Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#304 / In Wildness...

The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild, and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the World. Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind. . . .

The quotation above is from Henry David Thoreau, and this quotation has given the title to a stunning book of photographs by Eliot Porter. 

In Wildness Is The Preservation of the World was first published by the Sierra Club in 1962, and no book like it had ever been published before. It was an incredible celebration of the natural world, but it also carried a cautionary message. As David Brower said in his introduction: "To me it seems that much of what Henry David Thoreau wrote, more than a century ago, was less timely in his day than it is in ours: we can now prove that the natural and civilized must live together or perish separately."

In fact, our world is "preserved" in wildness because all we do and create within our human sphere depends, ultimately, on the world of nature, which we do not and cannot create ourselves.

This observation was timely in Thoreau's time, as Americans set out to "conquer" the West. It was timely when Brower' wrote his introduction, almost a full decade before the enactment of the federal laws that established "the environment" as a cause worth defending. 

It is timely now.

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