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Camping Manifesto (editorial)
“If we listen to the land, we will know what to do.” - Terry Tempest Williams
Progress, Prog-ress, noun. "Advancement toward maturity or completion; gradual development, as of mankind or civilization; improvement."
We grew up hearing about the inevitability of progress.
When I was a toddler, in 1950, the population of the eleven western United States was about 20 million people. Early in the twenty first century, the population of the same area is about 70 million. Demographers believe I will live to see the population of this region top 100 million - 500% growth over the space of one lifetime!
Before I had gray in my hair, in 1980, the United States national debt was under 1 trillion dollars. As I write this, in 2012, the debt has passed 15 trillion dollars.
We consume more energy and raw materials than our parents and grandparents. We produce more waste than previous generations.
Health experts tell us we face an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Biologists tell us our profligacy is causing worldwide species extinction. Climatologists believe our lifestyle is changing the climate of the planet.
We are not making progress.
Ms. Williams has the answer.
For thousands of generations people called wilderness home. They lived in a perpetual state of “camping.” People were hunters and gatherers, and roamers of wild country. Henry Thoreau believed this constant association with wilderness birthed a great mother love of wild nature in all people. Thoreau routinely took off sauntering throughout the backwoods of New England to foster and nourish his affection for nature.
David Brower was an advocate of listening to the land. When writer John McPhee asked Brower about his faith in the efficacy of wild nature Brower responded, “We are here.”
If we want to continue to be “here,” we must put aside our existing dogmas and follow the advice of Thoreau, Brower and Williams. Go sauntering and listen to the land. Environmentalists promote the Wilderness Act as an environmental palliative. It is, but the Act emphasizes that areas are set aside for the use and enjoyment of people. We are the species impacting the world. We are the species in greatest need of natural habitat.
Every county, state and province, every political division and subdivision - all around the world - needs to provide natural habitat for people.
No matter one’s religion, political or personal philosophy, we all live on the same finite planet and dip from the same pool of resources. We will transcend our differences and find the proper paths to a better future by listening to the land together.
Free access to substantially natural land for the purpose of sauntering, camping and listening to the land is an essential right of human beings, everywhere.
Don Tryon, January 2012