Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Jack Turner

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8165-1394-5
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona

 Loosely connected but powerfully written essays on our relationship to wilderness. Much of the contemporary environmental literature names as enemies of the wild corporate agriculture, logging, mining, and ranching. For first-time author and accomplished Himalayas trekker Turner, the usual suspects will not do; instead, he names as the real enemies the abstractions that govern our lives and divorce us from the natural world. We prefer, Turner says, ``artifice, copy, simulation, and surrogate,'' and what we wind up with are national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon, which resemble nothing so much as Disneyland. We are also addicted to ``economics, recreation, and amusement at the expense of other values,'' which has kept us from leaving wilderness alone. Instead, we cover the landscape with ski lodges, trailer parks, and mountain trails--and free it of its native wildlife, like the 250,000 wild predators the federal government kills on public lands each year. Turner celebrates environmental activists like Edward Abbey, Aldo Leopold, and Doug Peacock while poking fun at current environmentalist orthodoxies and tactics: ``If you go to Mecca and blaspheme the Black Stone, the believers will feed you to the midges, piece by piece. Go to Yellowstone and destroy grizzlies and grizzly habitat, and the believers will dress up in bear costumes, sing songs, and sign petitions.'' And, he observes, wilderness advocates who do not fully acquaint themselves with the wild up close and personal cannot hope to understand the object of their desires: ``Wisdom . . . cannot emerge from tourism in a relic wilderness.'' ``I have been charged with belligerent ecological fundamentalism,'' Turner writes. And for good cause. This sometimes blistering, provocative, well-written book is an ecoradical's dream come true--and every reader concerned with wilderness issues should take it into account.