Once again the ancient Greek
philosopher who argued that change is the only constant
continues to be validated. New allies see for the first
time the true shape of each other's faces only in the
shadow of the new common enemy--now density and intensification.
The new contest is over space--the physical,
horizontal notion--and the proper definition of place.
Our country was founded and directed to economic prosperity
by Western European culture, an outlook that saw the
greatest financial, therefore human, good in the increase
in density of utility-- the more per unit (of anything,
time, space, monetary unit), the better. It is the founding
and driving force of the Industrial Revolution.
As the units important to popular culture
become smaller (in proportion to the shrinkage of the
computer chip, the CD, the cell phone), space becomes
redefined. Ranchettes seem expansive to urbanites with
the greatest economic power. And great expanses unused
in the modern sense of utility seem a waste. They must
be subdivided and diversified to meet the shrinking
sense of openness.
Irony abounds. As our core economy shifts
from the production of large durable goods to the mass
distribution of tiny units of convenience (internet
service, minutes of cell phone usage, cans of Diet Coke,
cups of Starbuck coffee--to be marketable even durable
goods must partake of these new necessities), novelty
gains a more influential seat at the table. One of the
current novelties is the false sense of place. Everyone
who can afford it now needs a place, not where we are,
but where we are not. If we make money in New York,
we need our PLACE at a ranchette in Montana. If you
could see what is happening in the Gallatin Valley around
Bozeman, it would break your heart. A growing problem
is that too many have bought into the mutant sense of
So, where do we find the old sense of
openness? Perhaps one of the last of a human sense?
Ranching, of course. Grazing is the last human activity
that cannot be reduced. The math will always be the
same. A cow needs so many acres in a given place. There
is and always will be only so much grass per acre in
that place over time. Even in perfect conditions only
so many grass plants will grow in that place. The new
realization is this: the math makes room for other living
things. Sure, mistakes have been made. Overgrazing has
been bad, but at least its consequences are more quickly
apparent and remediated. Ted Turner is the new hero.
And here we are, NPLT, with open space
as our mission. Interesting.
Steven W. Sanford