On this March 14, 2007, we come on yet another anniversary of the death of Edward Paul Abbey, now 18 years ago. It’s a cliché to say so much has changed, and yet, so much has changed. And so much is the same, only more so.
Of course, Ed foresaw the world we decry today, the corporate excess, the continuing and accelerating destruction of the wild. He would not be shocked and awed by the world today, just saddened even more that we have been completely unsuccessful at even slowing down the trends he saw so clearly. He would probably not even set foot in Arches today, with its new road and “visitor’s center.” The long line of SUVs climbing the road to the entrance is enough to dissuade anyone from entering yet another environmental Disneyland. And Moab will be abandoned with the rest of the doomed cities, to the sand, the coyote and the lonely circling buzzards.
Furthermore, the continuing commodification of wilderness as a tourist destination is increasingly evident, thus, the denial of wildness in human experience. Even the designation of wilderness as a category of management places wildness, that anarchic concept of lack of management, into the management regime of the computer-tapers, the form-completers, the petty bureaucrats, the governments toadies and corporate sycophants. Hank Thoreau’s quotation, “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” has been forever bastardized into “In wilderness…” thus forever distorting the meaning into human management of the wild, and totally missing the critical implications in the word “wildness.”
Ed told us so many times that humans are wild animals, and we ignore his admonition at our own risk. We adopt the trappings of sane and civilized human beings, while all the time acting and reacting as the wild animals that we are, albeit trapped in a technocratic civilization that will be the death of civilization and the birth of… something else. If we’re very lucky, Mother Nature’s just and impartial hand will guide us back to the wild before we can do much more damage.
Happy anniversary, Ed, on your grand transformation. Those of us left behind continue with the struggle, each in our own way, inspired by your vision, missing your acid lash, contenting ourselves with your words inscribed in black and white on much dog-eared pages.