“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
‘The Abstract Wild: A Rant’ in The Abstract Wild by Jack Turner (1/5)
Turner is quoting Aldo Leopold with an ethic which, in the great scheme of things, probably deserves to outrank all the conventional moralities of civilized societies.
The authentic home for nature’s children is always within a unique – and uniquely complex – community of fellow creatures, plants and place. That’s Leopold’s “biotic community”. But for thousands of years humans have been uprooting and razing unique, place-bound communities of complex life, and that process has accelerated off the scale in recent decades. We’ve destroyed the habitats of others, and wrecked our own home, physically and spiritually, along the way. A crime, to put it mildly.
Turner directs his ire at the self-deception by which we hide from that horrible truth, for example when we substitute wild nature with Truman-Show simulcra in the form of tightly managed national parks. And more generally, when we idolize an “abstract wild” over the real wild, the experience of which is far greater and grander.
The world of Thoreau and Muir – the mid-nineteenth century – was bright with hope and optimism. In spite of that, they were angry at the loss of the wild and expressed their anger with power and determination. Our times are darker. We understand the difficulties confronting preservation more thoroughly than they did. Their optimism seems impossible at the end of this century. Our world looks backwards, obsessed with a dim memory of a world that now seems more – the only world is – real. Something vast and old is vanishing and our rage should mirror that loss.