Europe is manicured. The whole continent, except for some semi-inaccessible places in the alps, northern Scotland or Scandinavia, has been groomed and tended by the hand of man. It's a vast millennial project, requiring the cooperation of scores of nations and peoples speaking different languages.
America has nothing like it, except maybe the aptly named New England. America still has, lurking around the edges in tattered remnants, bits of wildness and danger. Even in places where that wildness is illusory, it exists as a living memory - people internalize its existence and act as if it is still there.
Maybe that's why lots of North Americans feel the world has to be tamed and brought under control while Europeans, having achieved that control ages ago, feel a duty to cultivate, nurture, and manage.
Even in their social worlds Europeans find adventure in their neighbors, in other people, while Americans feel a need to search for it "out there."
I didn't really have a sense of our precarious coexistence with nature until I took a short, puny, trip to the Australian outback. I realized that non-aboriginals don't last long there deprived of their bottled water, gasoline, functioning cars, and maps. The same can happen an hour or so outside Sydney, in the Blue Mountains, where trekkers into the valleys and gorges often don't come back. There is s sense that nature and wildness are out to get you, and will grab you by the ankles and pull you in if you're not careful. Even a short walk into the nearby suburban bush can be deadly. And swimming - jeez! Between the jellyfish, sharks, and the rip currents, you're on your own.
I suppose lots of Russia and the former Soviet republics are like this, which might explain a thing or two.
Its 10 am. I'm the only one up besides the bus driver. We have driven overnight from Torino and are almost to Vienna. The road is now straight, a highway surrounded by farms and the occasional factory. We're headed North. The sky is gray. In Italy, it was sunny and hot.
[11:30: Now the sun is coming out in spots. I see a little village in the distance - red roofs and a church spire poking up amongst the green fields. Like a stupid postcard, I think to myself]