I could easily write a book on my feelings regarding the intrinsic value of wilderness to the human soul, but I will do my best to condense my thoughts. As a child, if you had asked the place I most wanted to experience, it would not have been Disney World, but Alaska.
In those long ago days, I would frequently take my dog and a book and head into the woods. Sometimes it was because I craved solitude, the quiet broken only by the songs of birds, and other times it was a refuge from that which troubled me. The books I took with me were often about the Great White North, notably those of Jack London and Farley Mowat. These books taught me about the inherent beauty in untamed creatures, about forces larger than man and the innate need for us to have relationships beyond our own species.
In the course of my life, I have bottle fed orphaned wild life and cleaned those slicked with oil. The experience I’ve chosen to share is how a group of conservations officers, a veterinary clinic, the Humane Society and the Police department united to save an injured deer.
The deer in my story had crashed through the windows of a school and had numerous open wounds as a result. Two of us rode in the back of a pick up truck with her, as she was rushed to a veterinary clinic, to have her wounds stitched. While the vet treated her, we laid on the floor of that pick up, doing our best to protect her from further injury, and reassure her we meant no harm. To prevent her becoming overheated, others were flooding the pick up bed with icy cold water. When the vet was done, we sped down the highway, led by a police cruiser, siren wailing, to a forest where we could release her.
When she was lifted from the truck, I took off her blindfold and she bounded away into the forest. As I stood there soaking wet, covered in her blood, my body aching with exhaustion, I experienced an overwhelming sense of being part of something larger than myself, a fleeting sense that everything was right with the world and that all things were possible. And I would say that the rescue of that one little deer symbolized something greater.
I say this because the small group who saved her that day, collectively represented the powers of conservation and protection, the power to heal and provide refuge. Anyone experiencing such an endeavor, one not based in logic or fiscal analysis, can not remain untouched. And any person, who rescues animals, rather than destroying them, knows exactly what I mean.
So as an adult I did travel to Disney World, to West Virginia and to Colorado. I would wish for everyone the experience of standing at the edge of a vast ocean; or on a mountaintop, with nothing in sight but endless forests. Space Mountain lasts but a few moments; these experiences resonate for a lifetime. They are the rightful heritage of our children, the inspiration for our future poets, and musicians and artists.
Although I have never been to Alaska in person, I have traveled there in spirit through books and through the music of John Denver. So why should we preserve the Arctic Refuge? I believe there are places on Earth which we need to commit, right now, to leaving untouched. The preservation of wild places is not only for wildlife, but for ourselves. We must protect these vast areas of wilderness, a refuge for the human soul, even if we visit there only upon the wings of our imagination.