Myth 8: Wilderness is a colonialist term

Myth: Wilderness is a colonialist term (Cronon 1996, Adams and Mulligan 2002)

Truth: Wilderness derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘wil-deor-ness’ – the place of wild animals. The modern IUCN definition is that wilderness is a ‘large natural area’. There is nothing inherently colonialist in the word itself. If it is a colonialist term, why did mainly the colonies of England develop such a term, and not the colonies of (for example) Spain? It seems more likely that wilderness gained popularity as a term precisely because England and America led the industrialization of the now ‘developed countries’. Wilderness became an important concept there as it was seen as the opposite of this rampant destruction of the natural world. It is important to return to meaning. Wilderness - defined as a large natural area - is neither indigenous or colonialist – it is itself, could also be called ‘country’, something that should be respected and protected.