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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Alone at Last?

Air Date: Week of

Commentator Sy Montgomery recalls a peaceful hike that turned techy.


CURWOOD: About 70 miles southwest of Lake Winnipesaukee and 3,165 feet above sea level sits another of New Hampshire's scenic treasures, Mount Monadnock. Living on Earth commentator Sy Montgomery was there with some friends not too long ago. It was a peaceful day that lost its tranquility when they ran into, well, let Sy tell you what happened.

MONTGOMERY: We were just leaving the parking area when we found ourselves beset by the voice of commerce. Some guy was arguing into a car cell phone, "The order was supposed to be shipped yesterday and it didn't arrive! We may have to cancel the account!" Was this guy going to go up the mountain with a cell phone? He was. "I can't stand listening to this," I muttered. "Let's run away." We couldn't have moved faster if we'd been pursued by a swarm of bees.

Why did this guy and his cell phone on Mount Monadnock make us so angry? My friends and I discussed this on our way to the top. Howard the poet began, sheepishly, "I suppose it's too puritanical or elitist," he said, "but I'm against these gadgets."

I thought I should play Devil's Advocate. "Maybe if this guy didn't bring a cell phone today, he'd be stuck in his office waiting to hear from that supplier," I said. "Maybe this is a case when technology freed him to go up the mountain on a beautiful day."

Howard disagreed. "But was he really freed? No. He's imprisoned by his work. It even followed him up here. The tendency we have," he said, "is that everything should be available everywhere."

We walked uphill thinking about this. Why shouldn't we have everything available everywhere? Isn't this the appeal of cell phones and laptop computers? What's the danger in that? Howard knew. "Because then," he said, "everywhere becomes like everywhere else." And in too many places across our country, everywhere is becoming like everywhere else. The same strip malls, the same fast food chains, the same Wal-Marts and McDonald's. And everywhere the roar of highway traffic and airplane noise, and people talking business on their cell phones. From this Monadnock offers us refuge. This is why we escape to the woods.

Monadnock is the most climbed mountain in the world. When we got to the top there were perhaps 200 people up there. The crowd made a lot more racket than that one guy on his cell phone. But these human voices on the mountain are not noise. They are an affirmation. All these people chose, as we did, to make this pilgrimmage. To go to a mountain, not to a mall.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: Commentator Sy Montgomery comes to us from New Hampshire Public Radio.



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