Is there any thing or any place left on Earth that remains really, truly wild? In this Human Age it’s easy to believe that wildness is extinct. Civilization’s fingerprints are everywhere – from plastic trash on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, to the effects of global climate change on the most remote landscapes, to the wildlife that we carefully monitor and control. And yet, if you know where to look, you’ll find that much remains that is untamed. Even today, wildness can remain a touchstone for our relationship with the rest of nature.
In Satellites in the High Country, I travel beyond the bright lights and certainties of our cities to seek wildness wherever it survives. In New Mexico’s Gila wilderness, I tracked some of the 109 Mexican gray wolves that may be some of the most monitored wildlife on the planet – once a symbol of the wild, these wolves have come to show how technology shapes life in even the most remote corners of Earth. In Washington’s Cascade Mountains, I joined a modern-day wild woman and her students to learn to tan hides and start fires without matches, attempting to connect with a primal past out of reach for the rest of civilization. These expeditions and others show that, although our notions of pristine nature may be shattering, the mystery of the wild still exists – and in fact, it is more crucial than ever.
But wildness is wily as a coyote: you have to be willing to track it to understand the least thing about it. Satellites in the High Country is an epic journey on the trail of the wild, a poetic and incisive exploration of its meaning and enduring power in our Human Age.
“Mark’s adventures take him from popular national parks, such as Yosemite and the Badlands, to remoter places, such as Alaska’s Brooks Range and New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness, in search of areas less hospitable to tourists and romantic notions about pristine, “museum-like” vistas and calendar-ready wildlife. Mark presents a fresh, first-rate piece of nature writing and a stirring manifesto calling for the protection and celebration of the true spirit of wild places.”
“One of the pleasures of Satellites in the High Country is that Mr. Mark does not follow the usual nature writer’s path and just throw the word “wild” out there, waving it like a flag, before carrying on with his own happy tramps into the wilderness. His approach to decoding the word is comprehensive, …The ideas are the best part…trips are well-described and linked clearly to the book’s intellectual lessons.”
—Wall Street Journal
“In his new book, Satellites In The High Country: Searching For The Wild In The Age Of Man, Mark takes us on a journey across America in search of wilderness, from a reservation in South Dakota where the reintroduction of bison has divided the community to a cave in Washington state where a British cavewoman is replicating life in the Paleolithic more than two million years ago. Along the way, he explores the meaning of wilderness and the urgent need to conserve what remains of it.”
“This is true adventure; Mark writes eloquently about our need for nature and our responsibility to preserve it.”
—Contra Costa Times/San Jose Mercury News
“Mark carves out a fine distinction between inadvertent influence caused by factors like climate change and intentional control. He offers a heartfelt ode to the continued importance of nonintervention in wilderness areas, even if doing so leads to unrecognizably changed landscapes.”
—High Country News
“Through it all, [Mark] does a nice job of balancing historical fact and sociopolitical commentary with poetic passages that celebrate the breathtaking beauty of the natural world.”
—KQED Arts The Spine
“Satellites in the High Country is an act of ground truthing on the nature of wildness at this moment in time. Author Jason Mark circumnavigates the American West with the eyes of an open-hearted sleuth, looking for what wild remains. Wildness, he discovers, is not only all around us, but inside us as well, having little to do with what is pristine or untouched and everything to do with nature’s intricate system of adaptation and response, function and beauty, and our innate capacity for awe. This book is a conversation with sanity.”
—Terry Tempest Williams, author of When Women Were Birds
“Jason Mark is a great person to share an adventure with, whether out on the Arctic tundra or on the page. Satellites in the High Country is an engrossing exploration of the ever-evolving definition of what is ‘wild’ in America – which often reveals as much about us as it does about wilderness in the twenty-first century.”
—Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club
“Satellites in the High Country is a brave and vigorous exploration of wilderness – its meaning, its necessity, its thunderous, rock-strewn reality. Jason Mark guides the reader across mountain passes and Arctic tussocks on a journey that is at once physical, philosophical, and political. His feet may be bruised, but his voice is strong, honest, and compelling. Read this book for an insightful and much-needed update on the centrality of wilderness in the contemporary American mind.”
—Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Great Tide Rising
“In Satellites in the High Country, gripping accounts of outdoor journeys are linked with provocative thinking about the meaning of wildness in an increasingly human-controlled world. Jason Mark ably continues the writing style and themes of legends such as John Muir and Edward Abbey.”
—Roderick Frazier Nash, Professor Emeritus of History and Environmental Studies, University of California Santa Barbara and author of Wilderness and the American Mind
“In Satellites in the High Country, Jason Mark narrates his adventures in America’s wilderness with stunning detail. The dilemma of whether to leave nature to its own devices or tend it in order to preserve its ecological integrity is sensitively portrayed. Now more than ever, we need voices like Mark’s to illustrate this ever-complex relationship between mankind and nature, and to inspire us to care for our wild places.”
—Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society
“Jason Mark revisits ‘the wild’ in our landscapes and in our minds. At a time when the wild – as a place and an idea – is being increasingly hemmed in, he offers fresh insights, unsettled questions, and renewed appreciation.”
—Curt Meine, Aldo Leopold Foundation & Center for Humans and Nature
I’m also the co-author, with Kevin Danaher and Shannon Biggs, of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots (PoliPoint Press, 2007) as well as Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power (Routeledge, 2003), written with Kevin Danaher.