Michael Frome

Book and Author Notes: it’s healing time on Earth

Wilderness Alps – Conservation and Conflict in Washington’s North Cascades, by Harvey Manning. Foreword by David R. Brower; edited by Ken Wilcox for the North Cascades Conservation Council. Northwest Wild Books, Bellingham, WA. 2007, $24.95.

Harvey Manning had already made out well professionally in writing books and articles about the outdoors of the Northwest, and particularly the North Cascades, when he became imbued with the idea there was more to it all. And thus he devoted his energy, talent and the rest of his life, until his death last year, to protecting the wilderness Alps that he held dear.

In these pages Harvey traces the travails of the North Cascades Conservation Council from its founding in 1957 through establishment of North Cascades National Park in 1968 to our own day with the abundant issues that still prevail.

Wilderness Alps is not written as an academic historian might have done it. It is lively, human in dimension, and clearly prejudiced. The power of the book comes from pure passion and principle, from being there and caring deeply. So Harvey can be tough on politicians and public agencies, as evident in these snippets:

“Bill Lester [before his untimely death in May 1996] exemplified the Park Service backcountry ranger who nourishes the Park Service flame even as frontcountry superiors and politicians at the nation’s uppermost level work mindlessly to stomp it out…”

Park Service Director George Hartzog’s notion of wilderness: “as one of sitting on the veranda of a chalet, cold martini in hand, smoking his cigar, and watching the sun set behind a picture postcard.”

David Brower, Harvey’s collaborator in saving the Cascades (as well as leading the way at many other places in this country) wrote the foreword to an earlier version of the book before his death in 2000. It includes these immortal lines: “Dream a bit about what will happen if instead of trashing still more, we determine that it’s healing time on Earth, and we’re not going to make birdwatchers irate any more.”


Appalachian living, earth-friendly, user-friendly

Healing Appalachia – Sustainable Living Through Appropriate Technology,
by Al Fritsch and Paul Gallimore. University Press of Kentucky, 2007. $35.

The authors have worked for years to study and spread the gospel of simplicity in food preservation, land use, shelter and transportation. Consequently their book is earth-friendly, user-friendly, practical and detailed in showing the benefits of solar photovoltaics, solar water heating, organic gardening and orcharding.

Healing Appalachia contains valuable wisdom derived from the ways of early mountaineers who made many mistakes but managed to do more with less in “the back of beyond.” The principles still work in the Appalachian highlands, and elsewhere as well.


For many writers, objectivity starts on terms hospitable to those in power. Not Frome. It’s refreshing to read essays where, in the first paragraph, we know exactly where we stand. He’s continuing the legacy begun by Thoreau and Muir and continued into the previous generation by Ed Abbey and Wallace Stegner, among others.

Second, there is Frome’s voice, which is reasonable, informal and somehow reassuring, as if he were a favorite uncle talking around the campfire. But also firm, insistent, and authoritative. This favorite uncle is a person of great intellect who makes known his perspective on history and the current struggle. Listen to his voice in the essay, “In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World”:

My personal experience and readings convince me that preservation of wild places is the best of American traditions. Wilderness is at the heart of he nation. It tells one generation what is right and lasting about all generations and about the nation itself.

And later:

Too often Americans have allowed powerful self-serving interests to control decision-making, but when presented with strong valid ideas in the common good they respond with approval and support. A review of wilderness history thus teaches that each of us must be inspired to realize the power of his or her own life and never sell it short. The timid, the hesitant, the compromisers have failed. The bigger and bolder the program, the greater the chance of success. Individually and collectively, true believers can and do work miracles, if we have faith and hang together, daring to take risks based on principles above political expediency…

Lastly, Frome has taken on a role as historian of the wilderness movement, profiling those who may not have made headlines but, behind the scenes, made our National Wilderness Preservation System possible. We read about Harvey Broome, William O. Douglas, Conrad Wirth, Newton Drury, Horace Albright, Roderick Haig-Brown, and others. These are not normally the people conservationists hold up in their pantheon of letters. These are not the dreamers, but the implementers, the people who set the tone for government agencies or created the patterns of citizen activism we now take for granted. Frome says simply, “The nation will everlastingly be richer for their coming our way.”
The same can be said for the writer himself.
Excerpted from a review by Jeff Smith
in Wilderness Watcher, July 2007

Order HEAL THE EARTH, HEAL THE SOUL from Amazon.com

At a reading and signing at Riveredge Nature Center, Newburg, Wisconsin, in July. I will do it again at Village Books, Bellingham, Washington, Friday, October 12 (at 7 p.m.)

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