A High Uintas Bookshelf
In this column well list 2-4 interesting articles,
books or the like that have caught our attention. They arent necessarily
recent or recently read-- sort of a random compilation. Within a year, hopefully,
well have an established and detailed reading list. It wont be
complete without your additions. Please send suggestions and a descriptive
sentence or two.
This month’s reviews are by HUPC Coordinator Dick Carter (below) and long- time members Steve Mimnaugh and Nick Carling. Thanks for your contributions to The LYNX!
What are YOU reading? Why not
submit a review to these pages? We’d love to print your short review of a book or article. Send it to www.hupc.org Tell us what’s out there!
The End of the Wild. Stephen Meyer. MIT Press. 2006.
Not even a 100 pages long and small enough, no less, to carry in your back pocket. This is one of the Boston Review Books, “...accessible, short books that take ideas seriously.” Meyer is a political science professor who has minced no words in this very important book. His contention is simple-- one that we have written about extensively in this newsletter: there is a difference between wilderness and wildness. Slowly we have been taking the wild out of wilderness. We are not left with a barren world, as Meyer notes, rather a world barren of wildness but ironically chuck full of designated wilderness. As he writes, “Ecosystems will organize around a human motif, the wild will give way to the predictable, the common, the usual.” No grizz in the Uintas. No wolves in the Wasatch.
Public land, timber harvests, and climate mitigation: Quantifying carbon sequestration potential on U.S. public timberlands. Forest Ecology and Management 225(3-4): 1122-1134.
Remember all of those proposed and on-going timber harvests we discussed in the updates section of this newsletter? There are lots of reasons they should not go forward; this article describes another.
A no harvesting scenario, particularly on old, mature forests, would notably increase carbon sequestration; moving to more intensive harvesting would, of course, produce a “significant decline” in carbon sequestration. Of all agencies, the Forest Service should be guiding the climate change discussion. Its foundation, under Gifford Pinchot, was to move from the private commercialization of our national forests to resources that truly met the greatest need for the greatest number.
The Status of the World’s Land and Marine Mammals: Diversity, Threat and Knowledge. Science. Vol. 322: 225-230. 10 October 2008.
Literally, a page full of biologists took five years and collaborated with over 1,700 experts to best describe and determine the status and diversity of what is known about land and marine mammals worldwide. The data are freely available, as well, at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Animals. It goes without saying there are two remarkable conclusions: 1) The diversity and species richness describes the foundational beauty of mother nature; and 2) The future is bleak with a quarter of mammal species and a frightening 36% of marine mammals threatened with extinction. Onward we march.
Effect of exposure to a natural environment on health inequalities: an observational population study. The Lancet. V. 372, Issue 9650; 1655-1660. 8 November 2008.
The interpretation from the article itself tells it all: “Populations that are exposed to the greenest environments also have lowest levels of health inequality related to income deprivation. Physical environments that promote good health might be important to reduce socioeconomic health inequalities.”
Book review by Steve Mimnaugh
I recently read Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, a novel by Daniel Quinn (1992.) The human protagonist, who narrates in first person, has answered a newspaper ad: "Teacher Seeks Pupil: Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person." Upon arrival at the advertiser's office he finds a mature and educated gorilla named Ishmael in a glass enclosure who communicates with him telepathically. The person (no name required, could be any of us) agrees to become Ishmael's student.
Ishmael conducts a remarkable Socratic review of Earth's history and life on it, with social, biological, and spiritual implications dissected in a lively and enlightening fashion. Their interactive discourse covers evolution, tribalism, invention, ecology, starvation, war, extinction, and Homo sapiens' responsibility for the killing of Earth's life. A particularly striking analogy is drawn to describe man's clueless flight toward oblivion: a human is pedaling an old-fashioned flying machine off a cliff, thinking he is flying, but not noticing that the ground is getting closer and that annihilation is imminent. The teaching of the human by the gorilla creates a powerful symbol.
The dialogue builds an informed urgency for the reader to do something to stop destroying and start saving the Earth. The storyline itself also follows the relationship between gorilla and person, and poignantly parallels that between Earth and humankind. The reader is forced to seriously contemplate what constitutes sentience in non-verbal species and morality in humans.
Ishmael is a modern environmental classic and beloved spiritual quest to its many passionate and devoted fans (see www.Ishmael.org). I was late in experiencing Ishmael, and maybe many HUPC members already have. But if not, pick up the 263 page paperback and enjoy a fine read and renew your sense of urgent commitment to our planet.
Book review by Nick Carling
The West has many great non-fiction writers but I can’t think of any whose subject matter is as eclectic as Steve Trimble’s. His books range from a photographic history of the Grand Canyon, Pueblo pottery, Native Americans and natural history, to a children’s book. Trimble’s latest book, Bargaining For Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America, is a compelling and important book for all of us who are concerned about the future of our remaining open spaces. Trimble takes us through the process of how publicly owned Forest Service land, over 1300 acres, ended up in the hands of a wealthy businessman, without having to go through the normal public process for such a transaction.
Earl Holding, the wealthy owner of Sinclair Oil and the Sun Valley Ski Resort, had purchased the small Snowbasin Ski Resort located in Ogden Valley. Holding wanted to build another Sun Valley clone at Snowbasin but in order to do that he needed land-- Forest Service land-- and lots of it. The trouble came when the public waded into the arena. Groups like Save Our Canyons and others fought the size of the proposed land exchange. (For a comparison, Snowbird Ski Resort operates on only 45 acres of private land within Forest Service land.) Congressmen Jim Hansen, Utah Senators Hatch and Bennett, and the 2002 Utah Winter Olympics came to Holding’s rescue and made an end run around the pesky democratic and public process, taking the transfer directly to Congress.
The book is Trimble’s personal story with this process. He is there, walking the mountain as the ski runs are plotted and cut, talking with and interviewing those involved on both side of the issue, except for the very private Earl Holding, who comes across as a somewhat mysterious and mythical figure manipulating the process behind the scene. Trimble introduces us to interesting people like Ogden Valley ranching brothers Gale and Haynes Fuller, who scratch out a living in farming. At one point they turn down a woman’s offer to buy their land for her new house. When her offer is refused, she scolds Fuller: “You are selfish! This valley is too beautiful to farm.”
(Perhaps she had in mind a beautiful subdivision instead.)
Part way into the book the story turns to Trimble himself. Something happens while investigating the Snowbasin saga that confronts his opinions and judgments of the process of the development of open spaces: his own family’s decision to purchase and partially subdivide a small parcel of land outside of Torrey, near Capitol Reef National Park. In that one move, Trimble becomes a little like Earl Holding.
For me, this is where it gets very interesting because an environmentalist is faced with the contradictions of being not only a small land developer but also being labeled as a rich, educated outsider in a conservative Mormon area, and a “damn environmentalist” at that. The old time citizens of Wayne County view Trimble and the many hundreds of people like him with different ideas and lifestyles, moving into their area not much differently than the citizens of Ogden Valley view Earl Holding and what his new resort will mean for their valley: powerful people changing the balance. Trimble lays out the complexities and dichotomies we all face in the West when confronting our future and the land’s: conflicts between backpackers and ATVs, between having a small local ski resort or a mega resort, between rural communities and affluent urban outsiders coming in to build second homes.
Bargaining for Eden (The Ogden Valley town or the biblical garden?) is our story, an American story, a story of our time. Trimble is an optimist at heart and sees hope for the land’s future. But it will take the Earl Holdings and Steven Trimbles and rural citizens and environmentalists and the wave of second home owners to sit down at the table and start talking to each other and try to find common ground to solve our common problems. If we don’t, there may not be anything in the West recognizable.