[Edward Abbey’s essay, “Freedom and Wilderness, Wilderness and Freedom” is a wonderful introduction to his environmental views.  It has all the hallmarks of Abbey’s nonfiction work including references to philosophy, economics, and politics, masterful descriptions and recollections, as well as his trademark intolerance for human stupidity in its myriad forms.  Rather than becoming dated with the passage of time, his work has become more relevant with each passing year.  jbm 1/27/2017]

“We need wilderness because we are wild animals. Every man needs a place where he can go to go crazy in peace.”

“Who needs wilderness? Civilization needs wilderness. The idea of wilderness preservation is one of the fruits of civilization, like Bach’s music, Tolstoy’s novels, scientific medicine, novocaine, space travel, free love, the double martini, the secret ballot, the private home and private property, the public park and public property, freedom of travel, the Bill of Rights, peppermint toothpaste, beaches for nude bathing, the right to own and bear arms, the right not to own and bear arms, and a thousand other good things one could name, some of them trivial, most of them essential, all of them vital to that great, bubbling, disorderly, anarchic, unmanageable diversity of opinion, expression, and ways of living which free men and women love, which is their breath of life, and which the authoritarians of church and state and war and sometimes even art despise and always have despised.  And feared.”

“I love America because it is a confused, chaotic mess-and I hope we can keep it this way for at least another thousand years. The permissive society is the free society, the open society. Who gave us permission to live this way? Nobody did. We did. And that’s the way it should be-only more so. The best cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.”

“As I see it, our own nation is not free from the danger of dictatorship. And I refer to internal as well as external threats to our liberties. As social conflict tends to become more severe in this country-and it will unless we strive for social justice there will inevitably be a tendency on the part of the authoritarian element-always present in our history-to suppress individual freedoms, to utilize the refined techniques of police surveillance (not excluding torture, of course) in order to preserve-not wilderness!-but the status quo, the privileged positions of those who now so largely control the economic and governmental institutions of the United States.”

“What has all this fantasizing to do with wilderness and freedom? We can have wilderness without freedom; we can have wilderness without human life at all; but we cannot have freedom without wilderness, we cannot have freedom without leagues of open space beyond the cities, where boys and girls, men and women, can live at least part of their lives under no control but their own desires and abilities, free from any and all direct administration by their fellow men.  “A world without wilderness is a cage,” as Dave Brower says.”


Credit:  Chapter 22 of The Journey Home: Some Words in the Defense of the American West (Plume) Paperback – January 30, 1991.  Copyright 1977 Edward Abbey.

pdf (full essay): http://www.brontaylor.com/courses/pdf/Abbey–WildernessFreedom.pdf

youtube (Abbey reads the essay): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8ikhzYX1nY

my thoughts on EA:  https://walkcheerfullyblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/writers-i-like