Dave Foreman

Wilderness Areas for Real

Foreman objects to these 8 points in the anti-wilderness critique of J. Baird Callicott (and others, including William Cronon)


1.      Rejects claim one can criticize the wilderness idea w/o criticizing actual wildernesses

2.      Rejects idea that Leopold should be seen as an advocate of sustainable development and not wilderness preservation

         a.      He favored both!

         b.      Sustainable development is not an alternative to wilderness preservation (as Callicott suggests) but complementary

3.      Rejects the idea that if we embrace wilderness we also embrace sacrifice zones (where nature is totally devastated)

         a.      Idea is that we put all our energies into preserving wilderness and ignore other less special places

         b.      Enviros who seek wilderness--far from wanting us to trash and despoil non-wilderness lands--are also advocates of sustainable development on these lands and have pushed for passage of a whole set of environmental laws that regulate development on non-wilderness lands to protect the environment

         c.      **Foreman insists that “Wilderness areas must be the center-piece of conservation strategy”

                   i.       Because his experience shows him that all the other environmental protection laws get gutted in practices by the environmental agencies and extractive industries

                   ii.      “Wilderness areas work better than anything else at protecting biodiversity”

                            (1)    But is environmentalism centrally about protecting biodiversity or is that rather one among a number of goals (though important one)     

                   iii.     Designated wideness areas been around 70 years and succeeded in protecting ecological processes and some of most sensitive species in North America

4.      Rejects the Third World Critique of Conservation via Wilderness (Ramachandra Guha)

         a.      Agrees we need to safeguard land for use by indigenous peoples and celebrate their knowledge and stewardship of land

         b.      Objects to the anthropocentrist critics of 3rd world wilderness who want to see the “supposed benefits from destruction of wilderness go to the poor and socially disenfranchised”

         c.      Rejects idea that wilderness preservation is a uniquely American idea and that it is not suitable land management approach throughout culturally diverse world

                   i.       Many from around the world embrace wilderness; Foreman thinks the wilderness idea is widespread and ancient

                   ii.      Often times land between warring tribes was so dangerous that people did not go into it and this became defacto wilderness

         d.      To the charge that wilderness advocates have ignored native peoples, he points to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act which sets aside huge amounts of wilderness and allows Alaskan native subsistence use

5.      Rejects idea that wilderness is ethnocentric and ignores the impact native peoples had on the land

         a.      Rejects Callicott’s claim that native Americans so manipulated the American landscape (mainly by fire) that it was not wilderness but a constructed landscape and so we must “abandon the myth of pristine America”

                   i.       Foreman doubts there was a large enough population of Natives to do this and points to a study that suggests lightening started fires better explain the presence of fire-adapted species

6.      Rejects idea that wilderness perpetuates a human-nature dualism/split and separates humans from nature

         a.      Foreman thinks that due to our numbers and technology we have “temporarily divorced ourselves from Nature”

         b.      Civilization caused human-nature dualism

         c.      **Wilderness is best idea we have for healing that breach

                   i.       For reintegrating people back into Nature in a humble and respectful way

                   ii.      Wilderness areas, where people are visitors who do not remain, bring us back into nature and nature back into us

                   iii.     When he’s out in nature backpacking, he’s not separate from nature but home

                   iv.     Here I think he is mistaken

                            (1)    Wilderness can’t be the human home (civilization is)

                            (2)    Sustainable development in human used land is essential for healing human/nature relation

                            (3)    Setting aside wilderness is also important (essential?)

         d.      No place other than wilderness can teach us self-restraint, generosity and humility as well

7.      Rejects idea that wilderness areas aim to protect static, stable landscapes

         a.      Wilderness conservation evolves with ecology and can accept new instability paradigms

         b.      Wilderness aims to protect natural processes not to freeze frame nature at some point

8.      Rejects idea that sustainable development is an uncontroversial answer to env problems

         a.      Optimistically, sustainable development is unproven

         b.      Cynically, it is a fraud; a re-corking of the same old multiple use/sustainable yield paradigm in a new bottle

                   i.       A new guise for wring more $ out of the land.