attitudes that it breeds, especially mobility and that curious western combination of independence and cooperation, will go on. The myths, worse luck, will also go on, so long as there is space in which cowboy heroes can ride off into the sunset. But what the various Wests will do for a sustainable economy, once the grass, timber, and minerals are gone to join the beaver and the buffalo, is a harder question.

I choose to take a hopeful view, the view that our history of reckless waste, our destruction of grasslands and forests, our gutting of the mountain gulches and our leavings of dead tailings and dangerous mineshafts, our ruthless elimination of the native cultures and the wildlife – all our mistakes born of ignorance and greed – will eventually be corrected. That the boosters' promotion of western scenery will go the way of other booms, and that the population, or at least the permanent population, will settle down to something that this dry country can carry. That within the sparse permanent settlements of the prairie and mountain and desert West there will grow communities with the kind of tough roots that will hold – I can't forget that the oldest living things in the continent are the creosote rings of one of our driest deserts. When you are forced to live against the roughest of conditions you are likely to outlive most things born in kinder circumstances.

I am sure that the continuing frontier, the continuing effort of people to make the arid lands do more than the arid lands can do, will further erode that fragile ecosystem. We will have more and worse desertification. But we may also learn something, slowly. I suspect tat in the old Dust Bowl states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, where the Ogallala Aquifer is pumped down almost to bedrock, the next drought will have calamitous effects, and that a region where already population is shrinking, farms are going back to grass, towns are withering away and disappearing, may sooner