Wallace Stegner’s Wilderness Letter, written in 1960, promotes the “Wilderness Idea." He considered the wild to be ...an intangible and spiritual resource. He mourned the losses of wilderness that, as he saw it, have led to ...a lost chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical, and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, brother to the other animals, part of the material world and competent to belong to it… He feared we would find ourselves without chance for even momentary reflection and rest, claiming that we need to preserve wilderness ...because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed. The reminder and reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health, even if we never once in ten years set foot in it.
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it. (Genesis 1:28) Wallace Stegner names this the call to be a weed species. We have become a weed species and we have unleashed other weed species. In Stegner’s 1990 essay It All Began with Conservation he also quoted Chief Luther Standing Bear of the Oglala Sioux. Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land infested with wild animals and savage people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery. But of course now the “weed species” are established and we have to think creatively. We have to continue to question our ethics. We have to invent without making Frankensteins.