Back To Earth Talk Index

Gary Snyder

Gary Snider is the author of numerous volumes of essays and poems, including the Pulitzer Prize- winning Turtle Island. He teaches literature and wilderness thought at the University of California at Davis and lives with his family in the Sierra foothills.

in the service

of the wilderness

of life

of death

of the mother's breasts.

- from "Tomorrow's Song," in Turtle Island, 1974.


This living flowing land

is all there is, forever

We are
it

it sings through us-

We could live on this
Earth

without clothes or tools!

-From "By Frazier Creek Falls" in Turtle Island, 1974.


Coyote and Ground Squirrel do not break the compact they have with each other that one must play predator and the other play game. The Practice of the Wild, 1990.


We . . . must try to live without causing unnecessary harm, not just to fellow humans but to all beings. We must try not to be stingy, or to exploit others. There will be enough pain in the world as it is. Ibid.


Creatures who have traveled with us through the ages are now apparently doomed, as their habitat - and the old, old habitat of humans - falls before the slow-motion explosion of expanding world economies. Ibid.


We need a civilization that can live fully and creatively together with wildness. We must start growing it right here, in the New World. Ibid.


Some tiny but critical tracts are held by private nonprofit groups like The Nature Conservancy or the Trust for Public Land. These are the shrines saved from all the land that was once known and lived on by the original people, the little bits left as they were, the last little places where intrinsic nature totally wails, blooms, nests, glints away. They make up only 2 percent of the land of the United States. Ibid.


The world is our consciousness and it surrounds us. Ibid.


The depths of mind, the unconscious, are our inner wilderness areas, and that is where a bobcat is right now . . . the bobcat that roams from dream to dream. Ibid.


The pathless world of wild nature is a surpassing school and those who have lived through her can be tough and funny teachers. Ibid.


Why should the peculiarities of human consciousness be the narrow standard by which other creatures are judged? Ibid.


The lessons we learn from the wild become the etiquette of freedom. Ibid.


Greed exposes the foolish person or the foolish chicken alike to the ever-watchful hawk of the food-web and to early impermanence. Ibid.


Nature is orderly. That which appears to be chaotic in nature is only a more complex kind of order. Ibid.


It is clear that the forests must be managed in a way that makes them permanently sustainable. Ibid.


We ask for slower rotations, genuine streamside protection, fewer roads, no cuts on steep slopes, only occasional shelterwood cuts, and only the most prudent application of the appropriate smaller clear-cut. Ibid.


We call for a return to selective logging, and to all-age trees, and to serious heart and mind for the protection of endangered species. Ibid.


Forests in the tropics are cut to make pasture to raise beef for the American market. Our distance from the source of our food enables us to be superficially more comfortable, and distinctly more ignorant. Ibid.


Our art is full of animal and plant motifs. All art is full of it. And all story telling and song is full of animals and plants. Talking on the Water, 1994.


Nature literacy is being tuned to the weather and to birds and animals. It's having a sense of what your particular climatic type is. It's knowing what river you're living on and where your drinking water comes from. Ibid.


You see things differently by actively studying plants, flowers, weather, birds, over a long period. Ibid.


There's a big, old live oak down in one end of the meadow I have walked by hundreds of times. I knew what it was&emdash;an interior live oak. I've crawled under it on several occasions. It was no mystery to me. But one day last spring, I stopped and took a look at it, and I really saw it. In a sense, it showed itself to me. No woo-woo about it . . . In India, this is called darshan. Ibid.


The natural world is a community I want to be a part of, because I have more respect for myself when I'm engaged with it. Ibid.


It's good to understand that the range of the world itself has made things happen, that there would be no orcas without seals, no seals without salmon, and no salmon without little pink plankton. Ibid.


We may think we're the masters of our fates, but from another standpoint we are entirely at the mercy of the conditions that created us. Ibid.


Art, beauty, and craft have always drawn on the self-organizing "wild" side of language and mind. Human ideas of place and space, our contemporary focus on watersheds, become both model and metaphor. Our hope would be to see the interacting realms, learn where we are, and thereby move toward a style of planetary and ecological cosmopolitanism. A Place in Space, 1995.


The whole population issue is fraught with contradictions, but the fact stands that by standards of planetary biological welfare there are already too manyhuman beings. Ibid.

Pollution is somebody's profit. Ibid.


We are fouling our air and water and living in noise and filth that no "animal" would tolerate, while advertising and politicians try to tell us we've never had it so good. Ibid.


The treasure of life is the richness of stored information in the diverse genes of all living beings. Ibid.


In the Judeo-Christian worldview humans are seen as working out their ultimate destinies (paradise? perdition?) with planet earth as the stage for the drama&endash;trees and animals mere props, nature a vast supply depot. Ibid.


A scaled-down, balanced technology is possible, if cut loose from the cancer of exploitation/heavy industry/perpetual growth. Ibid.


No apologies are due for trying to hold the line against either disruptive growth or intrusive industrial uses. In doing so we help to sustain community values and the biological viability of our landscape. Ibid.


If a community concludes that it doesn't want to be exposed to herbicides and pesticides, or to host nuclear waste locally, or to make way for a huge dam, that is not irresponsible or wrong, it is a people's choice. Ibid.


. . . the study of ecology, with its demonstrations of coevolution, symbiosis, mutual aid and support, interrelationship, and interdependence throughout natural systems, has taught us modesty in regard to human specialness. Ibid.


In the belly of the furnace of creativity is a sexual fire; the flames twine about each other in fear and delight. The same sort of coiling, at a cooler, slower pace, is what the life of this planet looks like. The enormous spirals of typhoons, the twists and turns of mountain ranges and gorges, the waves and the deep ocean currents&emdash;a dragonlike writhing. Ibid.


The wild is imagination - so is community - so is a good time. Let's be tough but good - natured Green or Rainbow warriors, make cause with wild nature, and have some ferocious fun while doing it. Ibid.


So let's keep walking the hills and learning trails, flowers, birds, old cemeteries, old mine shafts, forgotten canyons. Keep on holding potlucks, forest ecology classes for kids, sweat lodges, classes on bark beetles, high-country ski tours, poetry readings, and watershed meetings. We need to stay loose, smart, creative, and wild. Ibid.


Sometime in the last twenty years the best brains of the Occident discovered to their amazement that we live in an Environment. Ibid.