Sunday, May 01, 2005

The world becomes a wee bit more wild again . . .

. . . with the the recent announcement of confirmed sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker. See also
this story at The Nature Conservancy's website.
Full disclosure: ever since some time during my grade school years, I've been fascinated with the story of ivory-bills. Some of that may have had to do with a trip my family had taken to the Big Thicket, in East Texas, before it had become a national preserve. At some point, though, I felt or thought that if the ivory-bill indeed was still in existence, it would be there. It's not, alas, so I can't indulge in a bit of boosterism on behalf of my home state here in the blogosphere. But no matter; the ivory-bill's existing ANYWHERE in the wild matters more than where it exists.
My long-time readers know of my approval of Barry Lopez's essay "Landscape and Narrative" (those wanting a brief discussion of it can go here). Something that Lopez's essay also makes me think about is that his notion of internal and external narratives is transferrable to the idea of a national narrative. That is, the people of a nation, as they consider the outward acts taken by a government, should feel an inner resonance within themselves as members of that nation in a manner that transcends politics if that outward act affirms that inner sense. Of course, such an idea has profound political consequences, but what I have in mind is a more cultural sense. And I personally have always had the strong internal sense that the Wilderness Act is one of those actions: surely one of the central themes of the American "narrative" is the idea of the existence of wild spaces, and the Wilderness Act makes so their continued existence. Yes: it seems a bit postmodern, not to say perverse, to have to "designate" wilderness areas; but the greater good is that the IDEA of wilderness is preserved in some outward, physical expression. We as a people are enriched by their existence even if we ourselves may never visit those places; they help keep intact a crucial element of our national identity. And this seems to me an idea that should cut across political boundaries of all sorts as we ponder the wise stewardship of our world and its resources: that wilderness is a cultural resource.
The ivory-bill's rediscovery does all this as well. We may never go to Arkansas to see it, but we are better as a nation, as a people, for having it.

1 comment:

fearful_syzygy said...

A damn sight more impressive than the BBC's rendition of the bluethroat robin, at any rate. That is quite clearly a fake picture; they've simply (rather inexpertly) Photoshopped a picture of a normal robin for the purposes of this piece, wouldn't you say? It must be pretty rare if the Beeb is forced to take such desperate measures.

Also, just to show how far gone on the consumerist path I am, when you wrote IDEA in capitals, I initially read it as IKEA. :-/

My, what a pointless comment. Sorry.