Gary Snyder's childhood and upbringing greatly contributed to the values that he held as an intellectual adult. First, his parents (his father was a union organizer) and grandparents were members of the old left-wing politics. He grew up on a farm in Washington, a piece of land in which he felt closely bonded to. Snyder took up mountaineering and backpacking at a very early age. At the age of fifteen he climbed Mt. St. Helens.
From the ages of fifteen to twenty-five Snyder hitchhiked a lot all over the country. He wanted "to learn the birds, smells, stars of places that he traveled-. By traveling often and seeing many different places it only contributed to an enlarged sense of place for him. As Snyder stated in his speech "Entering the Fiftieth Millenium-, he never lost sense of being a person of the Pacific Northwest, and that the forests and mountains of the northwest were his territory, a place to call his home.
After traveling through much of the forests in the northwest Snyder realized that there was an extreme amount of environmental degregation going on. There was heavy logging taking place and suburbs were rapidly moving outwards from the cities. He had such a love of the Cascades that he could not justify the clearcuts.
At this time in Snyder's life he began to develop a larger world view. His grandfather had introduced him to Marx, and this is when he realized that "there was oppression and exploitation aloof in the world- (Snyder, 50th millennium). In his speech he talks about three turning points that affected his political and world views. The first was the Holocaust, which made him question human nature and the nature of governments. The second was when he realized what Stalin was doing in the Soviet Union. This turned Snyder away from socialism at an early age. The final turning point was the end of the cold war, which led to the beginning of the global economy, a time in which there was "no moral opposition to unleashed and value-free capitalism- (Snyder, 50th Millenium).