Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics

By Holmes Rolston III | Go to book overview

13
Farewell, Washington County

The time has come for me to leave these shale knobs and limestone valleys that somebody, sometime, years ago, carved out of the Appalachians, drew political lines around, and called Washington County. Departure evokes memories, and memories evoke a tribute. One man, at least, has found the boundaries of the county to enclose a region that is broad and wide and rich and deep.

Thoreau wrote in Walden, "I have travelled a good deal in Concord." One may travel extensively in Washington County. Louis Agassiz, the consummate naturalist, once remarked, "I spent the summer travelling. I got halfway across my backyard." I think perhaps as the days have flowed into weeks, the weeks into seasons, and the seasons into years, I have travelled not yet halfway across the county.

It was a Monday long since past that I sought out the solitude of the high, tri-county massif of Whitetop and its twin in our sister counties, Mount Rogers. Earlier, my introduction to Whitetop was the panorama from Bear Tree Gap. Then sunny autumn colors of every hue were capped by glistening white. An early snow filled the high crestline meadow. But now she was in a gray, stormy mood. In the blackness of a gathering storm my upward steps were halted by a thunderbolt crashing too near for comfort. The air now saturated with the odor of ozone, I turned to retrace my steps, driven down by the eerie storm, but left with an abiding sense of wonder.

Returning on a Tuesday later, the mute evidence first began unfolding to me of an ancient and far greater violence of mother nature there, the rocks known as the Mount Rogers volcanics. These rocks of Precambrian ages that number into the hundreds of millions of years--rhyolites, basalts, tuffs--remain to testify of nature's wilder moods preceding a hundred times over the arrival of humans. The wonder burned into my soul in microseconds by the fury of the lightning bolt deepened as I held in my hand a fragment of an altered lava from 500 million years ago, speckled with phenocrysts, and thought of the fire and fury in which these Balsam Mountains were born. Who can disentangle the

____________________
Reprinted by permission from Virginia Wildlife 29, no. 11 ( November, 1968): 6-7, 22-23. Washington County is in Southwestern Virginia.

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Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • I. Ethics and Nature 11
  • 1: Is There an Ecological Ethic? 12
  • Notes 28
  • 2: Can and Ought We to Follow Nature? 30
  • 3: Philosophical Aspects of the Environment 53
  • 4: The River of Life 61
  • Ii. Values in Nature 73
  • 5: Values in Nature 74
  • Notes 89
  • 6: Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective? 91
  • 7: Values Gone Wild 118
  • Iii. Environmental Philosophy in Practice 143
  • 8: Just Environmental Business 144
  • Introduction 144
  • References 177
  • 9: Valuing Wildlands 180
  • Iv. Nature in Experience 221
  • 11: Lake Solitude 223
  • 12: Meditation at the Precambrian Contact 233
  • 13: Farewell, Washington County 241
  • 14: Nature and Human Emotions 248
  • Subject Index 263
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