Desert Solitaire (Abbey)
Desert Solitaire was a colorful collection of Edward Abbey’s experiences as a Park Ranger at Arches National Monument in Utah. The stories he shared were often poetic and insightful, but I found some sections extreme. For example, while I appreciated Abbey’s openness in discussing death, I found the story of the Uranium prospector and his son who died after an altercation with his wife’s lover unnecessarily graphic and his pride in unintentionally killing a rabbit cruel. His depictions of death highlight a certain predictability (like the old rancher anticipating his own death) and unpredictability (like an owl grabbing a rabbit) that reveal death as a natural and truly wild part of wilderness. Abbey explores the wildness of the landscape in nearly every story he tells, starting with his arrival at his lodging (which he eventually chooses to abandon for a more rustic structure) and gradually expanding to peaks and valleys throughout the Park.
In spite of the few parts I was bothered by, Abbey’s writing overall was thought provoking and profound. I connected particularly to his argument against industrial tourism. I appreciated Abbey’s suggestions for the future of National Parks. His plan includes ending of construction on new roads to make parks “for the people” again. He is adamant that the best way to experience and preserve the value of parks, is to keep most motorized vehicles out. This idea makes a lot of sense to me, especially when paired with his suggestion to increase the amount of ranging Park Rangers do to serve the influx of visitors out exploring off roads. I would love to see people using National Parks as a place to take their time, actually exploring nature. I’ve been on a number of road trips to National Parks, primarily in the West and Midwest, and can say that I’ve never experienced any park the way Abbey experienced Arches National Monument. Even when my family camps in a National Park, we never stray too far from our car; if we kayak or canoe on a river, we’re always returned to our campsite by some sort of shuttle. I would love to have the sort of adventures Abbey suggests people having at parks.
After living and working alone for so long, Abbey’s discussion of solitude and loneliness was also interesting to me. He mentions that the time he felt most lonely was when he sat in his house. The comforts and Western decorations (like Venetian blinds) served as reminders that he had no company and made him feel lonely; however, he reveals that reconnecting with nature was an effective remedy. Because of the way that nature is able to remind us that there is still plenty of stuff that we cannot understand and that we are able to be a part of something grand, I understood where Abbey was coming from with this sentiment.
In the end, I was glad to have read Abbey’s thoughts and reflections, but his writing style was not my favorite. I was so interested in what he had to say, but the way he said it really got under my skin at times. I would love to further discuss the ideas of community and solitude in the wild (the benefits of each)- as well as the likelihood of Abbey’s anti-industrial tourism National Parks plan being implemented.
“Ebola had killed third of world’s gorillas, chimpanzees”
By Wilson Dizard
This article brought to my attention the fact that a significant number of deaths of gorillas and chimpanzees are attributable to Ebola. I would like to see more recent, scientific, peer reviewed papers regarding this topic (which I will certainly explore before class!), but regardless of the number of deaths caused, the article’s main point fascinates me. The intersection of human and animal lives can be dangerous for a lot of reasons, and disease is certainly one of them. I feel very strongly about conserving and protecting endangered species and I love the Great Apes especially. This article points out though, that Ebola is a disease that requires an animal vector to maintain itself in human populations, meaning that contact with these animals would be improving the disease’s chances to further infect people. Ebola has been in the news quite a lot lately, but I’d been so concerned with keeping up with the human aspect of the disease’s impact, that I hadn’t considered the fact that the disease impacts other species.