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Inside Passage: A Journey Beyond Borders

Richard Manning
"What I'm arguing for is a whole redesign of economy based on nature's model."
— Richard Manning

For the past century and a half, a prime conservation strategy has been to protect nature through the creation of parks and preserves. Yet drawing lines around an area and calling it wilderness is not by itself adequate to solve larger environmental problems. As Richard Manning says, "Wilderness designation is not a victory, but acknowledgement of defeat."

In Inside Passage, Manning focuses on the hopeful possibility that we can redesign the human enterprise in the Northwest and elsewhere to a scale more appropriate to the nature that holds it, that rather than drawing borders around nature, we might instead start placing limits on human behavior.

Perhaps, he suggests, we can begin to act in all places as if all places matter to us as much as wilderness, and, in the process, claim all of nature as our own.

"Setting aside wilderness and parks was a necessary step in the nineteenth century as industrialism began to carve its ugly battle lines, true enough. Faulting our forebears for this act would be an ungrateful anachronism. John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau, Bob Marshall, Theodore Roosevelt, and the rest did what needed to be done. They bequeathed wilderness to our time so that it might go on living, but just as important, that we might go on learning. Now it is time to learn from this wilderness to make Coyote live within us all and, by extension, to make all of it wild.

"The scientists who have in recent years raised arguments about ecosystem services provide the information that takes this idea where it needs to go. The validity of this line of thought is manifest all along the Inside Passage. Grand forces of nature interweave here to produce a system that is, yes, beautiful, but also productive.

Manning reading"We have done more than compromise its beauty with our logging, damming, over-fishing, videotaping, and paving. We have compromised its productivity, its utility. We have spent the capital, and we have done so because we have this convenient distinction between utility and beauty. This very line has made a few people temporarily wealthy while it has impoverished many more. There is no doubt that it has impoverished the ecosystem.

"Our way out lies in beginning to think about nature's riches, to recognize that nature has provided us with an inside passage, a passage that leads, ultimately, within. We can begin this journey now by reconsidering the words rich and enriched. It all rests on our understanding the whole world of meaning that lies in the space between those two words."

Inside Passage: A Journey Beyond Borders
210 pages, hardcover
© 2001 Island Press, $20.00 + shipping

Purchase (via Salmon Nation online store)

Also by Richard Manning

The Forest That Fish Built: Salmon, Timber, and People in Willapa Bay


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