The Wisdom of Benton MacKaye

Benton MacKaye is not a figure most are familiar with. Avid hikers will know him as the originator of the Appalachian Trail, but most know little beyond that. I don’t exclude myself from that category, as I only just encountered an in depth treatment of him in Paul Sutter’s history of the wilderness movement, Driven Wild. It was there that I came across this incisive quote about the nature of cities and the need of humanity to reestablish its connections with the natural world:

The modern metropolis is the product, not of its immediate region, but of the continent and the world. It is a nerve center in a world-wide industrial system. Less and less is it indigenous; more and more is it standardized and exotic. It depends on tentacles rather than on roots. The effect of an unbalanced industrial life, it is the cause of an unbalanced recreational life. For its hectic influence widens the breach between normal work and play by segmenting the worst elements in each. It divorces them into drubbing mechanized toil on the one hand and into a species of “lollipopedness” on the other.

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