r ‘4.4r -“s “”. . tf -r i ,EAk.c -R ‘ impact. “I climbed Clingman’s Dome last Sunday, looking forward to the great joy of undisturbed nature,” but to his consternation Marshall “instead heard the roar of the machines on the newly constructed road just below me and saw the huge scars which this new highway is making on the mountain.” His dismay only increased at hike’s end: “Returning to where a gigantic, artificial parking place had exterminated the wild mountain meadows in New Found Gap, I saw papers and the remains of lunches littered all over. There were about twenty automobiles parked there, from at least a quarter of which radios were blaring forth the latest jazz as a substitute for the symphony of the primitive.”The car had to go. But without it there would have been no Wilderness Society. As Sutter observes about the spontaneous October 1934 roadside confab, its participants “could not escape the fact that, literally as well as figuratively, the automobile and improved roads had brought them together that day” So had the New Deal’s energetic conservation agenda. In mobilizing vast federal resources to build dams throughout the Tennessee River valley, carve highways along elevated scenic routes, and construct recreational facilities amid mountain verdure, the Roosevelt Administration provided much-needed work to those most battered in the Great Depression, while opening up, if not defiling, some of the nation’s most pristine terrain. Many of the founding members of the Wilderness Society had worked for, were presently employed by, or were angling for jobs in such governmental agencies as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Forest and Park Services, or the TVA. In Sutter’s words: “The very conditions that prompted their collective concern had also enabled their concern. That paradox gave wilderness its modern meaning.” Qualifying his argument’s chronological reach is critical. After all, the intellectual hunger for a natural realm beyond human control stretches back millen nia, well before rubber hit the road. Although Sutter makes little effort to flesh out what the pre-modern wilderness values were, beyond inserting a few cameo appearances by Henry David Thoreau, perhaps that’s just as well. We’ve been fed such a steady diet of Sierra Club pablum about the call of the wild, further nourished by the seductive, achingly exquisite photographs that adorn the organization’s annual calendar, that it is hard to question the cultural assumptions behind the message. Nothing speaks to this problem more effectively than the cloying language of an in-house 2002 club advertisement urging members to protect the endangered land and rivers along the route of Lewis and Clark’s famed expedition. Set within a shot of an impossibly beautiful sunset spread against sky and water, through which floats a canoeist at rest, is this faux journal scribbling: “Sometimes lonely is a good thing. Beyond the occasional bird on the wing or rustle of branches, all is stillness here. My mind slows to the rhythm of the oars, and I feel as clear and serene as the lake spread before me.” By avoiding such tripe, Sutter gives hope that we might be capable of argu ing about wilderness \(as place and Certainly his protagonists did, and to be continued on page 22 8/2/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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