Desert Solitaire: Through the Eyes of a Park Ranger

I am personally considering becoming a park ranger at some point in my life so as you can imagine, reading Desert Solitare was more than a joy for me to read. Just reading Edward Abbey express his passion and care for the forests he constantly watches over is so fascinating to read and definitely puts him up on my top idol list, seriously it does. Although his harsh criticism and angst against the issues with the Park Service system and technology may repel most readers, I find his angry honesty to bring up excellent points and really remind us of issues we either ignore or are unaware of.

Arches National Park

Edward Abbey is a park ranger for the Arches National Monument. His writing is so descriptive and expressive, it is almost like the wilderness is forming around you as you read his book. He talks about his wonderful experience as a park ranger and short stories of what has happened in the wilderness he watches over. From pulling out a dead body from the wild to letting a snake eat the mice in his trailer, he has some crazy stories from his time as a park ranger. What really draws me into the book are his arguments with how superficial and ignorant we have become that we do not know or care about our surrounding environment. According to Abbey, this has to do with the mainstream culture and its influence on us.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, a book I’ve been wanting to read since I saw the cover. This picture came to mind while reading this book because it’s sorta true.

“My God! I’m thinking, what incredible shit we put up with most of our lives-the domestic routine (same old wife every night), the stupid and useless and degrading jobs, the insufferable arrogance of elected officials, the crafty cheating and the slimy advertising of the businessmen, the tedious wars in which we kill our buddies instead of our real enemies back home in the capital, the foul, diseased, and hideous cities and towns we live in, the constant petty tyranny of automatic washers and automobiles and TV machines and telephones—! Ah Christ!, I’m thinking… what intolerable garbage and what utterly useless crap we bury ourselves in day by day, while patiently enduring at the same time the creeping strangulation of the clean white collar and the rich but modest four-in-hand garrote!” (Abbey 155)

He targets our everyday routines from the luxuries we own to the same old people we interact with to the competitiveness of our society. Abbey talks about how we could potentially be very developed and better people if we did not try to fit into such a “degrading” and “diseased” society filled with different aspects that decrease our talents and good personal qualities.

As I read through the book, Abbey’s writing to me was very similar to Henry Thoreau’s Walden which I happen to be reading for another class called Environmental Ethics. Both Abbey and Thoreau argue that most people are so consumed by luxuries therefore they are ignorant of the bigger world around them, mainly the natural part of the world. They both offer the ugly truth that no one wants to hear because it is too horrible to think about. Reading both books has given me both good views from different authors. While Thoreau discusses how people should embrace the natural world and learn how to live without unnecessary luxuries, Abbey bluntly talks about how we take the natural world for granted and often exploit it thanks to our ignorance and selfishness.

Both Abbey and Thoreau wrote their books many years ago and have long past yet their teachings still live on, even in the classrooms considering I’ve read both for two different classes. I personally believe people are beginning to improve on environmental issues and pay more attention to supporting the natural world. One question I have is from the time their work was published to now, has the state of the world and ourselves improved? Have we learned anything about treating the wilderness with more care and respect?

I honestly hope I am able to enter the Ecotourism job world because I would really like to carry on Abbey’s words through my actions of protecting the environment while letting people have a vacation without harming the world around us.


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