I was just reminded (a few minutes ago by a post on Facebook by the Sierra Club) of the importance of wilderness to our civilization. The reminder took the form of a quote from my favorite environmentalist and philosopher, Joseph Wood Krutch.
When I was a young man, I read many of the works of Joseph Wood Krutch, concentrating mainly on the books he wrote in his later years which were oriented toward the emerging environmental movement. (Dr. Krutch passed away in 1970). He was an environmentalist before it was really fashionable, following somewhat in the footsteps of Aldo Leopold, who is widely credited with starting the environmental movement with his seminal Sand County Almanac (first published in 1949). Krutch wrote his most significant books about the desert he loved so much in the late 1940’s, into the 50’s and early 60’s, so quite a lot of his work is well out of date now, but his love of the land and his philosophical impressions of how to use and enjoy it are still important and significant today. For example, he talks about the extinction of the dinosaurs before it was known that those dominant animals were rendered obsolete and defunct by an asteroid crash in Yucatan.
Joseph Wood Krutch started out as a mathematician, but also wrote treatises on such other writers as Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Johnson, and Henry David Thoreau. He lived his early years in the northeastern United States, and even became a drama critic in New York for a while. Then one day he stepped off the train in Lamy, New Mexico, and, as he put it, “…a new, undreamed of world was revealed.” He soon moved to Tucson, Arizona, and began his term as a naturalist/philosopher.
If you haven’t read any of his works, here’s a list of the books I consider most significant (listed not in any particular order): The Desert Year (1952); The Twelve Seasons (1949); Grand Canyon (1958); The Forgotten Peninsula, A Naturalist in Baja California (1961), and Voice of the Desert (1954). This last book was written after he moved to Tucson and contains stories and comments from the point of view of an Arizona resident wandering in the desert near his home. I learned more about the desert than I’d ever known before by reading this book. It’s all about the spadefoot toad, scorpions, moths, roadrunners, cacti, the kangaroo rat (it’s actually more a mouse than a rat), and other denizens of the desert, and finishes with a couple of chapters of a more philosophical nature. Two of his other books, compilations of many shorter works, are If You Don’t Mind My Saying So (published in 1964), and A Krutch Omnibus (1970).
I’d like to critique Krutch’s style of writing, which is different from anything I’ve read since, but I’m not sure how to characterize it. He had a tendency to run sentences together, usually a big no-no for writers, but he got away with it because he made them interesting and by not overdoing them. As a result, his writings may be a bit thick in places, but they’re worth taking the time to read. I’ve put a few quotes of his in the “Reflections” section of this blog, but just short, pithy ones. If you, as I, like to view the world through different sets of eyes, ears, noses, feelings, tongues, and minds, I suggest checking out some of his works. You may have to peruse the library or a local second-hand bookstore to find his books, though Amazon may have some.