"In every biotic community, there are story lines which fiction writers would give their eyeteeth for: Desert tortoises with allegiances to place that have lasted upward of 40,000 years, dwarfing any dynasty in Yoknapatawpha County. Fidelities between hummingbird and montane penstemon that make the fidelities of Port William, Kentucky, seem like puppy love. Dormancies of lotus seeds that outdistance Rip Van Winkle's longest nap. Promiscuities between neighboring oak trees which would make even Nabokov and his Lolita blush. Or all-female lizard species with reproductive habits more radical than anything in lesbian literature.
"And yet, with the myriad stories around and within us, how many of them do we recognize as touching our lives in any way?"
* Gary Paul Nabhan
Nabhan is among 30 writers who discuss the need for wilderness in our lives in Place of the Wild: A Wildlands Anthology. Editor David Clarke Burks, who teaches at the University of Oregon, organizes the essays into narratives about how people connect to the land, frameworks with which to think about these connections, and dispatches from activists working to preserve wild spaces. Many of the contributors are active in the Wildlands Project, a group whose long-term goal is nothing less than the re-establishment of wildlands over half of North America by 2300. Writers include Alison Deming, Dave Foreman, Bill McKibben, Gary Snyder and Terry Tempest Williams, who tell us that preservation efforts must stretch beyond isolated spots to protect vast ecosystems. Without wildlands, Burks writes, "we will lose access not only to the natural world but to the original place of the human spirit."
Island Press, Washington, D.C., 1994. $29.95 cloth, $16.95 paper. 340 pages.
* Chip Giller