THE logic of our present thinking - that we should increase in numbers and, especially, in material wealth and ease - leads inexorably in the direction of the managed world. It is, as a few rebels have maintained, a rut, a system of beliefs in which we are trapped. When Thoreau declared that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, it was to this rut that he referred. He went to live at Walden Pond to prove how little man needed to survive ... But most of us have lived in that rut without rebelling. A few, often under Thoreau's influence, may have chucked their sophomore year to live in a tent by some wild lake, but even most of them returned to normal society. Thoreau's explanation - that we think there's no choice - may help explain this fact. But the terrible truth is that most of us rather like the rut. We like acquiring more things; the aphorists notwithstanding, they make us happy. We like the easy life.... The world, as most of us in the West experience it in the late twentieth century, is a reasonably sweet place. That is why there aren't hippies camped by the lake. We like to camp, but for the weekend.
The only trouble is that this system of beliefs, this pleasant rut, seems not to be making the planet happy.