Desert Solitaire

xiv: “You’re holding a tombstone in your hands.” I think this sentence is a powerful way to explain that once nature is altered, it is hard – if not impossible – to restore it to its original state. This again brings up feelings of mourning that Sullivan expresses when he described the cedar stumps in the Meadowlands as a “pile of old bones” (Sullivan, 40).

21: “It seems to me possible, even probable, that many of the nonhuman undomesticated animals experience emotions unknown to us.” A good book to read on this issue is Next of Kin by Robert Fouts!

28-34: Porcupine overbreeding due to the Wildlife Services killing off predators like coyotes and mountain lions reminded me of Leopold’s essay “Thinking like a mountain.” While the howl of the wolf may instinctively sound threatening, Leopold points out there is a deeper meaning of protection behind the howl; predators are an essential component to a healthy ecosystem. This reflects Abbey’s comment that “We are kindred all of us, killer and victim, predator and prey…” (34). After a man is found dead in the desert, Abbey says, “His departure makes room for the living. A ruthless, brutal process—but clean and beautiful” (214), which shows how Abbey thinks largely from an ecological standpoint.

45-50. Abbey’s description of Industrial Tourism reminded me of advertisements I saw placed all over Union Station in Chicago. The advertisements had dramatic nature scenes with quotes like: “The desert is hot—absolutely scorching.” They seemed so out of place in the dark subway tunnels, but it was the perfect location to grab the attention of their target audience: people who want to “escape” from their fast-paced lives in a currently very cold city. I found the advertisements comical in a way, maybe because by setting up people’s expectations of a perfect, safe and relaxing trip, it takes away the very sense of adventure that these advertisements are promoting.

51-58: “But the chief victims of the system are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves” (51). Abbey talks about how machines from flashlights (13) to cars (233-234) separate humans from nature, but I think, to use Abbey’s words, balance is the secret. While some people may take advantage of machinery and miss out on the opportunity to explore and interact with nature on a more personal level, roads and vehicles give the opportunity for disabled people to see places they otherwise couldn’t.

96-97: Abbey describes society as “…a friend or friends or a good, friendly woman.” I have always associated society with a large population of people and their jobs/institutions they run, but society is defined as “company.” My perception of society shows how tied humans are to business and “productivity.” It is also interesting that Abbey states “…the one thing better than solitude…is society”(97), but at the same time he thinks a man’s best company is himself.

241: “Despite its clarity and simplicity, however, the desert wears at the same time, paradoxically, a veil of mystery.” There is a contrast throughout the book between nature as being a place of contentment and terror, life and death, a frontier and Eden; those paradoxes exemplify why the desert is such a good place to experience wilderness and such an interesting focus for a book.

Three Questions:

  1. Do you experience nature differently depending on if you are alone or with company?
  2. “No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread” (169). Why do you think wilderness is such a necessity?
  3. “It will be objected that a constantly increasing population makes resistance and conservation a hopeless battle. This is true. Unless a way is found to stabilize the nation’s population, the parks cannot be saved” (52). Has your view on conservation or how to approach conservation issues changed as a result of Abbey’s arguments?



A cattle range in Utah


Rock art at Nine Mile Canyon

I found an interesting article on the history of cowboys in Utah and the different viewpoints of Utah Navajos regarding the protection of sacred lands through government involvement. I also looked into petroglyphs and found an interesting article about different interpretations of petroglyphs.

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