Taking its title from an affecting speech given by renowned author Barry Lopez, Because It Is So Beautiful is a response to desperate questions surrounding the protection and preservation of America’s wildlands. Lopez asserted that wilderness activists will never achieve the success they seek until they can testify before legislators that a certain river or mountain must be saved—not because of its economic importance or its recreational, historical, or scientific value, but because it is so beautiful. The words resonated with young mountaineer-musician-mathematician Robert Leonard Reid, who was struggling to understand his relationship to the world, to find his vision as a writer. This belief is knit throughout the nineteen pieces in the collection, which include essays from Reid’s previous books Arctic Circle, Mountains of the Great Blue Dream, and America, New Mexico, three essays that appear here in print for the first time, as well as revised and expanded versions of essays that appeared in Touchstone, The Progressive, and elsewhere.
In this book, Reid distinguishes himself from many science-based nature writers, using the natural world as a springboard for speculations and musings on the numinous and the sacred, injustice, homelessness, the plight of the Indians, and what pushes mountain- eers to climb. Ranging in their settings from eastern New Mexico to northern Alaska, Reid’s essays illustrate, often in poetic turns of prose, his belief that the American West is worth celebrating and caring for. Above all, because it is so beautiful.