Desert Warrior Seeks Millionaire. Sort Of.

Chris Clarke — Desert Protective Council / Solar Done Right / Earthjustice / Earth Island Institute / Earth Island Journal / etc.

I doubt he would ask for help.

In fact, presented with this piece, I expect to hear from him, and I’m about half convinced he will be annoyed or embarrassed and ask me to take down the post.

(And then, crap, I will have to decide whether to honor his wishes in what really is a personal matter, or … you know, help him against his will.)

But …

I have this friend. He’s a distant friend, an Internet friend, someone I’ve met in person only once. But he’s a Friend, with a capital-F, probably even a Brother with a capital-B, because the world is a better place for having him in it. And goddammit, we need the world to be a better place. Continue reading “Desert Warrior Seeks Millionaire. Sort Of.”

Earth Day 2012: Thoughts Like Falling Leaves

[This is a reprint of a piece I did several years ago, slightly edited for 2012.]

Leaf One

Con games and sleight-of-hand magic work because, one, we humans only have so much attention to spare at any one moment, and two, they direct that attention deliberately in one direction. If you look at where the finger points, you miss … well, everything else.

Like the movie teen backing through a darkened doorway in the serial killer’s lair, we focus intently on one thing while something more important takes place just outside the sphere of our focus.

I’ll give you a real-life example that has bugged me for a long time. Continue reading “Earth Day 2012: Thoughts Like Falling Leaves”

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 8 of 8

Start HERE

Parts:  OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEight



This is the Truth:

In my hunting days, I was headwaiter at a seafood restaurant in a little resort town in the California’s Eastern Sierra mountains. Hunting season had opened several days before, but I’d had to work every day. This was my last evening shift before I had a couple of days off, and I was ready to go.

I had my new Ruger .30-06 rifle with a 7-power scope. I had my pack and my sleeping bag and two days worth of camp food. And I had an intimate knowledge of miles and miles of backcountry trails that would lead me into good hunting country, far away from the lazy, clumsy road-hunters who swarmed the hills every fall. Continue reading “Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 8 of 8”

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 7 of 8


Parts:  OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEight

Stomping Kittens

In America there is a safety-conscious social force backed up by the power of law – and constantly reinforced by frequent and large lawsuits – that decrees that every tiniest hint of danger must be stamped out of every activity. People must be taken care of.

Even in the midst of our riskiest pastimes, we do everything possible – which is always considerable – to eliminate the risk. The requirement for wearing floatation vests and helmets on river rafting trips is a good example. Continue reading “Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 7 of 8”

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 6 of 8


Parts:  OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEight

Technological Man

Guns. Fire. Helicopters. Radios. Infrared sights. Light-amplifying night scopes. Binoculars. Poisons. Traps. Electrified fences. Bulldozers. Chainsaws. Fishing nets. Maps.

We humans live in a society where we can draw on the accomplishments and assets not only of our own families, not only of our own acquaintances, but the intellectual fruits of literal geniuses for the last ten thousand years.

Call it the realm of Man-to-the-X-power, where human advantages rise into the exponential, to be multiplied together an unknown number of times.

The question becomes, not “what advantages do we have?” but “what advantages do we NOT have?” Continue reading “Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 6 of 8”

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 5 of 8


Parts:  OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEight

Man Plus

How often do human beings come in quantities of one? Certainly a lot of us can feel lonely at times, but we do that even when surrounded by scores of our fellows. Actually being completely alone in today’s world is really not that easy to accomplish. It is almost always the result of conscious choice – and great effort and expense – on the part of the camper, hiker, or cyclist, and usually doesn’t last more than a few hours or days. Continue reading “Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 5 of 8”

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 4 of 8


Parts:  OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEight


Ah, now wimpy little Man begins to really come into his own. Wouldn’t you just know that our ancestors, who didn’t seem to be good at much else compared to the other big beasties, would at least be good at eating?

In fact, they were, and we are. We humans can eat everything from raw plants to long-rotten meat, and just about anything in between. We have versatile dentition that can cut, crush and grind, and an even more versatile digestive tract to go along with it.

Advantage? A darned big one. Continue reading “Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 4 of 8”

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 3 of 8


Parts:  OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEight

Smell, Hearing and Taste

We won’t find any advantages here. Pity poor Man, all domesticated and dumbed down so that his wild senses, if ever he had any good ones, are now blunted and tamed.

All the other animals, with their razor-sharp sensory gifts beat us all to hell in this area. Even without the ever-present threat of slinking, silent predators, we seem barely well enough equipped to keep from poisoning ourselves with dangerous plants, bad water or tainted meat.

Yet … Continue reading “Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 3 of 8”

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 2 of 8

Parts:  OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEight

… Okay, it never happened.

I did stand under the streetlight on that lonely highway, right enough. After hours of waiting, I began to study the darkness around me, projecting my fears into it, and as I began to think more and more of things that might lurk out there, I gradually froze into spooked immobility. Though I never saw or heard the merest evidence that anything was out there, I stood locked in place, imagining everything from my rocketing, deadly Face Eater to a pack of rabid wolves, from the eighteen foot tall mutant killer bear I’d see in a movie to a horde of screaming, red-eyed baboons, escaped from some cheap carnival and out for blood.

Locked into the recursive reverberation of my own imaginings, I scared myself at nothing. I allowed florid, fictional images to fill my mind and echo back and forth, growing until I could no longer even think. Continue reading “Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 2 of 8”

Grizzly’s Gamble — Part 1 of 8

Parts:  OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEight

[ Preface: ]

Life is full of surprises.

In my experience, there are two kinds. One is the kind that springs itself on you. The birthday party you weren’t expecting. The mistake on your paycheck that turns out to be an unexpected raise. The skin-crawly spider web that suddenly engulfs your horrified face as you walk through the woods at dusk.

The second is the kind you look for. The magnificent vista that hoves into view around the next bend in the trail. The fossil you find after weeks of careful digging. The soul-mate who – at last! – answers your personals ad.

The first kind of surprise is one of the givens of life. Good and bad, they come into your life unbidden and unstoppable, and often at lamented frequency.

The second kind is much rarer, and takes some work. You have to go on that hike, after all, or actually dig for weeks in the fossil bed, or put that personals ad out there and keep checking the responses.

It was somewhere late in my young life when I discovered I was actually making an effort to find those kinds of surprises. Not being a scientist, much of my looking had to do with everyday life. To my friends and family, it probably looked like I was making an effort not to fit in. But if you’re searching for something better, you are necessarily abandoning the same-old, same-old that the people around you are comfortable with.

The same ways of doing things. The same roads and trails. The same ways of thinking.

Coming from the Deep South, I ended up living in California, and Arizona, and New York.

Coming from a background of Southern Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, I wound up a freethinking atheist.

And coming from a community of cowboys, hunters and backwoods 4-wheeler enthusiasts, I became an avid environmentalist.

I was never the level of activist as, for instance, the admirable Chris Clarke, but I had my moments on a smaller scale. And in the field of environmental thinking, I stumbled upon what were, to me, a few rather large surprises.

I’ll tell you about one of them. I hope it will surprise you too.

(Just FYI, this is a chapter of a might-be book about Earth and humans. It’s © Hank Fox 2011, so if you like it enough that you want to show it to friends, please send them here rather than copying, and please link here if you take an excerpt.)


Grizzly’s Gamble

This is The Lie:

Back in my hitchhiking adventure days, I stood one night under a streetlight on a deserted highway outside a city in West Texas, waiting for a car to stop and give me a ride. Waiting, actually, even for a car to come along. Eventually there in the dark, I hadn’t seen one for more than an hour.

An overcast sky and the dirty air of civilization killed even the stars overhead. Surrounded by an ocean of blackness, I stood in a tiny lifeboat of luminance. A tepid breeze wafted over the dried landscape, rattling papery leaves and litter across the road in front of me. As I stood in the weak, orange puddle of light, something about the dead-feeling air created an ominous absence of sound in the surrounding dark.

After a while, I stood riveted there in the lengthening night, listening with the first beginnings of dread to that threatening silence. My backpack lay leaning against the base of the streetlight, a bright friendly yellow which should have been comforting somehow, but which I knew it contained no weapon, no shield from what I was coming to imagine waited out there.

Whether it was a noise or a smell too subtle to consciously notice, suddenly, somehow, I knew that there was something there, lurking just beyond the sharp circle of light. I caught odd musky whiffs on the breeze – maybe I was smelling its predator’s breath, or the rank odor of its fur as it circled around me and passed momentarily upwind. Masked by the chitter-chatter of leaves on the pavement, I fancied I could hear its claws clicking on rocks as it circled and stalked in the dead zone just out of my sight.

The safety of the nearest trees was easily 30 yards away, in the dark, and the streetlight pole was smooth and featureless, impossible to climb. I huddled against the pole, circled it, peering out into the night, wishing for a rock to throw, or even a flashlight to blind whatever might be out there.

Yet the instant I turned my back on the blackness that lined the road, I heard a pebble click a dozen yards away, then another closer by a third, and another closer still, so rapid they were almost a single sound: tickticktick. Gripped by sheer terror, I crouched and whirled in place to see whatever scary thing might be coming at me out of the night – yet I still had time for only the first gasping intake of breath before the creature drove its razored talons clear into my lungs and heart, and its needle-lined jaws bit my face completely off.


 Parts:  OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEight