Freedom from Blog

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Abbey's Polemic

So I've been reading Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire off and on, in the evenings and in spare moments. It is, in many ways, a beautiful book. But I have to say that his polemic against "industrial tourism" is a bit much. It's not because he doesn't make some good points--Americans are too dependent on their cars; there are too many roads in some national parks; the NPS needs to do more to protect "wilderness." Now, in some ways the NPS has improved on these points since Abbey's time. For example, Zion Valley is car-free.

I think that my largely negative reaction is partly a reaction to Abbey's misanthropy (and he is a misanthrope), partly by his apolitical stance. In terms of the latter, it is important that "ordinary," i.e., car-bound, Americans visit the national parks so that the NPS has at least diffuse political support. There just aren't that many John Muirs out there. The national parks need the support of people who want to drive their kids to see the Grand Canyon, for Pete's sake.


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