If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
-Lyndon B. Johnson
The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature[1. Cronon, William. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1995. Print.]
This essay by William Cronon explains how the concepts of wilderness and frontier, popularized by American westward expansion in the 1800s, have changed with history. He argues that the wilderness seen today is not at all natural, but rather human-constructed. This essay also emphasizes how people ultimately choose what parts of nature to set aside in wilderness areas. Cronon contends that long ago, wilderness was a place to be feared by mankind. By the end of the nineteenth century, human perception of wilderness shifted in that people began to more closely value its worth. As human perception of wilderness continued to escalate, its value and sacredness began to diminish by the dilution of human influence. In the end of his writing, Cronon stresses the importance of maintaining a balance between admiring wilderness’ wonders and diminishing its values by mistaking its existence for a place where civilization can be escaped.
Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction[2. Cronon, William. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1995. Print.]
Paul Robbins, John Hintz, and Sarah A. Moore
This book shows the intricate relationships between humans and their environment through numerous perspectives. It also demonstrates how specific objects (from trees to French fries) influence people and visa versa. Chapter 8, entitled Social Construction of Nature, highlights how wilderness and other ideas are completely constructed by people. This idea of social construction challenges many other concepts widely used, such as nature and race. Chapter 7 mentions anthropocentrism, a view centered on what nature can provide specifically for humans. This book provides an excellent overview of interdisciplinary thought, which is especially vital to understand how different people view the environment and related ideas.
Wilderness Act of 1964[3. “The Wilderness Act of 1964.” Wilderness.net. n.p., n.d. Web. 14 December 2013. http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/legisact.]
Written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society
This act was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and protected 9.1 million acres of federal land. It defines wilderness as follows: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” This piece of legislature represents how the United States views the wilderness, the land Americans wish to protect, and the means by which they should try to protect this land.