Monday, June 28, 2010


Without a Human Presence

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (chapter Bedrock and Paradox):
In deep stillness, in a somber solemn light, these beings stand, these fins of sandstone hollowed out by time, the juniper trees so shaggy, tough and beautiful, the dead or dying pinyon pines, the little shrubs of rabbitbrush and blackbrush, the dried-up stalks of asters and sunflowers gone to seed, the black-rooted silver-blue sage. How difficult to imagine this place without a human presence; how necessary. I am almost prepared to believe that this sweet virginal primitive land will be grateful for my departure and the absence of the tourists, will breathe metaphorically a collective sigh of relief—like a whisper of wind—when we are all and finally gone and the place and its creations can return to their ancient procedures unobserved and undisturbed by the busy, anxious, brooding consciousness of man.

Grateful for our departure? One more expression of human vanity. The finest quality of this stone, these plants and animals, this desert landscape is the indifference manifest to our presence, our absence, our coming, our staying or our going. Whether we live or die is a matter of absolutely no concern whatsoever to the desert. Let men in their madness blast every city on earth into black rubble and envelop the entire planet in a cloud of lethal gas—the canyons and hills, the springs and rocks will still be here, the sunlight will filter through, water will form and warmth shall be upon the land and after sufficient time, no matter how long, somewhere, living things will emerge and join and stand once again, this time perhaps to take a different and better course. I have seen the place called Trinity, in New Mexico, where our wise men exploded the first atomic bomb and the heat of the blast fused sand into a greenish glass—already the grass has returned, and the cactus and the mesquite. On this bedrock of animal faith I take my stand, close by the old road that leads eventually out of the valley of paradox.
Abbey's musings are mild compared with this screed by the outrageous Fred Reed, in which he pleads the case for human extinction:
We breed incontinently as flies, spread like impetigo, and burn and cut and poison and bulldoze. To what end? Why is a lake, solitary and wild, made better by a subdivision of six thousand units, with unnecessary children littering the pavement with plastic bottles while their parents gawp at televisions? Yes, I know. It is Progress. I just don't see why it is.

I wonder what the world must have been a million years ago, before our sordid race of moralizing apes arose to invent the sewage outfall, before we learned to perforate the floor of oceans and poison whole seas with the bile of the inner earth. Yes, I know of property rights and the desperate need for the economy to grow, though to what end I cannot imagine. It seems to me that we should strive to shrink the economy. Pelicans and seals do not grow their economies and, I think, seldom use bulldozers. Yet they prosper.
Related post: Misanthropy.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?