chapter  4
Globalization in the Modern World-System, 1500–1914
Pages 28

In 1992 an unsettling story appeared in the news. A brilliant young man from a happy family and with an excellent college degree was found dead in the ruins of a long-abandoned bus in a remote wilderness of Alaska. He was Chris McCandles. He had left home in a Virginia suburb of Washington, DC, to travel. He came to call himself Alex Supertramp. Alex had starved to death. He had not wanted to die. A note found with his body said that he walked and hitched his way “to the Great White North No Longer to be Poisoned by Civilization He Flees, and Walks Alone Upon the Land to Become Lost in the Wild.” I have told this story before, found it hard to forget. It became the subject of a best-selling book, Into the Wild (1996), and later a popular film. Years after Alex lost himself in the wilderness some were still trying to understand how and why he did this. Eventually a biochemist from Fairbanks learned that, as some thought, he had inadvertently died of a natural poison that destroys the body’s ability to process food. Alex Supertramp wanted to live.