a VOICE from the WILDERNESSIan PlayerCONSERVATION cynics say that the first law of urban development is to uproot all the indigenous trees and shrubs then replace them with conifers and roses preferably planted in a straight line.
Which leads me to the subject of environmental sensitivity. Of all the people that walked this planet the Red Indians of North America really felt for the environment.
General knowledge of the Red Indians is poor, limited to films and stories of scalping. They were in fact a magnificent people.

The Red Indian believed that man had an almost divine function as the guardian of nature’s world. Even the scattered tribes that survive today know that it is nature which must be protected from the malpractices of man.

Few things are more pitiful than the statement old Red Indians who survived to see their sacred lands torn up and desecrated by people on an alien culture, who driven by greed lost the protective guardianship over nature. Listen to one Red Indian talking. 
Photo by Andrew James
“When I was a youth, the country was beautiful. Along the rivers were belts of timberland, with cottonwood, maple, elm, ash, hickory and walnut trees. And under them grew many good herbs and beautiful flowering plants. In the woodlands I could see the trails of many animals and hear the cheerful songs of many birds. But now the living creatures are gone. I see the world desolate and I suffer an unspeakable sadness”.
Photo by Steven Pahel 
So, too, many of us may feel as we see part of our land being taken over for development without real thought or care. Daily in South Africa we see tragic examples of the lack of concern for the environment. Decisions to develop wild areas and put roads through the remaining piece of our natural landscape show that too many of our planners lack sensitivity. In their arrogance they sweep aside all protests as sentimental nonsense. As my old friend George Calpin now unfortunately departed from this world, so rightly said not long before he died.

“More people than ever before are beginning to realise that social happiness does not lie merely in the economic growth, in the advance of technology. “The computer might well make our lives easier, provide us with pleasurable diversions, more astonishments, more excitements. But we also know that it is surely the greatest of paradoxes that at the very moment when man might claim to have mastered this world, he was never more puzzled, frustrated or bewildered. “Everywhere society is threatened by disintegration. Our very democracy is threatened. There is hardly a principle by which our forebears lived that has not now been thrown overboard. We live in an age when it was never more difficult for parents to raise their children in a home atmosphere of common decency, courtesy and respect. There seems to be no escape from the depths to which Western society has sunk except through the painful experience of nature’s correctives. “We alone are responsible for the poisoning of our habitat, the debasement of our coinage and victims of our moral cowardice. Never has it seemed more difficult to stand full square, against the fortes disposed to our early destruction. Other civilisation has faced similar situations and nearly all were brought about by environmental decay.
“The philosophy of “there is no barrier that man cannot overcome is preached today by technocrats who control the world. They may be right but what will the cost be? Obliteration of everything natural and a spaceship like existence for us, a world of nothing but industry where men and women are reduced to automatons.”This is a false philosophy and unless it is fought, T. S. Eliot will be right. The world will end with a whimper. Like Thoreau, I believe that “in wilderness lies the preservation of mankind”, I have seen the impact of wilderness on many thousands of people, and I know that it has been a spur to an awakening awareness of the environment and a beginning of the fight for it.
This article first appeared in the Daily News on January, 01st, 1977