We tend to think of places like the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Gobi, the Sahara, the Mojave, as primitive but there are in fact no primitive or even primeval landscapes. Neither are there permanent landscapes. And nowhere is the land empty or underdeveloped. It cannot be improved upon with technological assistance. The land, an animal that contains other animals, is vigorous and alive. The challenge to us, when we address the land, is to join with cosmologists in their ideas of continuous creation, and with physicist with their ideas of spatial and temporal paradox, to see the subtle grace and mutability of landscapes. They are crucibles of mystery, precisely like the smaller ones that they contain -- the arctic fox, the dwarf birch, the pi-meson; and larger ones that contain them, side by side with such seemingly immutable objects as the Horsehead Nebula in Orion. They are not solely areas for human invention.Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (1986)
Photo: Residual Bitumen, Suncor South Tailings Pond, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. From Beautiful Destruction by Louis Helbig.