June 24, 2010

The tonic of wildness

It's not snake oil.

El Cabrero has been listening these days to a recording of Paul Hawken's Blessed Unrest: How The Largest Movement In the World Came Into Being. It's not as fun as the gross vampire novel I mentioned earlier this week, but one cannot live on popcorn.

In the book, Hawken credits Henry David Thoreau with being a founder of both the environmental and social justice movements. I think he has a point, although I don't picture Henry as much of a movement guy. He was an enthusiastic abolitionist and critic of the predatory war against Mexico.

There's no way to deny that his writings were very influential in the early environmental movement, especially in terms of consciousness raising. Here's an eloquent example of this from Walden:

We need the tonic of wildness,--to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of Nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and Titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander...

The wild, alas, has been taking some major hits lately.

PILING ON. Here's another argument about how deficit mania could actually make the recession worse.

OUR BIGGEST DEFICIT might be one of confidence.

SHELTER FROM THE STORM. The Obama administration this week unveiled and ambitious plan to end homelessness in 10 years.

FEELING PHILOSOPHICAL? Here's a long interview with Martha Nussbaum, who in my book is one of the best.


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