"By retaining one's love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable."
With the death of Edward Abbey, aged 62, in March of last year, the Western portion of what once was really the United States lost her greatest defender of the post-World War II era. And Americans everywhere—but especially those whose Anglo-Saxon heritage is not for them a cause for guilt-ridden anxiety—lost one of their most courageous spokesmen. For during a time when liberalism and conservatism have become virtually indistinguishable from each other, here was a writer with a growing audience who combined the profoundly old-fashioned American values of fierce independence and respect for the natural environment with isolation in foreign affairs. Edward Abbey was part Thoreau and Lysander Spooner—with a heavy infusion of John T. Flynn and Charles Lindbergh. Born and raised on a farm in northern Appalachia, he hitchhiked in his late teens throughout the West and in 1947, after military service in Italy, returned to the Southwest, where he spent the remaining 42 years of his life.
Classified—and often simply dismissed—as a "nature" writer, Abbey studied philosophy at the University of New Mexico. And although no author of recent decades was better able...