by Barry essay on many things, including why it's still important and relevant to go outside and see the natural world, and tell people what you've seen. More on that later...for now, the quotation (from the article in Orion magazine);

"To read the newspapers today, to merely answer the phone, is to know the world is in flames. People do not have time for the sort of empirical immersion I believe crucial to any sort of wisdom. This terrifies me, but I, too, see the developers’ bulldozers arrayed at the mouth of every canyon, poised at the edge of every plain. And the elimination of these lands, I know, will further reduce the extent of the blueprints for undamaged life. After the last undomesticated stretch of land is brought to heel, there will be only records—strips of film and recording tape, computer printouts, magazine articles, books, laser-beam surveys—of these immensities. And then any tyrant can tell us what it meant, and in which direction we should now go. In this scenario, the authority of the grizzly bear will be replaced by the authority of a charismatic who says he represents the bear. And the naturalist—the ancient emissary to a world civilization wished to be rid of, a world it hoped to transform into a chemical warehouse, the same uneasy emissary who intuited that to separate nature from culture wouldn’t finally work—will be an orphan. He will become a dealer in myths.

What being a naturalist has come to mean to me, sitting my mornings and evenings by the river, hearing the clack of herons through the creak of swallows over the screams of osprey under the purl of fox sparrows, so far removed from White and Darwin and Leopold and even Carson, is this: Pay attention to the mystery. Apprentice to the best apprentices. Rediscover in nature your own biology. Write and speak with appreciation for all you have been gifted. Recognize that a politics with no biology, or a politics without field biology, or a political platform in which human biological requirements form but one plank, is a vision of the gates of Hell."

(c) 2001 by Barry Lopez

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