The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

By John Kricher | Go to book overview
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A Visit to Bodie
Ecological Space and Time

Ancient Greek philosophy can be found in unusual places, including on a wall in a ghost town. Situated among the hills just east of the extensive Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Great Basin Desert of California, the town of Bodie was founded in 1859, the year Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. In that year a certain William “Watermelon” Bodie succeeded in his search for gold, at a place that became known as Bodie Bluff. By 1880 some 10,000 people inhabited the thriving town of Bodie, which rose from scratch among the sagebrush and hills of desert. Bodie was anything but genteel, inhabited by gunfighters and prostitutes who frequented opium dens, gambling houses, brothels, and the town's reputed 65 saloons.1

Bodie thrived for some years, not many, but some. Its resource base, to use an ecological term, soon was exhausted. It also suffered from unpredictable effects of nature. An avalanche destroyed the town's power plant in 1911, and the second of two major fires destroyed much of the town's buildings on June 23, 1923. The town never recovered. Some buildings remained after its abandonment, and in 1964 the town that once hosted hundreds of very rough and tough humans became a California historic park. Tourists now walk the old streets of the town. There are no opium dens, but a few places do sell postcards.

You have to want to find Bodie, as its location is not exactly on the tourist trail. It is at the termination of a thirteen-mile second


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