William Cronon

"The Trouble with Wilderness, or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature"



1.      Wilderness definition: (According to the Wilderness Act of 1964)

2.      Cronon attacks “wilderness environmentalism” (W.E.)

3.      Criticizing concept of wilderness not wild nature itself, or even efforts to set aside large tracks of land (if properly contextualized)

4.      Wilderness idea is a culturally and historically-relative human creation

5.      A trip to the wilderness is a trip into our own cultural presuppositions

6.      Of course, the nonhuman world in wilderness is not merely our own invention


7.      Human attitudes toward wilderness have changed from negative to positive

8.      Modern environmental attitude toward wilderness was created by two intellectual movements:

9.      One: Romantic Spiritual Sublime: Wilderness as a manifestation of God’s presence on earth

10.    Two: Nostalgic, Romantic Primitivism of the National Myth of the Frontier


11.    Wilderness is elitist; a landscape for rich tourists

12.    Wilderness is only an ideal for those who are ignorant of how people do and must use the land

13.    Wilderness creation involved the removal of the native peoples

14.    Exporting wilderness conception to third world is a form of cultural imperialism (and is self-defeating)

15.    Wilderness is historically ignorant idea: False myth that wilderness was a “virgin, uninhabited land”

16.    Central paradox: Wilderness embodies an unfortunate dualism in which humans are seen as entirely outside nature

17.    Wilderness environmentalism is profoundly misanthropic

18.    Wilderness environmentalism involves hostility toward modern life and the idea that civilization is a disease

19.    Wilderness environmentalism leads to primitivism as ideal for humans

20.    Wilderness environmentalism today fails to properly value civilization

21.    Wilderness ideal doesn’t allow humans to be a positive part of nature and offers no recommendations for how humans should be a part of nature

22.    We need an environmental ethic that tells us as much about using nature as about not using it

23.    The belief that human’s real home is wilderness, allows us to avoiding taking responsibility for the home in civilization we actually have

24.    Wilderness environmentalism idealizes and seeks to protect distant wildernesses (Arctic Refuge, Amazon Rainforest) and ignores threats to our local, less than completely pristine nature, the place we call home

25.    Wilderness environmentalism is not only wilderness preservation first, but suggests wilderness is the only important value, thus ignoring environmental justice and other serious dimensions of human and environmental problems


26.    Crucial for us to recognized and honor nonhuman nature as a world we did not create, a world with own independent, nonhuman reasons for being

27.    Wilderness as a place for nonhuman other; helps us to avoid human arrogance and self-absorption: Place to escape from our own “too-muchness”

28.    Wilderness is one of environmentalism’s great contributions is a critique of modernity (of the failings of the human world)