The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnNeoenvironmentalismrnThe environmentalist movement, asrnusual, is one theoretical jump ahead ofrnthe practical results produced by its previousrnlevel of ideological developmentresultsrnit now deplores and blames onrnthe enemy. After arson destroyed threernbuildings and damaged four ski lifts onrnVail Mountain in Colorado last October,rnEarth Liberation Front took the creditrnfor destroying more than $12 million inrnproperty “on behalf of the lynx,” whichrnthe Colorado Wildlife Commissionrnwants to reintroduce into the San JuanrnNational Forest. “The 12 miles of roadsrnand 885 acres of clearcuts [the ski resortsrnwant to create] will ruin the last, best lynxrnhabitat in the state,” ELF pronounced.rn”Putting profits ahead of Colorado’srnwildlife will not be tolerated.”rnWhile it’s no news to residents of thernIntermountain West that industrialrntourism (the phrase was coined, so far asrnI can tell, by Ed Abbey in Desert Solitaire)rnand industrial recreationism are arngreater threat to the region, socially andrnecologically, than the mining, logging,rnand ranching industries put together, thernlast to hear it may be mainstream environmentalistsrnthemselves, who haverndone more than anybody to destroy mining,rnlogging, and ranching and replacernthese hoary Western occupations withrntourism and recreationism. “The environmentalrnmovement is at least partlyrnresponsible for a massive shift awayrnfrom our traditional industries,” a WestrnSlope trade promoter observed recently.rn”Tourism is all some of these towns havernleft. An attack on the ski industry is an attackrnon the economy of western Colorado.”rnOn the other hand, such is thernhypocrisy endemic to the consumeristrnculture that the reduction of the West’srnski resorts to post-industrial ghost townsrnmight easily prove a bonanza for them inrnthe end, as is the case with the old miningrntowns in the region where the samernpeople from Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta,rnand New York who express outragernat having to witness a coal, trona, gold, orrnsilver mine in operation are eager to explorernand photograph the defunct relicsrnof their 19th-century profit-taking equivalents.rnThe fundamental pretense of organizedrnenvironmentalism is that humanrnbeings have the choice of living in thernbiosphere without altering it, that therernexists some higher “use” for nature thanrnuntold human generations have beenrnable to discover. For earlier environmentalistsrn—from Henry David Thoreaurnthrough John Muir to Aldo Leopold, andrnas far forward as Edward Abbey —thatrnuse was solitude, atonement with nature,rnmysticism, encounter, and adventure.rnExcept for Leopold with his managerialrnexpertise, none of these men had a workingrnrelafionship with the land. Yet to thernextent that they regarded wilderness andrnunspoiled nature as a playground, it wasrn”play” in its higher—meaning simpler—rnforms they had in mind. Aldo Leopold,rnif he had managed to survive into the erarnof the All-Terrain Vehicle, would havernridden a horse in the Gila anyway, whilernthe late Finis Mitchell of Rock Springs,rnWyoming—the man who more or lessrnput the Wind River Range on the internationalrnhiker’s and backpacker’s map —rntraveled 20 miles or more of the ContinentalrnDivide at a hitch and on foot,rncarrv’ing with him only a little food andrnwater and a square of plastic to wrap uprnin when he stretched himself on thernground at night. Abbey vanished intornthe desert equipped not with $3,000rnworth of high-tech gear purchased fromrnREI but just a pair of Army Surplus junglernboots and a daypack containing water,rnoranges, cheese and crackers, raisins,rnnuts, a Number Two pencil, and a pocketrnnotebook. None of these people, likernother serious environmentalists of theirrnday, rappelled, bungee-jumped, hot-airballooned,rnmountain-biked, sky-dived,rnsnowboarded, or downhill-skied, thoughrnsome of them did snow-shoe, ski crosscountry,rnand hunt, and many were avidrnWhitewater rafters. Abbey’s generationrn(Ed was born in 1927) was followed byrnthe leading edge of the Baby Boomers,rnstill fit enough and unencumbered inrnthe 1970’s and even the 80’s to participaternin the Great Outdoors and WildernessrnLove-In of the period, although forrnmost of them the motive seems to havernbeen fashion-consciousness, not natureawareness.rnWhat they did offer organizedrnenvironmentalism was bodies,rnor, more accurately, numbers, and a lotrnof uninformed —as well as largelyrnunformed —sympathy, some of it inferredrnby market researchers studying thernsales figures provided by the outdoorequipmentrnand catalogue companies.rnWhether the majority of what TomrnWolfe once called Enlightened Backpackersrnwere really environmentalists orrnnot, for politicians at the national, state,rnand local levels, they did suggest a yuppiernversion of Coxey’s Army prepared tornmobilize around the country for the purposernof marching on Washington in defensernof wolves, trees, rocks, more nationalrnparks and monuments, addedrnoutdoor recreational facilities, cheaprnGor-Tex, free condoms (for effectivernpopulation control in intimate wildernessrnareas), and NO INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT.rnBecause many people in the environmentalistrnmovement of the 70’s and 80’srnwere outdoor recreationists themselves,rnthe political possibilities of recreationismrnwere not lost on them. They saw a way tornachieve political advantage by their ownrninterests and amusements, and they didrnit, stressing the benign and harmless naturernof the outdoor recreation and touristrnbusiness by comparison with the rapacityrnof the traditional industries in the arid,rnecologically sensitive Western states.rnThe strategy worked, magnificently, forrn20 or 25 years, but the news from Vailrnlast fall suggests that its days are numberedrnand it is probably failing fast.rnAs indeed it should, its demise beingrnlong overdue. “There will be more impact,”rnKen Sleight, Abbey’s old back-of-rnFEBRUARY 1999/49rnrnrn