Edward Abbey

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Life's greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.
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Edward Paul Abbey (1927-01-29 - 1989-03-14) was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public land policies.


  • One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain't nothing can beat teamwork.
    • Seldom Seen Smith in The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), p. 313
  • Heaven is home. Utopia is here. Nirvana is now.
    • Abbey's Road (1979)
  • We're all undesirable elements from somebody's point of view.
    • Abbey's Road (1979)
  • May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
    • Earth Apples: The Poetry of Edward Abbey (1994)
  • Without courage, all other virtues are useless.
    • Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951-1989 (1994)

Desert Solitaire (1968)

Edward Abbey; Illustrated by Peter Parnall (1968). Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671695886.

  • This is the most beautiful place on earth.
    There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio, or Rome — there's no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment.
    • "The First Morning" (p. 1)
  • I'd sooner exchange ideas with the birds on earth than learn to carry on intergalactic communications with some obscure race of humanoids on a satellite planet from the world of Betelgeuse.
    • "The First Morning" (p. 7)
  • I'm a humanist; I'd rather kill a man than a snake.
    • "Serpents of Paradise" (p. 18)
  • All living things on earth are kindred.
    • "Serpents of Paradise" (p. 22)
  • I hold no preference among flowers, so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous. (Bricks to all greenhouses! Black thumb and cutworm to the potted plant!)
    • "Clifforse and Bayonets" (p. 25)
  • Love flowers best in openness and freedom.
    • "Clifforse and Bayonets" (p. 26)
  • Each thing in its way, when true to its own character, is equally beautiful.
    • "Clifforse and Bayonets" (p. 37)
  • A great thirst is a great joy when quenched in time.
    • "Water" (p. 104)
  • Has joy any survival value in the operations of evolution? I suspect that it does; I suspect that the morose and fearful are doomed to quick extinction. Where there is no joy there can be no courage; and without courage all other virtues are useless.
    • "Water" (p. 113)
  • Growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness.
    • "Water" (p. 114)
  • We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may not ever need to go there.
    • "The Heart of Noon" (p. 116)
  • To die alone, on rock under sun at the brink of the unknown, like a wolf, like a great bird, seems to me very good fortune indeed.
    • "The Dead Man at Grandview Point" (p. 186)
  • Balance, that's the secret. Moderate extremism.
    • "Bedrock and Paradox" (p. 233)

The Journey Home (1991)

Edward Abbey; Illustrated by Jim Stiles (1991). The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West, Plume. ISBN 0452265622.

  • Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.
    • "The Second Rape of the West" (p. 183)
  • There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who's always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated and anyone can transport himself anywhere, instantly. Big deal, Buckminster. To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.
    • "Walking" (p. 205)
  • Knowing now what we have learned, unless the need were urgent, I could no more sink the blade of an ax into the tissues of a living tree than I could drive it into the flesh of a fellow human.
    • "The Crooked Wood" (p. 208)
  • The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.
    • "Shadows from the Big Woods" (p. 223)

Down the River (1982)

Edward Abbey (1982). Down the River, Dutton. ISBN 0525484086.

  • The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see.
  • When I write 'paradise' I mean not only apple trees and golden women but also scorpions and tarantulas and flies, rattlesnakes and Gila monsters, sandstorms, volcanoes and earthquakes, bacteria and bear, cactus, yucca, bladderweed, ocotillo and mesquite, flash floods and quicksand, and yes — disease and death and the rotting of flesh.
  • Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.
  • I am not an atheist but an earthiest.
  • Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second. (p. 81)
  • Love can defeat that nameless terror. Loving one another, we take the sting from death. Loving our mysterious blue planet, we resolve riddles and dissolve all enigmas in contingent bliss.
  • I would give ten years off the beginning of my life to see, only once, Tyrannosaurus rex come rearing up from the elms of Central Park, a Morgan police horse screaming in its jaws. We can never have enough of nature.

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: Notes from a Secret Journal (Vox Clamantis in Deserto) (1990)

Edward Abbey; Illustrated by Andrew Rush (1990). A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: Notes from a Secret Journal (Vox Clamantis en Deserto), St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0312064888.

  • Whatever we cannot easily understand we call God; this saves much wear and tear on the brain tissues.
  • From the point of view of a tapeworm, man was created by God to serve the appetite of the tapeworm.
  • According to the current doctrines of mysticoscientism, we human animals are really and actually nothing but 'organic patterns of nodular energy composed of collocations of infinitesimal points oscillating on the multi-dimensional coordinates of the space-time continuum'. I'll have to think about that. Sometime. Meantime, I'm going to gnaw on this sparerib, drink my Blatz beer, and contemplate the a posteriori coordinates of that young blonde over yonder, the one in the tennis skirt, tying her shoelaces.
  • Orthodoxy is a relaxation of the mind accompanied by a stiffening of the heart.
  • Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.
  • The distrust of wit is the beginning of tyranny.
  • No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets.
  • A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.
  • Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners.
  • Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.
  • In a nation of sheep, one brave man forms a majority.
  • The more corrupt a society, the more numerous its laws.
  • Freedom begins between the ears.
  • The "Terror" of the French Revolution lasted for ten years. The terror that preceded and led to it lasted for a thousand years.
  • Counterpart to the knee-jerk liberal is the new knee-pad conservative, always groveling before the rich and powerful.
  • What's the difference between a whore and a congressman? A congressman makes more money.
  • When the situation is hopeless, there's nothing to worry about.
  • Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.
  • An empty man is full of himself.
  • I come more and more to the conclusion that wilderness, in America or anywhere else, is the only thing left that is worth saving.
  • If wilderness is outlawed, only outlaws can save wilderness.
  • The only thing worse than a knee-jerk liberal is a knee-pad conservative.
  • God is a sound people make when they're too tired to think anymore.
  • Hierarchical institutions are like giant bulldozers — obedient to the whim of any fool who takes the controls.


Reed F. Noss; Allen Y. Cooperrider, Rodger Schlickeisen (1994). Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity, Pg. 338, Island Press. ISBN 1559632488.

  • One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.
    • From a speech to environmentalists in Missoula, Montana in 1978 and in Colorado, which was published in High Country News in the 1970s or early 1980s under the title "Joy, Shipmates, Joy."


  • "Society is like a stew. If you don't stir it up every once in a while, then a layer of scum floats to the top."

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