Within Price's writing the main idea is focus around finding different ways to identify nature. Without our quite realizing it, wilderness tends to privilege some parts of nature at the expense of others. Of woods decaying, never to be decayed, Compare with Muir, Yosemite, in John Muir: Eight Wilderness Discovery Books, p. 714. What are the consequences of a wilderness ideology that devalues productive labor and the very concrete knowledge that comes from working the land with one’s own hands? It’s too small, too plain, or too crowded to be authentically wild. 233-55, and William Cronon, “Introduction: In Search of Nature,” in Cronon, Uncommon Ground, pp. Seen as the sacred sublime, it is the home of a God who transcends history by standing as the One who remains untouched and unchanged by time’s arrow. meets death, he faces it as he has faced many other evils, with quiet, In reminding us of the world we did not make, wilderness can teach profound feelings of humility and respect as we confront our fellow beings and the earth itself. 18. In virtually all of its manifestations, wilderness represents a flight from history. The wilderness dualism tends to cast any use as abuse, and thereby denies us a middle ground in which responsible use and non-use might attain some kind of balanced, sustainable relationship. Whatever value it might have arose solely from the possibility that it might be “reclaimed” and turned toward human ends—planted as a garden, say, or a city upon a hill. The Trouble With Wilderness. Lest you suspect that this view of the sublime was limited to timid Europeans who lacked the American know-how for feeling at home in the wilderness, remember Henry David Thoreau’s 1846 climb of Mount Katahdin, in Maine. In the broadest sense, wilderness teaches us to ask whether the Other must always bend to our will, and, if not, under what circumstances it should be allowed to flourish without our intervention. Website: http://www.williamcronon.net. Madison , WI 53706 The actual frontier had often been a place of conflict, in which invaders and invaded fought for control of land and resources. “But the trouble with wilderness is that it quietly expresses and reproduces the very values its devotees seek to reject. of his ribs as he ascends. Richard Slotkin has made this observation the linchpin of his comparison between Turner and Theodore Roosevelt. Because of projects to sustain the ‘nature’ of the wilderness, environmentalists creates dams in rivers and try to prevent animal extinction. Meanwhile, its original inhabitants were kept out by dint of force, their earlier uses of the land redefined as inappropriate or even illegal. In offering wilderness as the ultimate hunter-gatherer alternative to civilization, Foreman reproduces an extreme but still easily recognizable version of the myth of frontier primitivism. See Olwig, “Reinventing Common Nature: Yosemite and Mount Rushmore—A Meandering Tale of a Double Nature,” Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, ed. I celebrate with others who love wilderness the beauty and power of the things it contains. But the trouble with wilderness is that it quietly expresses and reproduces the very values its devotees seek to reject. 469: The Making of the American Landscape, 932: Topics in American Environmental History. It is entirely a creation of the culture that holds it dear, a product of the very history it seeks to deny. Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods (1864), in Henry David Thoreau (New York: Library of America, 1985), pp. Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, P. 34. Compare its analysis of environmental knowledge through work with Jennifer Price’s analysis of environmental knowledge through consumption. Cronon's writing differs in the main fact that he focuses on how humans classify nature and how many of our actions of preservation make nature… This ground is not prepared for you. Henry David Thoreau, “Walking,” The Works of Thoreau, ed. 31. Winds thwarting winds, bewildered and forlorn, The tautology gives us no way out: if wild nature is the only thing worth saving, and if our mere presence destroys it, then the sole solution to our own unnaturalness, the only way to protect sacred wilderness from profane humanity, would seem to be suicide. The frontier might be gone, but the frontier experience could still be had if only wilderness were preserved. Country people generally know far too much about working the land to regard unworked land as their ideal. Bill McKibben, The End of Nature (New York: Random House, 1989). Theme by Anders Norén. The trouble is that it quietly expresses and reproduces the very values its devotees seek to reject. We’re all guilty of the romanticized idea of going off to another country or a National park to save chimpanzees, or tag turtles, or replant trees in the middle of nowhere for a few months to feel as if we’ve done something for the earth. James T. Boulton (1958; Notre Dame, Indiana: Univ. Feelings like these argue for the importance of self-awareness and self criticism as we exercise our own ability to transform the world around us, helping us set responsible limits to human mastery—which without such limits too easily becomes human hubris. We can see that people moved from thinking of the wilderness as a savage, desolate, and barren place to one that should be utilized and appreciated today. He talks about how wilderness is a place where we go to escape the cares and troubles of the world, but how we have lost touch with it. He says We and our children will henceforth live in a biosphere completely altered by our own activity, a planet in which the human and the natural can no longer be distinguished, because the one has overwhelmed the other. (17). Indeed, my principal objection to wilderness is that it may teach us to be dismissive or even contemptuous of such humble places and experiences. To do so is merely to take to a logical extreme the paradox that was built into wilderness from the beginning: if nature dies because we enter it, then the only way to save nature is to kill ourselves. 26. To protect wilderness was in a very real sense to protect the nation’s most sacred myth of origin. (12) Romantics had a clear notion of where one could be most sure of having this experience. The very men who most benefited from urban-industrial capitalism were among those who believed they must escape its debilitating effects. I hope that those with an anti-environmental agenda don't glibly misinterpret the title of William Cronon's article "The Trouble With Wilderness" (Aug. … Combining the sacred grandeur of the sublime with the primitive simplicity of the frontier, it is the place where we can see the world as it really is, and so know ourselves as we really are—or ought to be. For example, Eden was a beautiful garden until the simple Adam and eve took the forbidden fruit. That wilderness is not some natural place for the wealthy to escape to, and rather a place of our history that we should embrace. 27. It means looking at the part of nature we intend to turn toward our own ends and asking whether we can use it again and again and again—sustainably—without its being diminished in the process. It is the place for which we take responsibility, the place we try to sustain so we can pass on what is best in it (and in ourselves) to our children. Niagara Falls was the first to undergo this transformation, but it was soon followed by the Catskills, the Adirondacks, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and others. Copyright © 1995 by William Cronon. 40. 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