Who is Edward Abbey?


Better yet, let’s phrase the question as Ed himself would have: Who the hell is Edward Abbey? Sol’s first blog pays tribute to the man who penned our tagline: “Who needs wilderness? Civilization needs wilderness,” from his essay Freedom & Wilderness, Wilderness & Freedom ( The Journey Home).
The first time I heard this particular essay I was driving the washboard dirt roads of Utah’s West Desert (there’s a reason you never heard of this place) in the State’s Ford Bronco, searching for spotted frogs with the rest of a crew of young and hopeful wildlife biologists seasonally employed by the Division of Wildlife. The book on tape was narrated by old Ed himself, and if I close my eyes long enough I can almost hear the dry, but impassioned delivery of his own words; I can feel the desert sun on my arms; I can see across miles of vast desert emptiness and smell nothing but earth – punctuated by the occasional stench of cow pie.
Now that I’ve lived within the urban confines of Washington, D.C. for five years, this particular essay has more meaning for me, and inspires me as I introduce others to the beauty of wilderness.

“The wildest animal I know is you, gentle reader, with this helpless book clutched in your claws…we need wilderness because we are wild animals. Every man needs a place where he can go to go crazy in peace. Every Boy Scout troop needs a forest to get lost, miserable, and starving in. Even the maddest murderer of the sweetest wife should get a chance to run for the hills. If only for the sport of it. For the terror, the delirium..Because we need brutality and raw adventure. What makes life in our cities at once still tolerable, exciting, and stimulating is the existence of an alternative option, whether exercised or not, whether even appreciated or not, of a radically different mode of being out there, in the forests, on the lakes and rivers, up in the
mountains. The boundary around a wilderness area may well be an artificial, self-imposed, sophisticated construction, but once inside that line you discover the artificiality beginning to drop away; and the deeper you go, the longer you stay, the more interesting things get – sometimes fatally interesting. And that too is what we want: wilderness is and should be a place where, as in Central Park, New York City, you have a fair chance of being mugged and buggered by a shaggy fellow in a fur coat, one of Pooh Bear’s big brothers. To be alive is to take risks; to be always safe and secure is death.”

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