“CACTUS ED” ABBEY ON MY MIND

“The earth is not a mechanism, but an organism.”                   Ed Abbey, The Journey Home

[Being in the Southwest] “is a treasure best enjoyed through the body and the spirit…, not through commercial plunder.”                                                       Ed Abbey, The Journey Home

“Are we going to ration the wilderness experience?”                 Ed Abbey, The Journey Home                              delicate-arch-arches-national-park-utah

Delicate Arch, Canyonlands, from Internet

The more I experience of man’s inhumanity to the Planet, –especially in overpopulated, pipe-line-threatened New Jersey–, the more I need Ed Abbey at my side. 

Right now, horrified at the success of the multi-billion-dollar-funded Climate Change Deniers (see This Changes Everything – Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein), I’m reading Adventures with Ed by Jack Loeffler.  The  author hiked and ate and drank and discussed and even fought with Ed during his lifetime. 

The two made a solemn pact that neither would let the other die in a hospital.  A pledge Loeffler was barely able to keep, but did.  The secret burial site required by Ed was facilitated, honored and often visited by Loeffler.  He would bring beer, –one poured for Ed; one drunk by himself, whenever he made that pilgrimage.

Everything about which we have been warned by Naomi Klein and 350.org and James Hansen and and Elizabeth Kolbert and Bill McKibben and probably even Rachel Carson and even the Nobel Prize Committee and Al Gore, is described in chapter and verse of anything by and about Abbey. 

A professed non-naturalist and determined “desert rat”, — who claimed to want to turn into a vulture upon dying–, Ed showed us the Southwest as the Poster Child for military/industrial/Big Coal/Big Gas/Big Copper ruinations.

McKibben issued his clarion call when The End of Nature was published in 1989.  He is still calling.  Abbey’s pivotal Desert Solitaire brought us to attention to commercial despoilations of our planet, especially in the Southwest, in 1968   Is anybody listening?

My first attention to the plight of our pPlanet came through Ed’s articles, as  well as through his seminal non-fiction work, Desert Solitaire. 

My first protests began and accelerated with the proposal to dam the Grand Canyon (!yes!) and another to build an enormous coal-fired generating station on the Kaiparowits Plateau, fouling the Four Corners region sacred to countless Indian tribes.

In those enlightened days, popular magazines published words and memorable images of the beauties we seemed fated to lose, as we now stand to lose New Jersey’s last green spaces to Pipelines conspiracies.  That’s when I joined the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, and ‘adopted whales’ through a Provincetown non-profit, as my daughters’ main Christmas presents.

Ed, whom I did not yet ‘know’ from that one volume (still most successfully in print) said it first.  Working as I do for D&R Greenway Land Trust, though I am speaking here as my very private, very opinionated self, I see perils to nature at every turn.  Some of which incursions we can prevent, and in some cases turn around.  Every year of the benighted 21st Century, it becomes more and more clear to me that Ed was a remarkable prophet, as well as a stirring author.  (Read his novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, if you don’t believe me.)

Ed is carefully quoted by Jack Loeffler, –from a speech Abbey was asked to give to St. John’s College in Santa Fe, in his beloved New Mexico:  “WILDERNESS IS WORTH SAVING FOR ITS OWN SAKE.”  This was 1975.  “Not for human benefit or pleasure.  Wild things and wild places have a right to exist and to continue existing…  Bees. birds, animals, snakes, buzzards, bugs, whatever, have a legal and moral right to continue. Even rocks have the moral right to continue being rocks.”

Those of you who read my US 1 (Business) Newspaper Cover Story on Four Shady Walks this week [princetoninfo.com], have absorbed my passion for the towering boulders of the Sourlands trail off Hopewell’s Greenwood Avenue.  This haven taught me that not only trees and flowers, animals and insects,  –but the very rocks themselves–, exude spirit.  One is changed, –of course for the better–, in their midst.  One is stilled, inspired and strengthened merely walking among them.  Even more-so, sitting upon the most majestic rocks at the end of the blue trail, their ancient reality, their connection to creation, seeps  into and surrounds one.

You who read this blog, who did read NJ WILD all those years with the Packet, have seen images of those rocks.  They impact me like Chartres and Mt. St. Michel.  But you must go there in timelessness.  You must allow them to realize that you are open to their beings, and sometimes, even their messages.  You might apologize aloud for humans who ferried them away and pulverized their eminences into gravel and Belgian blocks.  To say nothing of the angry and misguided who defaced them with (now effaced, but never forgotten) wild graffiti last fall.  You might also make amends to noble beech trees along the trail, scarred by (to me, inexplicable) human need to carve their initials upon their sacred skin.

Ed insists, and I have always agreed, the Bible has it wrong.  “Man was NOT put here to have dominion over all things…  The earth was here first, and all these living things before us.”  Ed, also, –whose great joy was scrambling over rocks and boulders, mountains and peaks, preferably in sere desert landscapes–, goes on to tell the St. John’s students:  “Is it not possible that rocks, hills, and mountains, may enjoy a sentience, a form of consciousness, which we humans cannot perceive, because of vastly different time scales?”  His most outrageous proposition, which I find irresistible, is “…consider that we are thoughts in the minds of mountains, or that all humanity is a long, long thought.”

His (temporary, for Ed never gave UP on these themes) conclusion is, “As mind is to body, so is humanity to earth.  We cannot dishonor one without dishonoring and destroying ourselves.”

The Intrepids and I turn together to Eleanor Roosevelt and Georgia O’Keeffe, to stiffen our spines for the battles demanded in the 21st Century, to carry on to victories small and large upon which the Planet’s very survival depends.  Privately, every single year, I turn to Ed.

Ed ruminates on reverberations of research: “Science leads to technology…, and industry.  It’s what [science] can lead to that could be bad… Things go wrong, and scientists (and the Army Corps of Engineers, adds Carolyn-of-New-Jersey) are called in to think up remedies.  More and more, the system comes to rely upon remedial tinkering.  It becomes ever more centralized until utter collapse is inevitable.”  Outrageous Ed dares to say “the sooner, the better”, which quip I do not applaud.  But his conclusion is essential, “Then, maybe, we can stamp out this blight, this cancer of industrialization.”

When our beautiful –state, with its marvelous green preserves of forest and farmland–, is reduced to a “What Exit?” joke…  When everyone’s view of this entity formerly known as The Garden is a plethora of tanks and chimneys and wires and overpasses.  When our sacred Shore is eyed by Big Power as one long limitless oilfield — it’s time to pay attention to Ed.  Read him.  Write letters to editors.  Protest every pipeline suggestion/appropriation.  Support your local land trusts, who are trying to turn the tide of ruination decried by Ed Abbey, the Hemingway of preservation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SIGN UP FOR FRIENDS OF THE EARTH & SAVE THE PLANET

Morning on Barnegat Bay Island Beach April 2016

Exquisite, Now Healthy, Barnegat Bay, thanks to Preservationists / Environmentalists

Some of you surely wonder why I’ve spent 11 going on 12 years at D&R Greenway Land Trust, at this phase of my life, and, yes, so poorly recompensed.  The answer is, my life mission has become to save the Planet.

New Dune Grass Bayhead April 2016

New Dune, New Dune Grass, Protecting Beloved Bay Head, New Jersey, April 2016

If you ever check me out on Facebook, that’s basically the only kind of ‘posting’ I do.  Once friends and I fought with minimal success to save Kingson’s Princeton Nursery Land from being sold and developed through Princeton University, into what was Villas of Tuscany and is now Barclay Square.  Hundreds of towering dwellings went in, where magnificent trees used to thrive, and so close to our Canal – drinking water for thousands locally  These condos are visible from the D&R Canal and Towpath, which is absolutely forbidden – and yet, and yet… significant exceptions were made.  The developers had the Princeton Nursery Lands deemed officially ‘nonhistoric’, triumphantly showing the signed and sealed document at a critical hearing concerning ‘Villas of Tuscany.’  ‘Nonhistoric’ although Washington had marched there with his barefoot troops after the first Revolutionary Victories, the two in Trenton and the one in Princeton; then, again, en route to crucial Monmouth and yet another win.  Abraham Lincoln rode the Camden and Amboy Railroad through that land en route to his Inauguration and his grave.  The Princeton Nurseries were the finest in America and some say in the world in its day.  The Canal, Towpath and that railroad defined New Jersey, determined its essential towns.  You can see the Barclay Square dwellings, symbol of our defeat, when down in a kayak on the water.

I mourned, just before that distant meeting over on the Delaware River (so no one could attend the hearing without taking precious scarce vacation days to be there) to one of the fellow protestors, whom I didn’t even know: “But I’m a poet.  What am I doing at the barricades?!?”

His answer propels almost everything I do these days, including walking into D&R Greenway in 2006 and saying, “Am I supposed to work with you?”

“Carolyn,” this stranger answered on the phone, “The barricades — that is where poets belong!”

First Kayak D&R Canal at Alexander Rd May 2015

Heading South from Alexander, 5 to 6:30 on a golden Sunday evening

This serenity is the norm on the D&R Canal, except where Barclay Square looms.  We did manage to save enough land to create a preserve, carefully watched over by the Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands.  My heroic fellow barricade-contenders in that long-ago fight are still in the forefront of saving and keeping Kingston and its sacred Revolutionary War and Industrial and Canal and Towpath and even Camden and Amboy Railroad sites as safe as they can possibly be from rapacious developers.  We have Karen Linder, Anne Zeman, Mark Peel, Tari Pantaleo and Robert von Zumbusch to thank for Kingston successes.  In fact, join Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands whether you ever set foot(e) in Kingston or not — for that canal and that river flow into the Raritan, its sacred Bay, and the sea, mantle of our blue planet.

GreatEgretfishing8-12-09

Great Egret Fishing the D&R Canal,  by Brenda Jones

The following thank you note just came in from Friends of the Earth.  The 21st Century can seem so hopeless, climate-wise, Planet-wise.  But small acts by committed people, as Margaret Mead asserts, are still changing the world.  “Indeed, this is the only thing that ever has,” she continues.  Read this.  Sign up of Friends for the Earth yourselves, financially and electronically.  Let’s prove all the skeptics wrong and save our Planet.

Read the effects of courageous acts by committed people, 21st-Century paradigm changers:

(bolds mine)   cfe

Dear Carolyn Foote,

I was just thinking about all we’ve achieved together in the past few months and I wanted to thank you for making it happen. Your activism makes a difference!

In fact, the activism of Friends of the Earth members like you in Maryland was crucial to passing the nation’s first law to ban bee-killing pesticides. Without your emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings with local legislators, the law wouldn’t have passed. Now, it’s time to take the fight to other states with similar bills on the table — and build momentum for national action on bee-killing pesticides.

On the national level, you’ve driven progress in our work to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The White House recently put a moratorium on all new coal leasing — which you helped make happen by signing petitions and writing to the President. 

And that’s not all — the Obama Administration has also postponed five oil and gas lease sales — taking a total of 125,136 acres of public land off the table for now. We’re gaining momentum thanks to the constant drumbeat from people like you telling President Obama to protect our public lands and climate. But we won’t stop until the President keeps ALL our fossil fuels in the ground.

By taking action online and in your community, you are saving bees and butterflies. You’re preventing the worst impacts of climate chaos. From local victories to progress on national issues, you’re driving our work forward. So thank you for all you’ve done, and keep up the good work!

Thanks for being a Friend of the Earth.

Warm Regards,
Erich Pica,

President,
Friends of the Earth