The American frontier

CapturePisanello (c. 1395 – c. 1455)

The concept of conservation is a far truer sign of civilization than that spoliation of a continent which we once confused with progress.
Wildlife in America

We have outsmarted ourselves, like greedy monkeys, and now we are full of dread.
The Snow Leopard

Wild northern Alaska is one of the last places on earth where a human being can kneel down and drink from a wild stream without being measurably more poisoned or polluted than before; its heart and essence is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge  in the remote northeast corner of the state, the earth’s last sanctuary of the great Ice Age fauna that includes all three North American bears, gray wolves and wolverines, musk ox, moose, and, in the summer, the Porcupine River herd of caribou, 120,000 strong. Everywhere fly sandhill cranes and seabirds, myriad waterfowl and shorebirds, eagles, hawks, owls, shrikes and larks and longspurs, as well as a sprinkling of far-flung birds that migrate to the Arctic slope to breed and nest from every continent on earth. Yet we Americans, its caretakers, are still debating whether or not to destroy this precious place by turning it over to the oil industry for development.
The New York Review of Books, October 19, 2006  

There’s an elegiac quality in watching American wilderness go, because it’s our own myth, , that’s deteriorating before our eyes. I feel a deep sorrow that my kids will never get to see what I’ve seen, and their kids will see nothing; there’s a deep sadness whenever I look at nature now.
Wildlife in America


Peter Matthiessen
(May 22, 1927 – April 5, 2014)

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Cat versus The Black Dog

cat sleeping Cornelis Visscher (1629 – 1658) etcher

Cat Sleeping, Cornelis Visscher (1629 – 1658)

…. Nor  would it be just, under this head, to omit the fondness which he showed for  animals which he had taken under his protection. I never shall forget the  indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go  out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike  to the poor creature. I recollect him one  day scrambling up Dr. Johnson’s breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while  my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by  the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, ‘Why yes, Sir, but I  have had cats whom I liked better than this;’ and then as if perceiving Hodge to  be out of countenance, adding, ‘but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat  indeed.’

This  reminds me of the ludicrous account which he gave Mr. Langton,  of the despicable state of a young Gentleman of good family. ‘Sir, when I heard  of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.’ And then in a sort of  kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favourite cat, and said, ‘But  Hodge shan’t be shot; no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.’ 

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791)

[Boswell also noted that Johnson went out to purchase valerian to ease Hodge’s suffering as death approached.]