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A kind of parallax skews the viewsheds and soundscapes of the desert.

In our new book from the University of Arizona Press, Jack Loeffler recalls how our mutual friend, Tohono O’odham elder Camillus Lopez, once said to him, “If you look into the mirror of Nature and cannot see yourself, then you are too far away.” I call this distance from desert nature that many (though not all) urban dwellers feel “cultural parallax.”

We see or hear the desert differently because a kind of parallax that skews the viewsheds and soundscapes of the desert. No doubt, each species of desert rat, bat, bird and reptile also absorbs through their senses the “signals” from a desert landscape in an altogether different manner as well. But whenever we get so far away from those signals that the “desert” is merely an abstraction or distraction, it is at our own peril, and may threaten other lives as well.

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