Man, Man, and Again Man

"Qualis aitifex pereo"

I cannot remember a time when I was not what would be called an environmentalist. I spent much of my childhood on an earth unconstricted by concrete streets and unburdened by the weight of buildings. I was never happier than when I was out fishing with my father or picking berries with my sister, or helping friends with their traps. Until we moved near Charleston, I had never seen a city that did not deface the landscape, and to this day I prefer, when I am traveling, to spend my time in the countryside.

This is not to say that I am necessarily a misanthropist, at least not for this reason. Actual wilderness is something to reserve for rare occasions: the experience of wilderness is as brutal and depersonalizing as falling in love, while our everyday contacts with the cultivated parts of the natural world seem more like marriage or friendship. Robinson Jeffers sometimes wrote as if he preferred hawks to human beings, and when he complained of all the people moving to Big Sur, his wife suggested that they move to Alaska. Jeffers replied that landscape, untouched by humanity, was without interest.

There are places in the world where man, working over the generations, has sculpted landscapes that serve his needs, his desperate need for beauty as well as his need for food. There are parts of Umbria and Southern England that prove that...

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