The Old Desert Rat
The new Sun magazine has some letters from Ed Abbey, an iconic and complex figure of the environmental movement. A great critic, he was ,in my opinion, short on solutions. His theoretical work stopped short of systems analysis, leaving him unable to articulate WHY conditions and attitudes are how they are. He located power in "government" and corporations but never provided solutions beyond "monkey wrenching" or somehow changing your conciousness to embrace the "truth" of natural processes. For example:
"Having raised the question (concerning animal egalitarianism),I think I see the answer.In demanding that humans behave with justice, tolerance, reason, love toward other forms of life, we are doing no more than demanding that humans be human- that is, be true to the best aspects of human nature."
First of all, he mistakenly equates "egalitarianism", equality, with the question of being "better" than other animals. ( animals tend to overrun their carrying capacity, humans can prevent themselves from doing so) Having a "moral sensitivity unknown to other animals" would not make us unequal, it would make us dissimilar, a great distinction. But more to the point, who is doing the "demanding" in his answer? Having not located any power, such a demand rings hollow, and species, habitat and landscapes continue their decline. He hopes we would be true to the "best aspects of human nature" but it is obvious by now, certainly, that mere "hope" doesn't cut it.
Abbey famously opposed immigration and "massive tax-payer funding for the terminally sick", positions for which he got a lot of flack from the left , and which he spent a great deal of time defending. Seeing only the detrimental effects of over- population, he concerned himself only with stopping these effects at our national border. Once again, a lack of ability to see more than the "particular" limited his ability to strategize ,or effect real change beyond ,perhaps ,inspiration.
He states: "The ugliest thing in America is greed, the lust for power and domination, the lunatic ideology of perpetual Growth.." Reducing the problem to a pathology, his best advice is for humans to "learn to walk again".He strictly avoids the political realm, although in fairness, he does recommend Chomsky. I like this piece of advice, given to someone who wanted him to suggest a "great four wheel drive trip".
"The ideal off road journey? Ill tell you: under water.I would like to see every four-by-four on earth, every three wheeler, every dirt bike,trail bike andBig Foot truck driven straight into the Marianas Trench ..and parked there-left there-for the duration.
For the duration of what?For the duration of this techno-industrial-commercial slime mold that is transforming our planet into one vast battleground of Cretins against Nature." Sure, but what produces "Cretins" or "slime mold"? He never really suggested anything.
The old curmudgeon leaves us with this slightly pessimistic view: "No wonder the galaxies recede from us in every direction..They are frightened. We humans are the Terror of the Universe." It does not necessarily have to be so ,Ed.