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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 42 Times. This sharp decline is attributed to much death by drown- ing. The long-line fishing boats lay out lines with bait and hooks that go miles back, dragging just below the surface. An albatross will go for the bait, get hooked, and be pulled down to drown. As many as 100,000 a year are estimated to perish in this way, enough to threaten the survival of the species if it keeps up. What have the albatross, “Distinguished strangers who have come down to us from another world,” ever done to us? The editorial concludes, “The long-line fishing fleet is over-harvesting the air as well as the sea.” Out on the South Pacific in 1958, watching the soaring albatross- es from the stern of a ship, I could never have guessed that their lives would be threatened by industrial societies, turning them into “collateral damage” of the affluent appetite for ahi and maguro tuna species (my own taste, too). Yet this is just a tiny, almost insignifi- cant example of the long reach of the globalized economy and the consumer society into the wild earth’s remote places. A recent book on global logging and deforestation is titled Strangely Like War. What is happening now to nature worldwide, plant life and wildlife, ocean, grassland, forest, savannah, desert—all spaces and habitat— the non-human realm of watersheds and ecosystems with all their members, can be likened to a war against nature. Although human beings have interacted with nature, both cultivated and wild, for millennia, and sometimes destructively so, it was never quite like “war.” It has now become disconcert- ingly so, and the active defense of nature has been joined by a few artists and writers who have entered the fight on “the wild side,” along with subsistence peoples, indigenous spiritual lead- ers, many courageous scientists, and conservationists and envi- ronmentalists worldwide. There is a tame, and also a wild, side to the human mind. The tame side, like a farmer’s field, has been disciplined and culti- vated to produce a desired yield. It is useful but limited. The wild side is larger, deeper, more complex, and though it cannot be fully known, it can be explored. The explorers of the wild mind are often writers and artists. The “poetic imagination” of which William Blake so eloquently spoke is the territory of wild mind. It has landscapes and creatures within it that will surprise us; it can refresh us and scare us; it reflects the larger truth of our ancient selves, both animal and spiritual. The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once said something like “Art survives within modern civilization rather like little islands of wilderness saved to show us where we came from.” Someone once said that what makes writing good is the wildness in it. The wildness gives heart, courage, love, spirit, dan- ger, compassion, skill, fierceness, and sweetness—all at once—to language. From ancient times, storytellers, poets, and dramatists have presented the world in all its fullness: plants, animals, men This essay was originally presented at the Daesan Foundation’s International Literary Festival conference entitled “Writers Working for Peace” and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2006. NOV 40-47.indd 42 NOV 40-47.indd 42 8/29/07 2:09:45 PM 8/29/07 2:09:45 PM