A eulogy for the West that was

  • Requiem for the West

  Mourning the loss of a special place has become a common plaint in the West. Changes in paradise always evoke regret and loss, especially when they happen on your watch and seem irrevocable.

Roger Brown, a 70-year-old filmmaker who lives near Gypsum, Colo., has written, photographed and self-published Requiem for the West, an impassioned lament for the changes he has seen in more than 40 years of mountain living. "Life is change," writes former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm in a preface to the book. "No civilization is ever static. Yet there is great nostalgia in my heart for Roger Brown’s Rocky Mountain West."

Brown is remorseful about the path of progress in the West, and remorseless in the anger he feels about it. He mourns the loss of soul and solitude, of small mountain towns and rural quaintness. "I care deeply about this land and many of the people who live on it, so I do not take lightly the task of being critical," Brown writes. "I would rather just close my eyes and ignore some of the things that have gone wrong, but some of us have to speak out."

His book will strike a chord in anyone who has watched a newly bulldozed subdivision take the place of a hay meadow, or encountered a congested mountain highway, or burned inside at the sight of drill rigs on the Roan Plateau, in the high places where the elk used to roam.

Still, hope springs eternal, even for an old curmudgeon: "Yes, the old West is dead and a requiem is appropriate," concludes Brown, "but there is still an opportunity to shape a new West that is not based on greed but on quality of life … Speak out, behave yourself, be kind to Nature, think in the long term, and listen to your heart."

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