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: Wilderness are human-exclusion zones (Gomes-Pampa and Kaus 1992, Adams and Mulligan 2002, Cronon 1996), and variants of this which claim that wilderness victimizes the disabled (as vehicles and roads are excluded from wilderness)
Myth: Wilderness is a cultural creation or cultural landscape, a human artifact (Gomez-Pampa and Kaus 1992, Rose 1998, Langton 1996, Flannery 2003, Adams 1996)
Myth: Wilderness is a state of mind, a concept, not a place (Lowenthal 1964, Nash 1979, Cronon 1996, Johnston 2003)
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).
Myth: Wilderness is the same as Terra Nullius (Flannery 1994, Langton 1996) and is a ‘mystification of genocide’ (Langton 1996)
Myth: Wilderness does not recognise that such areas were ‘home’ to native peoples (Langton 1996, Adams and Mulligan 2002, Cronon 1996).
Myth: Wilderness stops other uses (i.e. multiple use) which might attain a ‘balanced, sustainable relationship’ (Cronon 1996).
Myth: Wilderness is a colonialist term (Cronon 1996, Adams and Mulligan 2002)
Myth: Wilderness is an icon of the frontier and a monument to the American (colonialist) past (Gomez-Pampa and Kaus 1992, Cronon 1996)
Myth: Wilderness is the enemy of the poor, as it prevents the use of land for productive agriculture (Cronon 1996)
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: Wilderness is a ‘flight from history’, a Romantic, escapist retreat (Cronon 1996)
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: Idealizing wilderness means not idealizing the environment in which we live (i.e. non-wilderness) (Cronon 1996)
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.
Myth: Wilderness is not essential for nature conservation (Gomez-Pampa and Kaus 1992, Recher and Lunney2003). Wilderness, it is claimed, is not essential for nature conservation. This is an important criticism, as in part it denies the ecological values of wilderness:
Myth: Wilderness is an idea based on outdated equilibrium ecology (Gomez-Pampa and Kaus 1992, Adams and Mulligan 2002)
Myth: Wilderness is an outdated model, while the ‘biosphere reserve’ is a better model (Callicott 2003). This would appear to be an argument for multiple use:
Myth: Wilderness is the recreational preserve of yuppie bushwalkers (Recher and Dunney 2003).
Myth: Wilderness is overrun by feral animals and weeds and is degraded (Peter Cochrane, MP 2004)
Myth: Wilderness is in conflict with the protection of endangered species (as these must be intensively managed) (Cronon 1996).
Myth: Wilderness ignores the perspectives/ knowledge of rural populations (Gomez-Pampa and Kaus, 1992).