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The Values of Solitude and Self-reliance

January 26, 2010

This week I’ve followed a lively listserv discussion about the wilderness values of solitude and self-sufficiency, the comodification of the wilderness experience and the potential to lose it all.   During the course of the discussion some pretty good wilderness quotes were put up.  They resonated with me, so I’m passing a couple along for your consideration:

     “Bureaus build roads into new hinterlands, then buy more hinterlands to absorb the exodus accelerated by the roads.  A gadget industry pads the bumps against nature-in-the-raw; woodcraft becomes the art of using gadgets.  And now, to cap the pyramid of banalities, the trailer.  To him who seeks in the woods and mountains only those things obtainable from travel or golf, the present situation is tolerable.  But to him who seeks something more, recreation has become a self-destructive process of seeking but never quite finding; a major frustration of mechanized society. . . .                                                                                                                                                         

     “Then came the gadgeteer, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer.  He has draped the American outdoors man with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them.  Gadgets fill the pockets, they dangle from the neck and belt.  They overflow the auto-trunk, and also the trailer.  Each item of outdoor equipment grows lighter and often better, but the aggregate poundage becomes tonnage.”   Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac.


     “I have the impression that the American sportsman is puzzled; he does not understand what is happening to him.  Bigger and better gadgets are good for industry, so why not for outdoor recreation?  It has not dawned on him that outdoor recreations are essentially primitive, atavistic; that their value is a contrast-value; that excessive mechanization destroys contrasts by moving the factory to the woods or to the marsh.

     ” The sportsman has no leaders to tell him what is wrong.  The sporting press no longer represents sport, it has turned billboard for the gadgeteer.  Wildlife administrators are too busy producing something to shoot at to worry much about the cultural value of the shooting.  Because everybody from Xenophon to Teddy Roosevelt said sport has value, it is assumed that this value must be indestructible.”  Joseph L. Sax, quoted from Recreation Policy on the Federal Lands (1978).

     “As conservation biologist Reed Noss puts it, ‘we need places where we can get lost, frozen, starved, or mauled by a grizzly.’  We need such places, even if we never visit them personally, because they embody precious lessons of restraint and humility in an increasingly technological and commercialized world.  Wilderness reminds us where we came from, where we are, and where we might be going.  It provides a larger context outside of ourselves in which to make sense of our lives and destinies.  Wilderness is a public good that must be protected.”  Paul Keeling.

     “To me, a wilderness is where the flow of wildness is essentially uninterrupted by technology; without wilderness the world is a cage.”  David Brower.

All reminiscent of my values, attitudes about cell-phones, signal beacons, and occasional rants.  So endth the lesson.

— Jim Margadant


One Comment leave one →
  1. January 26, 2010 9:53 pm

    Calvin Rutstrum.

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