Wilderness and wild spaces, even not so wild open spaces in urban areas, are increasingly under attack by gearheads, young recreationists and self-centered entitlement aficionados. Their mantra is “antiquated laws,” which they chant whilst lobbying policy makers to change or rescind regulations to allow them unfettered access to places that have been long protected for their unique natural values.
No one is surprised by this contradictory behavior. Humans have always been masters at straining at gnats and swallowing camels. Popular human culture is replete with self-defeating behavior by a populace in thrall to consumerism and corporate personhood.
It remains for us 60ish conservationists to trod heavily in our expensive hiking boots in the path of the unknowing, youthful recreational enthusiasts, while we still have the gumption, intestinal fortitude and energy left to defend the wild at every opportunity, stand in their faces and so to them, “No, you will not destroy this wild place.
These laws regulate behavior that is destructive to the very characteristics of wild lands that make them attractive to humans in the first place. Those screaming the loudest for access are lobbying for the right to destroy that which they profess to enjoy.
What they refuse to understand is that environmental laws and regulations do not exclude anyone from these areas. It is behavior that is excluded, not individuals or groups of humans.
This past week, my wife and I celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act by hiking into the Hoover Wilderness in the east Sierra above Mono Lake.
No toys, no gear, just us and our feet, eyes, ears, noses and skin. It was a healing walk, away from the din of what passes for civilization in the “developed” world.
“But love of the wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need – if only we had eyes to see.” – Ed Abbey