Desert Solitaire Comments

Abbey’s writing of The Serpents of Paradise reminded me of Cronon’s idea of nature in his book Uncommon Ground. When Abbey is talking about his connection with the snakes he finds in the monument, he claim that he and the snake are “compatible” as friends. This reminded me of Cronon’s argument of nature: “nature is not nearly so natural as it seems. Instead, it is a profoundly human construction.” He claims that the nonhuman world interact with our values and assumptions about the world so that they are not easily separated from one another, that our rationale about the world has formed based on the definition we assigned to it. Similar with Abbey’s connections to the snake, and his interpretation of the snake’s favorite place to be inside his shirt, he is assigning meanings and interpreting the thoughts of the snake in order to connect with the nature. At the end of the story, the snake has disappeared. If the snake really had a connection with Abbey, why it is not coming back? How could Abbey know the true feelings of the snake?

By the Chapter of Polemic: Industrial Tourism and the National Parks, I could see Abbey’s position of preserving the nature environment inside the park as an environmentalist. His disagreement with making the park a place for tourism and building more constructions had brought me back to this summer when I was in the prairie in Inner Mongolia. As a volunteer traveller, I was working for a travelling agent who provides the tourists comfort “shelters” along the freeway crossing the prairie: to make the tourists know and feel the same way the ancient Mongolian people have lived, the agent build real tents similar to the ancient times, to make people feel a sense of history and nature. However, inside of the tent, there are comfort bathrooms and free wifi the ancient people never had. When Abbey mentioned that “we must make up our own minds and decide for ourselves what the national parks should be and what purpose they should serve”, I thought about the prairie. The ranchers on the prairie farm their animals such as cows, horses, dunks, goats, sheep, many different species there. And most of the Chinese eat their beef, lamb from the huge prairie. The main purpose of the prairie is to farm, and not just to amuse people who wants to feel a sense of nature and a sense of history there. There shouldn’t be much constructions for tourists. It is sad that I was one of them, but my intention was to discover about the ecology at the prairie, the story of the ancient Mongols and wolves, and see how people’s living conditions has changed today.

Our tents along the freeway

The freeway view when I was going for a bike trip

The freeway view when I was going for a bike trip

Horses eating the grass behind our tents

A few critics about Abbey’s work would be, first, I did not like his writing style, it seems more like telling his personal stories rather than discovering more connections to the nature. Second, I am not sure how he could achieve a nature place at the desert when he was there as the park ranger, which is a job to interact and to some extent interrupt the nature environment.

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