the slopes in the distance. They are notncemetery markers but rather bits ofnbedrock, and the whole nation shouldnbe in a state of mourning because allnthis really is just part of a long-runningnfuneral service for the earth itself.nA thousand miles to the north, siltnbeds stratify in a vast lake at NewnTown. Downstream at Oahe and FrancisnCase more silt chokes the Missourinas it picks its way through Montananand the Dakotas.nElmer Peterson laid this wholenMuddy River fiasco out for us withnthat wonderful diatribe “Big DamnFoolishness” over 30 years ago, andnone must wonder if the head of thenArmy Corps of Engineers or anynNorth Plains politician — anyone withninfluence in the federal colossus —never read or understood a single wordnof it. Or cared about it if he did.nNihilism always seems to be at work innour federal agencies.nAnd out on the ranch our good ofncowboys seem to believe that erosionnjust happens. Each should come havena look at what their bossies have donento the Missouri. The Sacred Cows ofnDenzel Ferguson are not illusions, andnbecause of them the West today is butna battered remnant of its former robustnself. Pioneer rancher Will Barnes firstnsaw cows doing it to the San SimeonnValley in Arizona in 1887. “Greennmeadows,” he said, “were replaced bynwide expanses of drifting sand.”nA hundred years have since comenand gone, and the relentless pummelingnby cattle, sheep, and sodbustingnmonster machines continues. Take anlook at the Paluse north of Moscow,nIdaho, or the vast tracts along thenSnake. Almost anywhere on the PublicnLands west of the 100th meridian youncan see evidence of the problem.nMeanwhile, our two great federal landnagencies, the Forest Service and thenBureau of Land Management, havenbeen either unable or unwilling to stopnit. And as a consequence, some of thenprivatizers at Bozeman and ArizonanState are using it all as evidence tonmake a plausible case, superficially atnleast, for federal divestiture.nEverywhere the rib cage of MothernEarth is showing. Pat down the deceptivenvelvet-like blanket of soybeans andnalfalfa in Iowa and Minnesota, and youncan feel her vertebrae. Here granitenand limestone, there shale or gravel —nit’s all right up there! No longer muchnwell-muscled soil on these cherishednbones. And the bills for fertilizer runninto thousands.nBetween Boise and Salt Lake, permanentnroad signs advise headlightsnbecause there are “Dust StormsnAhead.” So this is a coast-to-coast kindnof thing and north-south from MilknRiver to the Brazos.nWhat to do? It may be necessary,nbut it is next to impossible to follownAldo Leopold’s commandment thatnwe must somehow live more interconnectedly,nmore harmoniously with thenland. As Leopold visualized it, “land”nincluded products of the earth plusnwater, wilderness, wildlife, forests,nmoods, vistas, the works. The health ofnthe land was dependent on our movingnbeyond the “A” (of what he calledn”the A-B cleavage”) and its utilitariannemphasis, to the “B” level, where wenwould come to understand that treesnwere not just for two-by-four’s anynmore than sandhill cranes were merelynfood for the table.nSheep are destined to stay illiterate,ngoats helpless dropouts, and the cowsnhave been following one anothernabout, single file, on fragile mountainnecosystems ever since cows were invented.nBut what about us humanoids whonare said to be able to outthink thenungulates and whom Professor DurwardnAllen ranks with glaciers andnvolcanoes as a formidable geologicnforce? One visit to Ducktown, Tennessee,nwill show you the point he isnmaking.nIf with a mere four million citizensnwe couldn’t “get” conservation innGeorge Washington’s time (both henand Jefferson complained about thenlack of a resource sensitivity), can wenexpect to “get” it today, with 250nmillion?nIt has been 80 years since TR’snconference on conservation, well overna hundred since the homesteadingnlaws. Free education ran through all ofnit. How could we have not, by thisntime, developed an ecologically literatenpopulace, aware of the necessity ofnlimits, on killing whales, cutting redwoods,ncontrolling our own numbers,nappetites, anything.nBut just as the Masai in East Africancannot or will not stop their age-oldnpractice of overgrazing with consequentndesertification, and the primitivenmountain peasants on every continentnwill not alter their deforestation practices,nso American and European landownersncannot seem to forgo overfarmingnand overgrazing that fill the airnand water with soil particles.nWe have mountains of data on allnour resource problems. What we lacknis the moral and civic spunk finally tontake care of what we have.nAs they usually do, in an attempt tonstop the abuse, the regimenters ask fornmore and better laws.nBut unless we are better men andnwomen, what difference do laws make?nEvery year on our farm, though lawsnare on the books, we lose Christmasntrees to the poachers. Every day rarenand endangered animals are beingnshot. This too is illegal — as is pollution,narson, grand theft-auto, insiderntrading. To practice the right kind ofnBOOKS IN BRIEF—ENVIRONMENTnRediscovering America: John Muir in His Time and Ours by Frederick Turner, SannFrancisco: Sierra Club Books. Ttie quite readable story of a Scot who moved tonWisconsin and became one of the world’s great walkers, a great environmentalist, and anneven greater crank.nPhilosophy Gone Wild: Essays in Environmental Ethics by Holmes Rolston, III,nBuffalo, NY: Prometheus Books; $19.95. A philosopher and naturalist propounds anconservation ethic that is free from much of the lunacy that marks this sort of writing. Bothnlyrical and sensible, Rolston has serious things to say about man’s place in nature. Thenmajor shortcoming is the narrow range of his reading.nReligion and Environmental Crisis, edited by Eugene C. Hargrove, Athens, GA:nUniversity of Georgia Press. This volume is a good example of what happens whenngeneral issues become overspecialized. What is “religion” (as opposed to real religions)nthat it can have any relevance for environmentalism? Much of the volume is pervaded bynthe pseudo-scholarly zaniness of the first contributor, who argues that Pan really was thenuniversal ancient god of pantheism who gave the Greeks and Romans a sense ofnenvironmental responsibility.nnnFEBRUARY 1988 / 43n