Earth Quotes: ‘The River Why’

Author David James Duncan (Courtesy High Country News)
Author David James Duncan (Courtesy High Country News)

Written as an afterword 20 years later to his successful “The River Why,” David James Duncan ponders our environmental future. The reference to Thomas Mann’s classic “Buddenbrooks” is appropriately obscure, but when you realize that book is about the decline in health of four generations — each less healthy than the last — it gives this warning, written in 2003, even more poignancy today.

“Our legacy as Americans, like that of Hanno Buddenbrooks, is too powerful to escape. That the world is small, that its so-called ‘resources’ are not a boundless economic bonanza but finite parts of a fragile and holy web of life, that humanity is part of the same web, that the web’s health and ours are as closely connected as a child’s life and its heartbeat — these God-given links and limits will, I feel certain, be the scalding revelations of coming decades. Because they will scald, I pray for other revelations that soothe like love and water — and I believe we’ll get them. As wrongheaded and deadly as humans can be, we haven’t eradicated love or water yet.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns


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