Life on Earth.

Author:Conniff, Ruth
Position:EDITOR'S NOTE - Editorial
 
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Almost every story in this issue of the magazine is about human beings' relationship to the Earth.

These relationships are both intensely personal and highly political. Terry Tempest Williams writes about touring Theodore Roosevelt National Park with her father, who spent his whole working life laying pipeline throughout the western United States. She describes how she and her dad respond in different ways to the wilderness, and to the shocking encroachment by the massive fracking operation visible on the horizon, where the Bakken oil field is creeping up on the park.

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Williams's relationship with her father reads like a metaphor for the relationship between nature-loving environmentalists and the pragmatic, industrial forces in our society. She paints a picture of the inextricable bonds between these different strands in our culture. And, in a hopeful way, she shows how we might move toward a shared vision of our relationship to the land and to each other.

Wendell Berry, the great poet, essayist, and chronicler of rural Kentucky life, contemplates the ways in which human beings live on the land, and points out the fundamental difference between "the industrial economy of inert materials and monetary abstractions and an authentic land economy that must include the kindly husbanding of living creatures." Neither liberals nor conservatives have stood up to the ravaging of farmland by the industrial economy, Berry writes. What we need, he suggests, is a new way of thinking about how we live on the planet--one defined not by the ethos of limitless growth and limitless individual freedom, but by good care for the land and its creatures. That care requires us to live within limits.

That insight could guide our modern environmental movement, from the green power revolution that Harvey Wasserman celebrates, to the battle to save the quickly disappearing coral reefs David Helvarg writes about (a battle he is helping to lead, as director of the ocean conservation group Blue Frontier), to the historic fight between defenders of the Boundary Waters wilderness and mining interests which Sally Franson and Mrill...

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