Urban farmer and Earth Island Journal editor Mark debuts with a passionate argument against the idea of a world without wilderness.
In a wide-ranging quest to find the “ineffable essence” of wildness in the present epoch of the Anthropocene, or Age of Man, when no place is untouched by humans, the author chronicles his travels to the rain forests of Washington, Dakota’s Badlands, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, talking with dozens of conservationists, ranchers, wildlife officials, and others about man’s relationship to the wild. His own view is that wilderness is “a place where human desires do not call the shots.” In his encounters, he raises critical questions: does a place have value even if it has no obvious use to humans? Is it worthwhile to try to keep some places wild? Should we intervene in wilderness or just leave it alone? What is more important, biological or aesthetic-ethical values? Writing in plain, jargon-free prose, Mark brings facts and his own deep feelings to bear as he explores perspectives on how we should live with the land. We hear the views of ranchers losing cattle to wild predators, of “rewilding” advocates seeking to restore ecosystems, and of American Indians with deep spiritual ties to the land ("Grandmother Earth is tired…of people tapping her veins,” says a tribal member). In the Cascade Mountains, the author spent time with 20- and 30-somethings engaged in primitive living akin to life thousands of years ago. There and elsewhere, Mark finds that 21st-century wilderness is “above all, a place of longing”—a “homeland that we are unlikely to return to any time soon.” Even the mental space of wilderness is now shattered by cellphones and satellite technology, but, he argues, we must recommit to wildness and to keeping some places “free from our intentions.”
Thoughtful meditations from a trustworthy guide that will appeal strongly to anyone interested in wilderness in our post-wild world.