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Frontcountry catch-up: What we're reading, October 2017

Frontcountry catch-up: What we're reading, October 2017

When we've spent weeks offline in the backcountry, we rely on reading suggestions from friends to catch up on what's happened in the world of the internet during our absence. Given our appreciation for those suggestions, it's time to reciprocate. 

Below is a brief reading list of what's recently enriched, challenged, or extended our thinking on wilderness, conservation, time in nature, and our place in south Chile. Please ping us with suggestions for next time!

Kindle-reading at the base of San Lorenzo, Patagonia

Kindle-reading at the base of San Lorenzo, Patagonia


"Unlike the doctrinaire foundational principles of the US Wilderness Act—“an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”—Europe is working with a more general definition. According to the European Commission, “A wilderness is an area governed by natural processes. It is composed of native habitats and species, and large enough for the effective ecological functioning of natural processes. It is unmodified or only slightly modified and without intrusive or extractive human activity, settlements, infrastructure or visual disturbance.” Where the American definition traffics in philosophical absolutes about what wilderness should be, the European definition presents a more general set of ecological guidelines about what a wilderness could be.”


“The relationships are not simple. They involve many scales and processes, and “cannot be easily deconstructed into individual function–service relationships.” Yet some implications are already clear: human-induced defaunation is potentially a climate problem, and conservation a climate solution.”


(And our wondering: can time in wilderness offer a re-introduction to deeper thought and attention?)

“The attention economy incentivises the design of technologies that grab our attention,” he says. “In so doing, it privileges our impulses over our intentions.” That means privileging what is sensational over what is nuanced, appealing to emotion, anger and outrage.


"Focusing on species function and evolutionary heritage can narrow the focus on what needs to be protected most urgently."


"Thoreau’s real masterpiece is not Walden but the 2-million-word journal that he kept until six months before he died. Its continuing relevance lies in the vivid spectacle of a man wrestling with tensions that still confound us. The journal illustrates his almost daily balancing act between recording scrupulous observations of nature and expressing sheer joy at the beauty of it all...For Thoreau, along with his fellow Transcendentalists, the by-now familiar dichotomy between the arts and the sciences had begun to hold sway. Thoreau felt the disjunction acutely, and his journal lays bare both his fascinated scrutiny of the most intricate factual details and his fear of losing his grasp of nature or the cosmos as a whole."


"Chile es el único país del mundo que tiene privatizadas sus aguas y la gestión de las mismas, favoreciendo el actual modelo de despojo, modelo asociado al lucro con el agua por parte de empresas Mineras, agroexportadoras, hidroeléctricas y forestales, del mismo modo, hoy todas y todos, pagamos las tarifas más altas de América Latina por “consumir” agua potable, a propósito de la privatización de las empresas sanitarias."

Happy reading!


Pointing north: very far afield in the Brooks Range

Pointing north: very far afield in the Brooks Range

Until this summer, Alaska was for me what Patagonia is to many of you: an enthralling land of extremes and wildness that I'd imagined for years but never visited. As June and July brought winter snows and frosts to Chile, we traveled far, far north to Alaska's Brooks Range, a 1000-mile chain of mountains above the Arctic Circle.

In unending summer daylight, we packrafted the Alatna River and circumambulated the Arrigetch Peaks, within the 8.4 million acre Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Exploring a totally new landscape via our feet and boats reminded us of the wonder that getting to know a wild place can bring. We walked a grizzly cub learn to climb a tree, and heard a wolf howling from a bluff above our boats. Caribou entertained us with their strutting and sauntering; Dall sheep visited us bathing at a mountain hot spring. 

In parallel, we learned that the State of Alaska plans to build a 220-mile industrial access road that would cross Gates of the Arctic and open a vast area up to mining. Here's a piece I wrote for The Cleanest Line, Patagonia's blog, about the project. If you're concerned (as I am), considering signing this petition to protest the roadbuilding. 

Now back to the frontcountry and diving into planning Chulengo's next season in Patagonia, we're still sorting through stories and reading tales of Alaska exploits while shifting our attention to the far south.  For now, the highlights in photos below.

- Nadine