Letter From CapenBreton Islandnby Jigs GardnernThe New UtopiansnPicture the scene: I am shoveling shav- •nings into the team wagon, stooping overnin my patched overalls and faded flannelnshirt to scrape the barn floor clean, nownand then climbing into the wagon tontread down the mounting heap. Thenyoung man who owns the new barn,nthe new tractor, the new hydraulic lognloader, the new portable sawmill, thenused planer (only ten thousand dollars)nthat made the shavings, the young mannwho owns all these sophisticated machinesnand who is something of anhippie, a belated celebrant of the 60’s,nnods at my horses in their tatterednharness and says,n”Pretty soon we’ll all be using ’em,”nadding as an explanation, “Greenhouse.”n”Oh, baloney,” I reply dismissively.nHe looks at me reproachfully; I havenfailed to play my allotted part. He goesnaway to the other end of the barn tonadmire more of his expensive machinerynwhile I finish cleaning up the shavings.nIt is a scene rich in ironies, but whatnstrikes me first is the young man’snignorance, something he shares withnother environmentalists. They appearnto know nothing, literally nothing aboutntheir situation in this material world,nwhere all of us are wholly dependent,nphysically and mentally, on an unfathomablyncomplex, pervasive structurencomposed of things and thoughts,nmatter and spirit, called Civilization, asnold as the first tool-using man, as new asna space station — or a hydraulic lognloader. As individuals we choose ornreject bits and pieces of that structuren(most of it becomes part of our livesnwithout our conscious knowledge), butnin the history of the species such choicesnare meaninglessly trivial. Human beingsncreate, maintain, and add to the structure,nand it sustains and carries forwardn40/CHRONICLESnCORRESPONDENCEnthe life of the group. It is not possiblenfor us, as a group or a generation, tondismantle a significant portion of itnwithout suddenly or drastically impoverishingnour lives. Quite innocent of allnsuch knowledge, innocent even of thenprofound and incredible implications ofnwhat he is saying, the young mannfatuously predicts the resurgence ofnhorse power.nThe obvious ironies — that an affluentnuser of sophisticated machinerynshould condescend to remark my use ofnhorses as a prophetic gesture; that I, tonall appearances a rare specimen of thennearly extinct race of hippie-homesteaders,nshould be granted environmentalnapproval by a veritable apotheosisnof inappropriate technology—arennot the cream of the jest by any means.nThere is a deeper irony: my wife and I,nwho have been living the much-toutedn”simple life” (with a vengeance) for 30nyears, who own no motor vehicles at all,nare ardent champions of everythingnenvironmentalists deplore — we preachnthe virtues of capitalism, of technology,nof nuclear power, and so on. Our lifenhas taught us by the kind^ of hardnexperience unknown to any environmentalistnthe importance of the forcesnof development in the modern world.nWhen you cut 25 cords of firewood bynhand, you appreciate a chain saw; whenna cow is down with milk fever, you arenthankful for modern medical research;nwhen you own woodland, the knowledgenof contemporary forestry is a boon.nAnd we know that behind those specificnthings is the structure of our civilization,nthat neither the saw nor the medicinennor the forestry is an isolated entity, thatnthey are fruits of human reason andnimagination impelled and energized byna dynamic civilization.nWe, too, were once environmentalists,nbut knowledge cured us—with annassist from the “simple life.”nThe specific incident grew out of anconflict over the use of herbicides in thenforests on Cape Breton Island (wherenwe live) in Nova Scotia. We had alwaysnsupported the island environmentalistngroup in its continuing battles with thenlocal pulp mill over forestry practices.nnnbut on this occasion I noticed, in one ofnthe group’s mailings, the citation of anstudy that had long been discredited. Inbecame uneasy. What did I really knownabout the herbicide? About forestry?nBeyond the glib slogans of the group,nwhat did I know? That realization wasnthe beginning of the end of mynenvironmentalism, a point of view thatnis so stupid and so irrational that it cannonly thrive in a closed atmosphere ofncocksure ignorance.nSo I began searching for knowledge,nand that finally led me to the pulpncompany’s forest ranger for our district.nHow many books and scientific articlesnMike brought me to study over thennext year, how many miles of highwaynand dirt road and logging trails I haventraveled in his company, I cannotnguess, but it has all added up to a lot ofnknowledge, even if I have not whollynassimilated all of it. Because it wasnhard — scientific, technical material —nand though I have a couple of degreesnand was even a “perfesser” once, mynfield was literature. As I thought aboutnthe kind of knowledge Mike had, andnthe kind I had, I began to see a hithertonunobserved distinction: we environmentalists,nmostly ,60’s people, belongnto a group, greatly expanded in thenincreasingly affluent times since thenend of World War II, composed ofnmiddle-class and upper-middle-classnpeople, who have spent more andnmore of our time in school, usuallynstudying the humanities or the socialnsciences and related subjects. At onentime, a liberal arts education was andiscipline of mind, a training in mentalnrigor and clarity, but it has steadilyndeteriorated over the last forty yearsnuntil it is now too often little more thanna prolonged exposure to fashionablenattitudes. Mike the forest ranger, however,ncame out of the working-classtechnicianntradition; he had a goodnhigh school education plus a one-yearncourse in Forestry School. Furthermore,nthere has been a parallel divergencenin the fields of technical andnliberal arts education: knowledge innpractical areas has burgeoned; to understandnthe work of forestry todayn