This piece was originally published in Home! A Bioregional Reader, edited by Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant, and Eleanor Wright, New Society Publishers, copyright 1990.
Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization.
Wilderness was never a homogeneous raw material. It was very diverse, and the resulting artifacts are very diverse. These differences in the end-product are known as cultures. The rich diversity of the world’s cultures reflects a corresponding diversity in the wilds that gave them birth.
For the first time in the history of the human species, two changes are now impending. One is the exhaustion of wilderness in the more habitable portions of the globe. The other is the world-wide hybridization of cultures through modern transport and industrialization….
To the laborer in the sweat of his labor, the raw stuff on his anvil is an adversary to be conquered. So was wilderness an adversary to the pioneer.
But to the laborer in repose, able for the moment to cast a philosophical eye on his world, that same raw stuff is something to be loved and cherished, because it gives definition and meaning to his life.
Excerpted from A Sand County Almanac.
Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) was a naturalist, scientist, author, and professor whose ideas about environmental ethics and wildlife preservation significantly shaped the environmental and bioregional movements. After studying at the recently formed Yale School of Forestry, he worked for the Forest Service, where he was instrumental in developing a scientific approach to wildlife management. He was a professor of game management at the University of Wisconsin, and co-founded the Wilderness Society in 1935. His book A Sand county Almanac, published posthumously in 1949, is a classic of the environmental movement.
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