Wilderness Truths

Why Wilderness?

Why is it important that we keep our last remaining wilderness? If this an ethical question, a practical one, or both? I would argue it is both. I believe in the intrinsic value of nature, that nature is not just for human use, but has a right to exist for itself. In that case, the most natural areas have a right to survive.  Large natural areas are the original and best of planet Earth - this is essentially what the IUCN defines wilderness as. So yes it is an ethical question. It is also a practical one however. Human society relies on ecosystem services to survive.

Myth 4: Wilderness creates a ‘dualism’

Myth: Wilderness creates a ‘dualism’ between wilderness = good nature, and non-wilderness = bad nature which is inherently bad as it creates a barrier to recognising the values of nature in non-wilderness areas (Adams and Mulligan 2002, Mulligan 2001, Cronon 1996, Gomez-Pampa and Kaus 1992). Wilderness has been described as a dualism where ‘the unlivable city is abandoned for the wilderness … In concentrating on the wilderness, we turn our backs not only on the rest of nature, but on man himself’ (Lowenthal 1964).

Wilderness Truths

Over the last thirty years the meaning of the word 'wilderness' has changed (in Australia and elsewhere), and it has come under sustained attack on philosophical, cultural, political and ‘justice’ grounds (Washington 2005, 2006). Why has this happened? Why have wilderness campaigns drastically slowed? Why do some people no longer use the term? How has the term become so confused? What could be done to reduce this confusion? This site deals with 21 myths involved in the 'Wilderness Knot’ – the confusion and tangled meanings around ‘wilderness’.

Myth 12: Wilderness is the idea of rich, white males

Myth: Wilderness is the idea of rich, white, chauvinistic males (Cronon 1996)

Truth: This myth is an assertion presented as ‘evident truth’, rather than a logical argument. Many wilderness advocates are neither rich, white, or male. Wilderness defined by IUCN is a ‘large natural area’, it is thus not just an idea of any race, gender or financial status. Rather, wilderness is a rapidly dwindling area which represents the least degraded natural areas that still remain.

Myth 14: Wilderness is part of patriarchy

Myth: Wilderness is part of patriarchy (Vance 1997).

Truth: Patriarchy is a social system where men are the authority figures, and is generally understood to repress women. Wilderness in its IUCN definition is a large natural area. It thus has no gender. To seek to protect the remaining large natural areas of the Earth has no relation to one gender being in power and repressing another. To protect wilderness is to protect the ecosystems of planet Earth. Wilderness is gender-neutral but very much biodiversity-positive.