A wilderness that was not intended for us. In the wilderness, we need no reminder that a tree has its own reasons for being, quite apart from us. From such a starting place, it is hard not to reach the conclusion that the only way human beings can hope to live naturally on earth is to follow the hunter-gatherers back into a wilderness Eden and abandon virtually everything that civilization has given us. The unfettered clouds and region of the Heavens, In forcing us to acknowledge that they are not of our making, that they have little or no need of our continued existence, they recall for us a creation far greater than our own. Wilderness, a place where most people go to visit, explore, or simply escape from society. Create lists, bibliographies and reviews: or Search WorldCat. By the eighteenth century this sense of the wilderness as a landscape where the supernatural lay just beneath the surface was expressed in the doctrine of the sublime, a word whose modern usage has been so watered down by commercial hype and tourist advertising that it retains only a dim echo of its former power. If wildness can stop being (just) out there and start being (also) in here, if it can start being as humane as it is natural, then perhaps we can get on with the unending task of struggling to live rightly in the world—not just in the garden, not just in the wilderness, but in the home that encompasses them both. Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, p. 63, 36. “The Trouble with Wildness” by William Cronon talks about wilderness and what exactly that phrase means.In the article it is said that wilderness is just an invention of man and like the first article I read which focused on nature this one also states that wilderness is a creation of man and that during the 1800s the wilderness was often referred to as a wide … Ten Years of Radical Environmentalism (Salt Lake City, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1991); Bill Devall, Living Richly in an Age of Limits: Using Deep Ecology for an Abundant Life (Salt Lake, City, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1993); Michael E. Zimmerman ct al., eds., Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1993). Most of all, it means practicing remembrance and gratitude, for thanksgiving is the simplest and most basic of ways for us to recollect the nature, the culture, and the history that have come together to make the world as we know it. (Tucson, Arizona: Ned Ludd Books, 1987); Bill Devall, Simple in Means, Rich in Ends: Practicing Deep Ecology (Salt Lake City, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1988); Steve Chase, ed., Defending the Earth: A Dialogue between Murray Bookchin & Dave Foreman (Boston, Massachusetts: South End Press, 1991); John Davis, ed., The Earth First, Reader. In particular, we need to discover a common middle ground in which all of these things, from the city to the wilderness, can somehow be encompassed in the word “home.” Home, after all, is the place where finally we make our living. 8. The classic works are Immanuel Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (1764), trans. exposed to it as it feels the campfire or sunshine, entering not by the See Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Atheneum, 1992), pp. But the romantic sublime was not the only cultural movement that helped transform wilderness into a sacred American icon during the nineteenth century. founder Dave Foreman captures the familiar parable succinctly when he writes, Before agriculture was midwifed in the Middle East, humans were in the wilderness. meets death, he faces it as he has faced many other evils, with quiet, Trouble with the Wilderness Cont. The power and the glory of that icon were such that only a prophet might gaze on it for long. But even as it came to embody the awesome power of the sublime, wilderness was also being tamed—not just by those who were building settlements in its midst but also by those who most celebrated its inhuman beauty. Ever since the nineteenth century, celebrating wilderness has been an activity mainly for well-to-do city folks. Only people whose relation to the land was already alienated could hold up wilderness as a model for human life in nature, for the romantic ideology of wilderness leaves precisely nowhere for human beings actually to make their living from the land. The planet is a wild place and always will be.” (43) To think ourselves capable of causing “the end of nature” is an act of great hubris, for it means forgetting the wildness that dwells everywhere within and around us. Few would have questioned the merits of “reclaiming” a wasteland like this in order to put it to human use. 171-85. It was vast, Titanic, and such as man never inhabits. Most of our most serious environmental problems start right here, at home, and if we are to solve those problems, we need an environmental ethic that will tell us as much about using nature as about not using it. Wendell Berry, Home Economics (San Francisco, California: North Point, 1987), pp. The Cronon argues that individuals have to change the way of our thinking about wilderness. Nature is where humans aren’t. At its worst, as environmentalists are beginning to realize, exporting American notions of wilderness in this way can become an unthinking and self-defeating form of cultural imperialism. The author either got his facts wrong; he was not thorough on his research, he just chose to ignore the facts, or he has no knowledge of historical events. If we set too high a stock on wilderness, too many other corners of the earth become less than natural and too many other people become less than human, thereby giving us permission not to care much about their suffering or their fate. The irony - wilderness came to reflect the very civilization its devotees sought to escape. Why, for instance, is the ” wilderness experience” so often conceived as a form of recreation best enjoyed by those whose class privileges give them the time and resources to leave their jobs behind and “get away from it all?” Why does the protection of wilderness so often seem to pit urban recreationists against rural people who actually earn their living from the land (excepting those who sell goods and services to the tourists themselves)? Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, P. 27. And in the narrow rent at every turn Among the core elements of the frontier myth was the powerful sense among certain groups of Americans that wilderness was the last bastion of rugged individualism. The contrast could not be clearer. 1-22; and Max Oelsehlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale Univ. So what is the trouble with “Wilderness”? Yosemite was deeded by the U. S. government to the state of California in 1864 as the nation’s first wildland park, and Yellowstone became the first true national park in 1872. Characters of the great Apocalypse, (Please do not reprint without permission; links to this website are fine. The trouble with wilderness displays a more complex perspective of nature than that of Price. It is simply the deliberate and chosen refusal to make any marks at all…. This will only happen, however, if we abandon the dualism that sees the tree in the garden as artificial—completely fallen and unnatural—and the tree in the wilderness as natural—completely pristine and wild. He quotes Henry David Thoreau "It was vast, Titanic, and such as man… 469: The Making of the American Landscape, 932: Topics in American Environmental History. (40) Indeed, one could almost measure wilderness by the extent to which our recognition of its otherness requires a conscious, willed act on our part. 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. But is it? as in the plains. See Richard White, ”’Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?’: Work and Nature,” in Cronon, Uncommon Ground, pp. 11. thee here, but forever relentlessly drive thee hence to where I am kind. Wallace Stegner, ed., This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers (New York: Knopf, 1955), P. 17 (italics in original). Excerpted from Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, edited by William Cronon. In William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the 14. Your email address will not be published. 37. eyes alone, but equally through all one’s flesh like radiant heat, There were other ironies as well, The movement to set aside national parks and wilderness areas followed hard on the heels of the final Indian wars, in which the prior human inhabitants of these areas were rounded up and moved onto reservations. Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree; In: Uncommon Ground:1996.. [W Cronon] Home. Wilderness hides its unnaturalness behind a mask that is all the more beguiling because it seems so natural. It is where we—all of us, in our different places and ways—make our homes. Kept talking about the balance between nature and urban life. Environmental History 1 (1996): 7-55. That’s part two of the problem: that “Wilderness” is a thing that exists only in nature, and we must escape humanity in order to find it. Of first, and last, and midst, and without end. And yet radical environmentalists and deep ecologists all too frequently come close to accepting this premise as a first principle. Read Analysis William Cronan's “the Trouble with Wilderness” free essay and over 89,000 other research documents. John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), reprinted in John Muir: The Eight Wilderness Discovery Books (London, England: Diadem; Seattle, Washington: Mountaineers, 1992), P. 211. The Trouble with Wilderness or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature William Cronon THE TIME HAS COME TO RETHINK WILDERNESS. 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. Muir’s closing words on North Dome diverge from his older contemporaries only in mood, not in their ultimate content: Perched like a fly on this Yosemite dome, I gaze and sketch and bask, oftentimes settling down into dumb admiration without definite hope of ever learning much, yet with the longing, unresting effort that lies at the door of hope, humbly prostrate before the vast display of God’s power, and eager to offer self-denial and renunciation with eternal toil to learn any lesson in the divine manuscript. But with irrigation ditches, crop surpluses, and permanent villages, we became apart from the natural world…. She seems to say sternly, why came ye here before your Instead, it’s a product of that civilization, and could hardly be contaminated by the very stuff of which it is made. The torrents of mist shoot out from the base of a great waterfall in the depths of a Sierra canyon, the tiny droplets cooling your face as you listen to the roar of the water and gaze up toward the sky through a rainbow that hovers just out of reach. Of woods decaying, never to be decayed, (31) The point is not that our current problems are trivial, or that our devastating effects on the earth’s ecosystems should be accepted as inevitable or “natural.” It is rather that we seem unlikely to make much progress in solving these problems if we hold up to ourselves as the mirror of nature a wilderness we ourselves cannot inhabit. 13. When they express, for instance, the popular notion that our environmental problems began with the invention of agriculture, they push the human fall from natural grace so far back into the past that all of civilized history becomes a tale of ecological declension. For all of its troubles and dangers, and despite the fact that it must pass away, the frontier had been a better place. Press, ig8o). The classic work on the Puritan “city on a hill” in colonial New England is Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Univ. The actual frontier had often been a place of conflict, in which invaders and invaded fought for control of land and resources. from before whose face he must himself disappear. The irony, of course, was that in the process wilderness came to reflect the very civilization its devotees sought to escape. These problems are largely the result of broad-scale ecological impacts that pose significant long-term impacts to wilderness. If Satan was there, then so was Christ, who had found angels as well as wild beasts during His sojourn in the desert. 2. Some part of the To protect wilderness was in a very real sense to protect the nation’s most sacred myth of origin. 5 notes. Remember the feelings of such moments, and you will know as well as I do that you were in the presence of something irreducibly nonhuman, something profoundly Other than yourself Wilderness is made of that too. Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods (1864), in Henry David Thoreau (New York: Library of America, 1985), pp. Theme by Anders Norén. (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale Univ. Although wilderness may today seem to be just one environmental concern among many, it in fact serves as the foundation for a long list of other such concerns that on their face seem quite remote from it. And he was there in the wilderness for forty days tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.” (5) The “delicious Paradise” of John Milton’s Eden was surrounded by “a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides /Access denied” to all who sought entry.” When Adam and Eve were driven from that garden, the world they entered was a wilderness that only their labor and pain could redeem. Seen as the frontier, it is a savage world at the dawn of civilization, whose transformation represents the very beginning of the national historical epic. Learning to honor the wild—learning to remember and acknowledge the autonomy of the other—means striving for critical self-consciousness in all of our actions. Any way of looking at nature that encourages us to believe we are separate from nature—as wilderness tends to do—is likely to reinforce environmentally irresponsible behavior. Owen Wister, The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (New York: Macmillan, 1902), pp. 25. (3) “For Pharaoh will say of the Children of Israel,” we read in Exodus, “They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.” (4) The wilderness was where Christ had struggled with the devil and endured his temptations: “And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. The wilderness was still sacred, but the religious sentiments it evoked were more those of a pleasant parish church than those of a grand cathedral or a harsh desert retreat. (33) Although his arguments give primacy to defending biodiversity and the autonomy of wild nature, his prose becomes most passionate when he speaks of preserving “the wilderness experience.” His own ideal “Big Outside” bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the frontier myth: wide open spaces and virgin land with no trails, no signs, no facilities, no maps, no guides, no rescues, no modern equipment. How often do you get to enjoy the beauty and religious experience of nature. Theodore Roosevelt, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail (1888; NewYork: Century, 1899), p. 100. We work our nine-to-five jobs in its institutions, we eat its food, we drive its cars (not least to reach the wilderness), we benefit from the intricate and all too invisible networks with which it shelters us, all the while pretending that these things are not an essential part of who we are. As more and more tourists sought out the wilderness as a spectacle to be looked at and enjoyed for its great beauty, the sublime in effect became domesticated. Wilderness has become known as something we look at and admire. This, then, is the central paradox: wilderness embodies a dualistic vision in which the human is entirely outside the natural. 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. I think, for instance, of a small pond near my house where water bubbles up from limestone springs to feed a series of pools that rarely freeze in winter and so play home to waterfowl that stay here for the protective warmth even on the coldest of winter days, gliding silently through streaming mists as the snow falls from gray February skies. Each of us who has spent time there can conjure images and sensations that seem all the more hauntingly real for having engraved themselves so indelibly on our memories. In Cronon’s article, “The Trouble with Wilderness”, he discuses the vision that society has of the wilderness being sublime and perfect. Winds thwarting winds, bewildered and forlorn, By the second half of the nineteenth century, the terrible awe that Wordsworth and Thoreau regarded as the appropriately pious stance to adopt in the presence of their mountaintop God was giving way to a much more comfortable, almost sentimental demeanor. Even John Muir, in arguing against those who sought to dam his beloved Hetch Hetchy valley in the Sierra Nevada, argued for alternative dam sites in the gentler valleys of the foothills—a preference that had nothing to do with nature and everything with the cultural traditions of the sublime. 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. 41. Mark 1:12-13, KJV; see also Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13, 6. Instead, we need to embrace the full continuum of a natural landscape that is also cultural, in which the city, the suburb, the pastoral, and the wild each has its proper place, which we permit ourselves to celebrate without needlessly denigrating the others. of his ribs as he ascends. If the core problem of wilderness is that it distances us too much from the very things it teaches us to value, then the question we must ask is what it can tell us about home, the place where we actually live. Tellingly, it is a land where hardy travelers can support themselves by hunting with “primitive weapons (bow and arrow, atlatl, knife, sharp rock).” (34) Foreman claims that “the primary value of wilderness is not as a proving ground for young Huck Finns and Annie Oakleys,” but his heart is with Huck and Annie all the same. Wilderness also lies at the foundation of the Clementsian ecological concept of the climax. It is not the things we label as wilderness that are the problem—for nonhuman nature and large tracts of the natural world do deserve protection—but rather what we ourselves mean when we use the label. The three may differ in the way they choose to express their piety—Wordsworth favoring an awe-filled bewilderment, Thoreau a stern loneliness, Muir a welcome ecstasy—but they agree completely about the church in which they prefer to worship. A tragic irony of this epistemic/media/political crisis is that technology was expected to lead us in the opposite direction; make us all smarter. The dream of an unworked natural landscape is very much the fantasy of people who have never themselves had to work the land to make a living—urban folk for whom food comes from a supermarket or a restaurant instead of a field, and for whom the wooden houses in which they live and work apparently have no meaningful connection to the forests in which trees grow and die. 39. 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