1. Texts on the concept of Wild nature and ecocentric theory




      I. Main features of Shepard's ecological philosophy.



      THE WILD, CYBORGS, AND OUR ECOLOGICAL FUTURE: Reexamining the Deep Ecology Movement.


      The politicization of science and ecocide

      The religions of the world against the New Creationism








    Presentation of “INTIMATE PLACES”


      Culture as a barrier

      Is wild nature a story?

      Intermediate areas

      Childhood connections to a place

    Deep Confusion In Intimate Places




    Presentation of “WHERE IS EARTH FIRST HEADING!?”


    Presentation of “THE WILD LANDS OF HISTORY”



    Presentation of “IS NATURE SOMETHING REAL?”


    Presentation of “VALUE CHARACTER



    Presentation of "WILD NATURE: WHAT AND WHY?"



      How many native population were there?

      How widespread was the native population?

      How extensive were the impacts of the native peoples?

      Do ecosystems recover from human impact?

      And finally, is the Myth of Wilderness important to the Idea of Protected Wilderness Areas?









      Productive landscapes reduce production processes and are not ecologically benign

      Father-knows-what-is-best syndrome

      Parks and wilderness are key to conservation



    Presentation of "THE EARTH IS NOT A GARDEN"


    Presentation of "THERE WHERE MAN IS A VISITOR"



    Presentation of "Wild nature and human settlement"

      Wild Nature and human settlement[a]



      Bibliographic references:

    Presentation of "The shaky ground of sustainable development", "The ecology of order and chaos" and "Restoring the natural order"

      The shifting terrain of sustainable development


    The ecology of order and chaos


    Restoring the natural order








    Presentation of “ON ANY MAP”

      ON NO MAP: Jack Turner talks about our loss of intimacy with the natural world

    Presentation of "THE VALUE OF A VERMIN"





      Types of autonomy from nature

      Nature influencing human beings

    Presentation of “Human beings and the value of the wild”

      Human beings and the value of the wild[1,e]




      1. What is wild Nature?

      2. What is a wilderness area?

      3. Why is wild Nature important?

      4. How are wilderness areas different from Spanish Protected Natural Spaces (PNSs)?

      5. So what can be done to protect wild Nature?

      5.1. Is the legal protection of wild areas effective in the long term for protecting wild Nature?

      5.2. Are there other alternatives to protect the wild nature?

      5.2.1. Regulation of world population size and per capita consumption

      5.2.2. Education

      5.2.3. The impending collapse of modern industrial society

      6. Summary and conclusions:


    Presentation of "A definition of the wild character"

      A definition of the wild character

      Basic nature quality

      Quality in external systems

    Presentation of “Wild Nature”

      Wild nature[2,3]

    Excerpt from a letter from Ted Kaczynski to an anonymous person, about Wild Nature, deep ecology and more[a]


  2. Texts on ecology .



      Land transformation








      A debate that continues...

      Temporal evolution of the European landscape

      Pre-Neolithic Ecosystem Engineers

      Fire dynamics

      Capra aegagrus (Wild Goat)

      Castor fiber (Castor)

      Diversity and intermediate disturbances

      Effects of land use change on disturbance regimes

      Controlled burns


      environmental conditions

      Capra ibex (Alpine ibex)

      Pyrenean Capra

      environmental conditions



      THE LAST FRONTIERS OF THE WILDLANDS: Tracking the loss of intact forest landscapes from 2000 to 2013



      Causes of the reduction of the area of the PFI

      Accuracy of the global map of the PFI




    Presentation of “The architecture of nature”

      The architecture of nature: complexity and fragility in ecological networks


      Towards a universal architecture of complex networks: the case of food webs

      Most connected species as “keystone” species

      The sixth extinction


    Presentation of “Let's protect what remains of wild nature[”]

      Let's protect what remains of wild nature[d]

      Last chance

      WILD LAND[k]



      WHAT'S LEFT?




      Foundations of the change of state theory

      Hallmarks of state changes on a global scale

      Current pressures on a global scale

      Critical transitions and past state changes

      Expect the unexpected

      Towards better biological prediction and control

      Synergies and feedbacks

      Integrate spatiotemporal data at large scales to detect changes of state at the planetary level

      Steer the biotic future

    Quantifying and mapping human appropriation of primary production from the earth's terrestrial ecosystems[i]

  In situ return flows of extracted biomass to ecosystems, ie unused residues, extraction losses, faeces from grazing animals and roots that die during extraction.





  3. Texts about reality of primitive life .




      Traditional ecological knowledge


      Bibliography cited






    Presentation of “ENTER IN CONFLICT”






    Presentation of “Primitive Communism”

      Primitive Communism: Marx's idea that before agriculture and animal husbandry societies were egalitarian and communal by nature is highly influential and quite wrong.

  4. Texts on the theory of social development .










      Every time history repeats itself the price goes up.

      Contemporary conditions

      Bibliographic references.

    Presentation of "THE SHADOW OF THE PAST"


      General bibliography given by the author:

    Presentation of "The energy limits of economic growth"

      The energy limits of economic growth

      The central role of energy

      Quantitative relationships between energy use, GDP and other socioeconomic indicators

      Energy implications for future economic growth


      References Cited

  5. Texts criticizing civilization and the techno - industrial system .

    Statement of Principles

      1. Our Principles.

      2. Our Ideal.

      3. Our Goal.

      4. Our Work.

      5. Dangers to Avoid

    The best trick of the system

      1. What the System is not.

      2. The way the System exploits the impulse to rebellion.

      3. The best trick of the System.

      4. The trick is not perfect.

      5. An example.




    ON HOW THE EARTH CEASED TO BE THE FIRST. 'Earth First!' (1980-1990), some lessons to learn By BR

      1. Introduction

      2. Origins and foundation

      3. Ideology

      4. Program

      5. Organization

      6. Strategy

      7. Evolution

      8. Errors

      9. Some lessons

      10. Notes

      11. Bibliography

      12. Final Note













      How Technology Influences Impact






    LEFTISM: The function of pseudo-critique and pseudo-revolution in techno-industrial society


      Leftism helps the system

      Leftism as cause and effect of psychological alienation

      Leftist values and ideas are contrary to reality, to reason, and to truth

      Leftism is contrary to Nature


    Presentation of “BEYOND THE CLIMATE CRISIS”


      The dominant framework of climate change

      Consequences of the Dominant Framework

      Digression on the destruction of biodiversity independent of climate change

      Looking through the glass of climate change

      Climate change as apocalypse and the emergence of geoengineering proposals

      Against the Anthropocene


    Presentation of "THE TALE OF MANAGED LAND"


      Sustainable food production

      Sustainable energy production

      Prediction, control and repair of accidents

      Maintenance of an adequate supply of clean fresh water: this supply will be essential for sustainable global management; it is not materializing today, and affordable technologies that will guarantee water to everyone are not on the horizon, especially in the face of climate change. International struggles over water management are complicating already tense political relations in the Middle East, South Asia and parts of Africa today. Water will undoubtedly be one of the great obstacles to achieving a managed planet.






    Presentation of "THE GREAT DENIAL"



      Myth 1: wealth is the solution.

      Myth 2: Wealth is the problem.

      Myth 3: Country X has a high population density but does not suffer from famine.

      Myth 4: Malthus was wrong, so the neo-Malthusians are wrong.

      Myth 5: There are more than enough resources.

      Myth 6: If waste were eliminated, there would be enough resources to meet everyone's needs.

      Myth 7: Putting food production first can end hunger.

      Myth 8: More people means more workers and more production.

      Myth 9: Technological innovation makes population growth irrelevant.

      Myth 10: Reproductive rights are the most basic of freedoms.



    Presentation of “Is green growth possible?”

      Is green growth possible?


      Defining green growth

      Conclusions and discussion

      Conclusions and discussion

      Theoretical possibilities




    Presentation of “DARWIN AMONG THE MACHINES”

    Presentation of "The myth of the environmental movement"

      The myth of the environmental movement[a,b]

      The Myth in a nutshell






    Presentation of "THE GREAT TURNING POINT"


      I. The rise of industrial civilization and fossil fuels.


    Leftism, Techno-Industrial System and Wild Nature



      Wild Nature

      Complex societies

      The great gods


      Second wave leftism: The socialist left

      A highly collectivist mass society

      The third wave leftism

      An example: Feminism

      The leftist utopia and the future of the wild

      Discrepancies between leftist ideals and wild Nature


    Presentation of "Evolution, consequences and future of the domestication of plants and animals"

      Evolution, consequences and future of the domestication of plants and animals[e]

      The past of domestication

      Our “decision” to tame

      The expansion of food production

      The consequences of domestication

      Consequences for human societies

      Evolution of epidemic infectious diseases

      Human genetic evolution

      Unresolved issues

      Primary originating regions vs. secondary originating regions

      Mechanisms of diffusion of food production

      The future of domestication

      Future domestication of humans


    Presentation of “Current demographics suggest that future energy supplies will be inadequate to slow human population growth”

      Current demographics suggest that future energy supplies will be inadequate to slow human population growthc


      Population growth depends on energy





      Population model


    When shots backfire: two unexpected consequences of technological revolutions

      Dependence on modern technology to feed a growing population

      Reduced adaptation of future generations


    Possible reactions of the techno-industrial system to climate change


    Presentation of “How We Made Things Worse

      How we make things worse[d]


    Progress versus wild nature


    Review of The Metaphysics of Technology

      1. The author:

      2. The book:

      3. The virtues:

      4. The flaws:

    Brave New World, 1984, and the Techno-Industrial System





    Book Review of Factfulness By qpooqpoo

    Book Review The Nazi Seizure of Power By qpooqpoo February 10, 2020

  Interestingly, anti-Semitism was largely absent in Northeim, the one town studied in this book, and was not promoted. Undoubtedly it was exploited throughout Germany in other locales, but the culture of Northeim did not lend itself to this. This stands as a good example for the adaptability and self-correcting nature of the Nazi propaganda system.

    TWO DIVERGENT PATHS: Integral theory and current science[a]



    Civilized to death. The price of progress

      Fallacy of authority



      Ecology of the absence of balance

      Human dispersal and ecosystem engineering


    What is “conservation”?

      The delay discard problem

      Conservation and collective action

      Predict conservation


      Practices designed to conserve

      Sustainable use without conservation









    Potential evolutionary consequences

      Long term repercussions






    Presentation of “Edward Abbey, the spark that ignited Earth First!”

      Edward Abbey, the spark that ignited Earth First!


    Oil production

      We are here





    Review of the book The world without us, by Alan Weisman.

    Presentation of “Is 'The New Nature' necessary?”

      Is “The New Nature” needed?: The new ecological controversies

    Earth's Revenge</em> and Earth Runs Out LOVELOCK: A NEW NOTICE TO SAVE CIVILIZATION</strong> (Review of the latest books by James Lovelock, by AQ)

      1. Introduction.

      2. Gaia theory and climate change.

      3. Errors and contradictions.


    Linkola and Kaczynski, a comparison


    THE DECLINE OF THE INTEGRAL WORLD: the Integral Theory and the disintegration of the Industrial Civilization[a]



    THE TRAPS OF WILBERIAN ECOLOGY: A critical review of Integral Ecology[a,b]




    Introducing the review of Martha F. Lee's book Earth First!: Environmental Apocalypse.

      Book Review by Martha Lee, EARTH First! : <em>Environmental Apocalypse</ em>.</strong>

    Presentation of "The limits of spiritual enlightenment", "Two divergent paths" and "The decline of the Integral World"


    BEHAVIORAL ADAPTATION: understanding the human animal [1, 2]

      The rebellion against the instincts

      Natural selection in techno-industrial society


    In the absence of the sacred. The failure of technology and the survival of Indian nations.


    With Friends Like These... Last Redoubt vs. Ludd's Friends



      The most constant face of Nature


      Recommended reading




    Brave new world, 1984 and the techno-industrial system


      The current techno-industrial system


    Quality of natural interactions


    The countdown

    TechNo-Fix: Why Technology Won't Save Us or the Environment

    Virtues of the ethics of respect for the autonomy of nature




    The Party is over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies

1. Texts on the concept of Wild nature and ecocentric theory

In this section we include texts that deal with the concept of wild nature and its value. Practically all of these texts about the wild are the work of conservationist authors. And most of these authors are American. However, despite the specific idiosyncratic details, we believe that, in general, the content and message of the texts can be of interest and benefit to intelligent readers in any country.

On the other hand, almost all conservationists are unfortunately idealists who are completely ignorant of the true development processes of social systems and of the fundamental factors that influence and determine them (which are mainly material factors). These conservationists believe that ecological problems and techno-industrial society are the product solely or mainly of the assumption by society of wrong values, attitudes and ideas (such as anthropocentrism or the desire to dominate and control) and that, for example, Therefore, for everything to be fixed, what you have to do is mainly try to change the values and ideas of society, that is, educate and raise awareness among people and preach certain ethical behaviors both individually and socially.

On the other hand, the few conservationists who are more realistic, practical and materialistic and who do not allow themselves to be carried away (so much) by idealistic daydreams, choose to focus on defending the legal protection of Nature without often entering into questioning and even less reject the techno-industrial society.

Therefore, if we include these texts on this page, it is not because those of us who administer it agree exactly with the strategy, the purpose or the philosophical positions of their authors. In reality, although we consider the conservationist purpose of protecting Nature laudable, we believe that legal protection is insufficient and ineffective to save ecosystems and the wild biosphere in the long term. In the long run, the physical existence of techno-industrial society is incompatible with the conservation of Wild Nature on Earth, since techno-industrial society inevitably needs to destroy and subdue Wild Nature in order to exist (that is, to extract the matter and energy it you need and to get rid of your waste; or simply to get the space it takes up). For one to survive and prosper, the other must necessarily perish; there is no middle ground or compromise solution possible. And most conservationists (and people in general) either seem unaware of this physical fact or seem to prefer to ignore or even delude themselves about it.

In any case, what seems most interesting to us about conservationism and makes us believe, despite everything, that these texts are worthy of being published here is their defense of the basic value that inspires them: the autonomy of the non-artificial, that is to say , wild nature.

As for the rest of the values and ideas defended in these texts, there is everything, but they do not always seem the most appropriate. In this regard, normally, we accompany each of the texts with a critical presentation commenting on some of the most important points on which we do not agree with the authors.

- Some questions to Dave Foreman. By David Skrbina and Dave Foreman.

- Welcome to the Pleistocene, your home. The ecological philosophy of Paul Shepard. By Tomislav Markus .

- The wild, cyborgs and our ecological future. By George Sessions.

- The authentic idea of wild Nature. By Dave Foreman.

- Intimate places. By John Revington.

- Deep Confusion in "Intimate Places". by AQ

- Against the social construction of wild Nature. By Eileen Christ.

- Where is Earth First headed!? By Dave Foreman.

- The wild lands of History. By Donald Worther.

- Is nature something real? By Gary Snyder.

- Evaluate the natural character in the Anthropocene . By Ned Hettinger.

- Wild nature: what and why? By Howie Wolke.

- The myth of the humanized pre-Columbian landscape. By Dave Foreman.

- Criticism and alternative to the idea of wild areas - Wild areas, today more than ever. By J. Baird Callicott and Reed Noss, respectively.

- Ecological forest exploitation or protection? By Ken Wu.

- Why the productive landscape does not work. By George Wuerthner.

- Earth is not a garden. By Brandon Keim

- Wherever man is a visitor. By Dave Foreman.

- Wild nature and human settlement . By David Johns .

- The conservation dilemma. By David Ehrenfeld.

- The shaky terrain of sustainable development, The ecology of order and chaos and Restoring the natural order. By Donald Worster .

- The wild character and the defense of nature . By Jack Turner.

- The sustainability of wild nature . By Ralph Buckley.

- On no map . Interview with Jack Turner conducted by Leath Tonino.

- The value of a vermin . By Donald Worther.

- Respect the autonomy of nature in relation to humanity. By Ned Hettinger.

- Human beings and the value of the wild . By Bill Throop.

- The importance of wild nature. by AQ

- A definition of the wild character. By Lawrence J. Cookson.

- Wild nature . By Theodore John Kaczynski.

- Fragment of a letter to an anonymous person about Wild Nature, deep ecology and more . By Theodore John Kaczynski.


by David Skrbina and Dave Foreman[1,2]

DAVID SKRBINA (S): When it comes to values, contrary to what happens in the United States, Australia, or the Scandinavian countries where there is a, so to speak, “culture of valuing wild lands”[616] widely accepted, in countries like Spain they face the problem that the concept that “Nature wild”[617] is something valuable practically does not exists. They have been living in a highly complex civilization for many centuries and large areas of wilderness have been gone for so long that most people seem unable to understand (and therefore defend) the importance of wilderness, its existence and the natural laws that maintain them. In fact, practically all Spanish environmental groups are more interested in achieving social justice than in protecting wild nature.

What do you think are the reasons for this huge difference between, for example, Spain and the US? And, more importantly, can you think of a way to overcome this problem?

DAVE FOREMAN (F) : Well, this is a very good question, a very deep question. It has a lot of levels when it comes to answering it. The key is that they need to start talking about wilderness and development. Look, one of the things we've failed at is natural history. Getting people to go out and watch the birds, identify plants, and that kind of thing. This is unquestionably a key piece to build a movement in favor of Wild Nature. That is where I think they can start. That would be a good task; take an inventory as in my book, The Big Outside (1998).[618] Where are the wild areas in Spain? Where are the mostly wild places? Make a list of them - map them. Who do they belong to? what we can do with them? How wild are they? What wildlife inhabits them? Are there mature or unlogged forests (primary forests)? Look for that kind of information.

My friends in the eastern United States began looking for remnants of old-growth forests, and the more they searched, the more they found. Actually, it was my closest collaborator, John Davis, and his mother, Mary Davis, who started it and wrote a book on Eastern Old-Growth Forests [Eastern Old-Growth Forests, 1996]. And they had contact with all kinds of people, and they identified just over 2,000,000 acres[620], made up of bits and parcels, including a piece of land of over 20,000 acres[621] in the Adirondacks[622]. Some of those trees were 700 years old; Somehow, they had gone uncut. I find that fascinating. Well, what about Spain? A national park in the south of Spain, if I remember correctly, has a lot of waterfowl, and I think it is also the main refuge of the Iberian lynx, but what else is there? What is in the Pyrenees? The Pyrenees were the last refuge of the Neanderthal!

One thing I would say to the people of Spain about Wilderness is that they need to come up with a word like “wilderness”, and in order to do that they need to know the etymology of the word “wilderness” in Old English - it meant “land self-governed”; “the home of the animals that governed themselves”[623]. How would you say that in Spanish? Don't say “wilderness”, say “self-governed land” in Spanish.

S: You have publicly shown tolerance and even sympathy for some theories and struggles related to “social justice”, such as feminism. Don't you think that, however, many environmental organizations have ended up being ruined and perverted, among other reasons, due to the influence of currents in favor of "social justice"? I would like to know what you think today about this. Do you still believe that leftist or humanist struggles (that is, for “social justice”) are compatible with the defense of Wild Nature?[624]

F: I think you exaggerate my sympathies for those ideas. And in the book I'm finishing up now Take Back Conservation[625], one of the things I criticize is the way in which the “progressives” on the left of the Democratic Party have of conservation in the US, something we could call the “environmental stereotype” - you have to be liberal democrats, vegetarians, anti-guns and anti-hunting, etc. They link all these other things to conservation, but they don't necessarily have to go together. I also see political correctness as one of the worst things about the environmental stereotype, and I've argued that what we need to do is try not to be beholden to the Democrats. Of course the Republicans are pretty much nuts these days. But there are people, who we could reach, who talk about some traditional conservative values, such as devotion, posterity, prudence, responsibility - all those kinds of things that won't make us look leftist.[626]

S: [...] As long as local populations can continue to exceed the carrying capacity of their environment using modern technology and the global trading system (which itself depends on modern technology), can the human population be reduced without big organizations controlling people and without using complex medical technology (and without all the impact on wild ecosystems that both imply) ?

F: Well, I think in the '70s, in the United States, we kind of had that discussion about population, but then we were overwhelmed by increased immigration. You see, many people of my generation decided not to have children. I can easily sit back and quickly remember 100 people I know, people of my generation who didn't have children. In many cases it was a very conscious decision. And one of the things that we need to do, and there are people in New England who are working on it and they have a website, is to explain the quality of life that a couple without children can have. I have nephews and nieces, I have no children. However, I take my nieces and nephews whitewater rafting and the like. So one can mount it in many ways.

Nowadays, I believe that society and technology push women, both in developed countries and in the third world, to have more children than they want. And we see countries like Japan where the population is declining as young women have been liberated from an inferior position in society and have decided that what they want is something more important than having a handful of babies.

S: So, the main thing is that it can be done without a big bureaucracy controlling people.

F: And besides, I think it's going to happen anyway, whether we try or not. Look, we have 7 billion large mammals that can practically come into physical contact with everyone else in 48 hours, via air travel. We are exposing ourselves to a highly deadly pandemic. And I think it's inevitable that this will happen. I don't know when, I don't know what it will be. But that is precisely the way ecology works. We are perfect prey for a predator, and that predator is going to be very, very small.

S: Right - there are these debates about which catastrophe is going to hit us first: pandemic, global climate change, food supply collapse, water problems...

F: I think in many ways they will come together. But who knows?

S: As far as I know, you defend the “Pleistocene Rewilding”[627]. It is obvious that “Pleistocene Rewilding” is based on the Pleistocene overkill hypothesis[628] but isn't it unwise to propose something that can have a large ecological impact based only on an unproven hypothesis?

F: In the latest issue of Science magazine there is an article with strong evidence that the Pleistocene extinction in Australia was entirely caused by humans.[629] And what we're finding here in the US and Canada, with some studies of pollen collecting on the bottom of lakes and things like that, is that the vegetation changed after people arrived here and after the megaherbivores were exterminated. And so, you're really starting to see that the vegetation changes were caused by the disappearance of the megaherbivores, and not that the vegetation changes caused the megaherbivores to disappear. Just the other way around.

From another angle, we can see how a few Spanish horses escaped into the United States, and within about 50 years, there were 2 million Great Plains horses riding wild. And there were still 60 million bison left, 40 million pronghorn[630], 10 million elk[631]. This means that the ecological niche was still there for those horses.

And there is other research that has been done with plants like the Osage orange tree [632] and other Central American plants like avocados, and shows how the large herbivores are the ones that spread their seeds and sow them in a large pile of manure as a seedbed. And with the disappearance of these megaherbivores, suddenly the distribution area of these types of plants was reduced. Actually the only wild animal that spreads avocados in Central America today is the jaguar. Horses and cattle have been doing it too, but anyway, we can see from the impact on the vegetation what the loss of megaherbivores has done.

And so, there are some who say “well, let's do an experiment with a few elephants - they would help deal with mesquite[633] encroachment on desert prairies. Or with a few camels. I mean, let's do a good experiment on the ground. Let's see what the impact would be of introducing some replacement megaherbivores."

There is a place in northeastern New Mexico that has the largest herd of Przelwalski's horses[634] in the world - more than 300. And I've been there seeing them. And on the high terrace, with the Rocky Mountains rising behind, they looked just like the horses in the cave paintings of Europe, and that's a phenomenal thing. Another friend of mine has been raising bison on a restored cattle ranch, and is discovering the ecological impact of bison and how different they are from cattle. Today the cattle have almost eliminated all the native cacti, and have cleared the thicket of junipers. In fact, they even enter streams and wallow in them, slowing headwater erosion by smoothing out the slope.[635] All those amazing things bison do to make things better, while cattle make things worse.

With all this knowledge, it would really be nice to go one step further. Let's put all the animals here and see what happens. Because when I was in South Africa, which looks a lot like the American Southwest, I saw 24 species of ungulates out of 42 species. How many do we have here in the US? Seven! And they are all feeding in different parts of the ecosystem. So there really is room for more species. If we did that kind of experiment, we would have more biomass on the ground, with more species than just a few. Until we do the experiments we won't know what will happen.

S: To complete the question: even if we put this aspect aside, and assume that the Pleistocene overkill hypothesis refers to a really proven fact, wouldn't it still be too risky? ? Civilized solutions to problems (especially in the case of modern solutions) are often worse than the problems themselves, that is, instead of actually solving the problems, they often create other new and bigger problems, or make some of the pre-existing problems worse. .

F: I generally agree with that. It would have to be done in specific places, as a controlled experiment. The media has broken the news that we want to simply release lions. No. You find a guy with about 400,000 acres[636] in Texas who is willing to experiment, and you really have some of the best ecologists to run the experiment, take measurements, and see how things turn out. You need some predators to get everything moving. What we have learned from the wolves in Yellowstone is not that they eat elk, but that they make them move. The elk, instead of getting fat and lazy, lying down in the river beds and devouring all the willows, had to hide in the logdepole[637] pine forest. And that allowed the willows to return to the streams. There is a wonderful study about this by some researchers at Oregon State University.

S: A lot of people who advocate for conservation and/or rewilding usually do so because they love Wilderness[638], wildlife, wilderness areas and lands, wild things and the wild character[639] of them. And, normally, conservation implies and needs the management of at least some parts and aspects of the ecosystems that are being protected. Is there not an intrinsic contradiction between the "wild character"

and “management to protect Nature”? If you need to manage an ecosystem to make it or keep it “wild”, then is it really wild?

F: That's right. My next book, which I am writing, will deal with this topic. It is the big difference between John Muir[640] and Gifford Pinchot[641], and using Pinchot's terminology, I call it “recursism”[642]. Basically it is the ability to manage resources to extract the maximum value for man without degrading them. Whereas the idea of nature conservation is to protect wild things. And there is a fundamental difference between the two “conservations”.

Grassroots groups are trying to protect wilderness, while the US Forest Service and other departments that manage wilderness are doing so to impose human will. For me the fundamental question is, “whose will?” Do we allow the will of the earth to prevail or do we impose the human will?[643]

These are really good questions, and I may use them in my new books. They are very brainy. The questions are very different from what I expected - much deeper.

S: In the context of these questions there were some other names coming up - people like Derrick Jensen[644]. What do you think of him?

F: I haven't read anything by Jensen in a long time. He got really mad at me after the Earth First! split. Maybe he thought I was rude to Mike Roselle[645], I don't know. I know that you have built a reputation as a critic of technology and modernity.

S: Well, I saw him speaking in person not long ago - he was in Michigan. It was a bit disappointing: a kind of disjointed, incoherent, jokey, and not very serious talk. However, he brought up the important issue of revolution versus reform. And his answer was, that he supported both! Now, that seems like a contradiction to me - one is trying to tweak the system and the other is trying to break it down. How do you see it?

F: I'm afraid revolutionaries almost always become what they rebel against. The result is not good. I have a low opinion of human beings. I don't think they are capable of bringing a revolution to fruition. I think the most successful revolution was the American revolution, and its field of action was really limited. And yet it's been pretty much subverted by big business and that sort of thing.

S: Okay, but the technology system is different. It is not about taking power, but what you simply want is to make it sink. And then those who survive will go on again as hunter-gatherers.

F: What I see is that nobody “rebelled” against the Soviet system, and yet it collapsed because of its own internal contradictions. In many ways, the Soviet and Western systems are based on industrialism and exploitation, and because the Soviets were more ineffective and incompetent, the former collapsed.

S: Is it accurate to say that you would support industrial collapse? Would you see it as a possible outcome?

F: I think industrial collapse is something that is going to happen. In the long term it is a positive thing. And since it's inevitable, it's probably best if it happens sooner rather than later.

S: So shouldn't you take proactive action to help make it happen sooner rather than later?

F: If you tried to do that, couldn't you end up ruining everything? I just don't trust that we'll be able to do it properly. My misanthropy - my atheistic Calvinism - prevents me from believing that no group of people, no matter how well-meaning, intelligent, or ethical, are capable of solving these overwhelming institutional problems of mass civilization.

S: So what you are saying is that this task is simply beyond our capacity and therefore we should not focus on it since there is no possibility of contributing effectively - isn't that basically ? Instead, we should focus on... what?

F: My opinion is that the system is going to go under, one way or another, on its own. My job is to maintain as many structural units of future evolution as possible. I believe that evolution is the true heart and essence of wild things and wildness[646].


Until a few months ago (we wrote this in April 2011), when the English original of this text came into our hands, we were completely unaware of who Paul Shepard was. The text pleasantly surprised us, because, if what Tomislav Markus, its author, says is a faithful summary of Shepard's ideas, many of these ideas coincide with those that some of us have developed independently.

Many, but not all. According to Markus, Shepard's thinking is materialistic, but while generally true, this statement is more than questionable in some of the more abstruse aspects of his philosophy. As for example, when Shepard criticizes the concept of history (see for example, "A Post-historic Primitivism", The Wilderness Condition, Essays on Environment and Civilization, ed. Max Oelschlaeger, San Francisco, CA : Sierra Club Books, 1992, point 1: “The Problem of the Relevance of the Past”). It is difficult to see where materialism, or just common sense, is in the midst of all this gibberish of abstract speculations about the cultural notion of time, mythical thinking, etc. From what little we have read of Shepard's work (the text quoted above), it gives us the impression that his thought is left over from a good part of ramblings and philosophical speculations. This makes Markus's article appear to be a much more accessible and intelligible medium when it comes to getting to know Shepard's thought in broad strokes than direct reading of Shepard's texts. Although there is some part of the text in which Markus perhaps should have been less sparing in words. For example, when she relates feminism to moral vegetarianism without explaining that relationship.

Shepard's thought, as Markus presents it, differs in many respects from the more usual primitivism (of which John Zerzan is a model, for example) in its scientific materialist basis and also, probably largely as a consequence, in that it is not so influenced by leftism or humanism. However, Shepard does not always escape the idealization of hunter-gatherers, as when he claims that among hunter-gatherers there was no war or social inferiority of women. (See in this regard, for example, pages 297-299, 303-305 and 319-322 of the book Our Species by Marvin Harris, Alianza, 1995. Harris is not exactly an anthropologist who presents the primitive so that their customs are distasteful to prevailing values in industrial society. Quite the contrary. And yet, despite trying to soften it with counterexamples, he cannot deny the obvious fact that among the nomadic hunter-gatherers there were sexism and war). Or when he attacks the hypothesis that overhunting was the cause of the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna on the grounds that it is an ideologically charged hypothesis that tries to demonize hunter-gatherers. The weakness of this hypothesis, if it existed, would lie rather in the lack of conclusive scientific evidence for it.

As for Markus's conclusions, some of his claims about modern hunting are more than questionable. When he insinuates that modern hunters all belong to the "industrial middle class" he does not clarify what he means by this expression. And when he implies that they only hunt in national parks, he ignores the fact that in reality this type of hunting (in game reserves) is a minority among the multitude of modern hunters who hunt almost everywhere, except precisely in national parks. and other protected areas. Not to mention the suspicious contradiction of stating that hunting "only acquired significant importance with the appearance of the anatomically modern Homo sapiens sapiens, too late to form part of our genetic heritage." The appearance of the anatomically modern human being meant, by definition, a change in our genetic inheritance (that is precisely what makes species differ from each other). If hunting, according to Markus, only had significant importance with the appearance of our species (something more than debatable and not as consensual as Markus affirms), it is not clear why the human genome in that period had time to change to form a new species. species but did not have time to change to adapt to a hunting way of life.


By Tomislav Markus.[1015]

I. Main features of Shepard's ecological philosophy.

In Shepard's early philosophical work[1016] the idealistic point of view predominated, in which he gave priority to ideas and worldviews. So, he thought that the preservation or destruction of nature depended mainly on personal and social cosmology.[1017][] In the book Man in the Landscape (1967), Shepard analyzed different ways of representing the organic environment and nature in European and American art and literature from the 15th to the 20th century. In the book his main conviction was that an adequate vision of the natural world - one that recognized the biological and ecological continuity of man with respect to other species - was the fundamental condition for improving the ecological situation.[1018] In the famous article "Ecology and Man: A Viewpoint" (1979), Shepard defended an ontological extensionism, an understanding of the human self as a small part of the natural world or the vision of nature as an extension of the self.[1019]

Shepard's initial idealistic convictions or belief in "consciousness shifting" quickly disappeared from his later work. In the foreword to his last book, Shepard mentioned his disagreement with the ecological movement in the early 1970s and the disappearance of his faith that an ecology based on philosophy could serve as the basis for better ecological behavior.[1020] In Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game (1973), he consistently defended a materialist position that prioritized material factors -population, technology, standard of living, genetic adaptation, etc.- when determining the ecological state of a human society. A fundamental thought in all of Shepard's work since the early 1970s is his conviction about the destructive and pathological character of civilization. Neolithic domestication and civilization meant the abandonment of the hunter-gatherer life that is appropriate to the human biogram and evolved human nature. Already in his first book, Shepard underlined the importance of the deep human evolutionary past without which subsequent civilized history cannot be explained. This evolutionary past implies our firm connection with other species and with the natural world as a whole. The wild[1021] is not only outside, in wild habitats and species, but also inside, in our wild genome and our biological heritage. Shepard wrote that the Pleistocene wilderness lives within us even today, despite great changes in human social organization and ways of life.[1022] That means that man can be civilized, but he cannot be domesticated.[1023]

Shepard's theory of biosocial discontinuity, a crucial component of human ecology, cannot be reconciled with the myth of historical progress (a central metanarrative of all modern secular ideologies) nor with the view of civilization as "elevation and achievement". ”. For Shepard, nothing is further from the truth than the myth of historical progress. In Shepard's opinion, the abrupt (from a deep evolutionary perspective, that is) emergence of domestication and civilization was the main cause of many man-made [ecological] problems and much human misery. Human intelligence, suited to life in small groups, turned out to be nonfunctional and ill-adapted to overcrowded agrarian and urban environments.[1024] Man can survive in the civilized environment, but only at the cost of progressively reducing the quality of life and creating many ecological and social disturbances.[1025] The conviction that man is his own work is an ideological construction, without scientific basis. Social forms are not unlimited, since men can create society only within the restrictions set by their evolutionary past.[1026]

Human beings, like all other beings, need the concrete environment in which their fundamental psychological and physiological characteristics have been formed over eons of evolution. But the recognition of evolutionary limits is not welcomed by the modern ideology of unlimited expectations.[1027]

Shepard wrote that culture does not replace biological evolution - for him, the expression "cultural/social evolution" is an inaccurate or misleading analogy - but it can distort it because of its excessively fast pace, as has happened in recent human history. Chaos, loneliness, anomie, sporadic violence, isolation, overpopulated and polluted environments are typical features -or different forms of collective pathologies- of all cities in all civilizations, symptoms of the very bad adaptation of man to civilized conditions.[1028][1028] Men are Pleistocene beings who need, now and always, wilderness and open spaces, but, under civilized conditions, they are trapped in an overpopulated, biologically impoverished and ecologically devastated environment.[1029] Shepard has criticized typical claims about the domestication of man since humans, unlike domestic animals, were not subjected to sexual selection.[1030][] Humans today are as savage as their Pleistocene ancestors from 10,000 years ago.[1031] Genetically, we are a Pleistocene wild species that can survive in very different environments, but only at the cost of many problems and a low quality of life.[1032] According to Shepard, the wild within us is the best part of us, as appreciating our evolutionary heritage is the primary requirement for human happiness and well-being. Some cultures are better than others depending on how much they appreciate our natural context and our evolutionary past, respectively.[1033] Human beings can create very different cultures - and have been doing so for the last few millennia - but there is a catch. Men cannot control the consequences of their behavior and not every culture can satisfy basic human needs equally well. Not all cultures work equally well.[1034]

Shepard wrote very often and extensively about hunter-gatherers, as he believed that this way of life is our natural evolutionary context, suited to basic human needs. As early as the late 1960s, he wrote that the existence of hunter-gatherer societies for so many thousands of years is proof in some way of their success and that all of recent human history, beginning with Neolithic domestication, may be a downhill road.[1035] According to Shepard, among the hunter-gatherers there was no war, state, social class, great economic and political inequalities, pollution, or other of the human-caused problems that are typical of civilized societies. Civilized men transfer their problems to "savages" and "primitives." The good or the bad savage are ideological constructions: the first is a distorted view of our evolutionary past and the second is a symptom of cultural chauvinism.[1036] Modern hunter-gatherers are not living fossils, but their way of life is the most similar to the ancient way of life, which genetically we never abandoned.[1037][] Shepard dismisses the so-called Pleistocene overhunting hypothesis -who claims that the extinction of large animals at the end of the Pleistocene in North America was caused by the Paleoindians- since he believes that it is not only wrong, but another example of demonization of hunter-gatherers.[1038]

Shepard was a very enthusiastic proponent of the so-called "hunting hypothesis" - very influential in the 1960s and 1970s - which states that hunting has played a very important role in human evolution. According to Shepard, hunting is not cruel barbarity, but the recognition of human belonging and dependence on nature and social organization that takes into account the extra-human context. Hunting is a part of our evolutionary past, as humans have been living as hunters for about 99% of their species' history. Hunting recognizes the broader context of interrelationships between man and nature and the continuing importance of powers beyond human control.[1039] Hunting can be a factor of ecological stability and balance between human society and the natural world in which it is situated.[1040][1041] Hunting and killing in tribal societies do not imply destructive barbarism, victory over the enemy, or triumph of masculinity, but are part of a larger gift of life and of the evolutionary processes in which life feeds on life . In hunting, the crucial event is not death, but the moment of respect and affirmation of this world, as well as participation in the eternal flow of matter and energy.

In recent decades the critique of civilization has become quite common, and Shepard was one of its pioneers. According to him, the degradation of women was a consequence of agriculture and livestock and their transformation into machines that give birth to children. The low status of women culminates in civilization due to the absence of a sanctification of the place and a mythology rooted in nature.[1042] War, state repression, many diseases, interpersonal exploitation, and other man-made problems have been fundamental features of civilization since its inception. Civilized men have been committing genocide against hunter-gatherers and ecocide against wild habitats and species for 10,000 years.[1043] The pathological behavior of civilized humans -wars, genocide, urban violence, ecological destruction, etc.- is not the consequence of any moral defect or the omission of respect for the "high moral standards" of civilization, but rather the consequence of a lack of of evolutionary adaptation. Our problems are manifestations of deviation from our genetic core, not consequences of any social or technical failure that can be fixed by technological adjustments or political revolutions. The civilized human has been living under tyrants, demagogues, dictators, kings and emperors for thousands of years. The despair and homelessness of civilized man today reaches its peak, as industrial societies are the most artificial and abnormal forms of social order in human history.[1044] The industrial order is nothing more than the extension of the fundamental error committed with Neolithic domestication. War and obsessive territoriality are not consequences of our biogram but of overpopulation and other pathological circumstances due to domestication and civilization.[1045]

Biosocial discontinuity theory occupies a central place in Shepard's theory. So he cannot be accused of falling into the “noble savage fallacy”, which is the typical objection to any position that maintains that civilization (including domestication) can be -or is- the ultimate cause of all major problems, ecological or otherwise, caused by humans. As we have already said[1046] -it is something that must be constantly repeated- the theory of biosocial discontinuity has nothing to do with morality (goodness), it has to do with genetic adaptation. It is relatively the best explanation of the man-made problems that are the main feature of all civilizations. The two dominant interpretations - the typical model of the humanistic disciplines (man as tabula rasa[1047], the problems are particular social circumstances) and the typical model of social Darwinism (the problem is that human nature is aggressive, selfish, and competitive) - cannot explain either human-caused problems or basic human needs. Shepard criticized the concept of "sociocultural evolution" as an erroneous analogy to (Darwinian) biological evolution and a quasi-scientific justification for the myth of historical progress.[1048]

In Shepard's work, not only is a detailed critique of civilization carried out, but also of agriculture and livestock. According to Shepard, cattle ranching has been the cause of enormous destruction of wildlife habitats, especially deforestation . Domesticated animals have been creating domesticated habitats for millennia. Cattle ranching and nomadism have notably contributed to the advance of anthropocentric philosophy in theory, and ecological destruction in practice.[1049] Agrarian domestication was the beginning of the gradual but permanent reduction in the quality of human life: “Domestication would create a catastrophic biology of nutritional deficiencies, alternating feasts and famines, health and disease, peace and conflict. social, all inserted in the ancient rhythms of the slow collapse of ecosystems.”[1050] For Shepard, agriculture, animal husbandry, and urban civilization are all part of a social macrodynamic aimed at an ever greater distance of humans from natural social and ecological conditions. Urban men have always idealized the surrounding countryside, but historically, the countryside and the city are two sides of the same coin. The idealization of agrarian life -as an "Arcadian" or "bucolic" garden or environment- is one of the most popular and dangerous illusions of urban man. Agrarian life -which was characterized by tedious, hard and monotonous work- can only be idealized by urban men, who live in an even more degraded and overcrowded environment.[1051] Agriculture is the real historical cause of the war, since the increasing competition between groups was caused by population pressure and the disappearance of wild nature.[1052] Agriculture and livestock farming had catastrophic social and ecological consequences: famines, many diseases, war, growing inequalities, degraded and polluted environments, large-scale destruction of habitats and species, genetic degeneration of domesticated species, etc. Urban societies have merely been the continuation of these trends.[1053] For Shepard, “modern industrial societies are only part - and, in many respects, the culmination - of long-term trends towards an increasing distance of humans from their natural social and ecological conditions. Civilized man's fanatical attempt to separate himself from other species and his pathological illusions about human omnipotence and the independence of man from nature are especially strong in industrial megacities. The modern myth of “historical progress” is a symptom of a fanatical desire of industrial man to control everything and to turn everything into a commodity for mass consumption and an object of technological manipulation.[1054]

The critique of the illusion of human exceptionalism is a common theme in Shepard's work. He criticized the attempt of civilized humanity to create a chasm between itself and other species and to forget its evolutionary past. Reason, culture, learning, and language are features of the living world as a whole, to a greater or lesser extent, and not peculiarities of a single species. Human culture is part of the surrounding ecological and organic realities and the flow of energy through ecosystems and the web of life.[1055] Humans are really cultural animals, but this fact does not emancipate them from nature. Culture is a system of transferring information, based on genetics and subject to biological restrictions. Without respect for such biological constraints, culture becomes the center of a fantasy world with no connection to reality.[1056] We should not overestimate the cultural difference or ignore that universal human nature is the fruit of long evolutionary processes. Other species, ecosystems, soil, air, water and other ecological aspects are not cultural constructions but the basis for human existence.[1057][] Secular humanists' attempts to replace the Christian God by Man they have been and are vain. Despite several centuries of anthropocentric illusions of secular humanism, humans are not their own doing. Social sciences and humanistic philosophy are mostly part of the anti-naturalist ideology of modern civilization with old roots in the Axial religions and ancient philosophies. This ideology advocates that humans can do whatever they want and that human adventures are free of ecological and biological constraints.[1058] Shepard criticized postmodern deconstructivism as the latest humanist fad and one more example of the old anti-naturalist philosophy, far removed from nature and organic processes. The mainstream feminist movement, which tries to integrate women into this destructive society, is also a symptom of the denial of ecological and biological realities, especially in its form of moral vegetarianism.[1059]

Shepard was aware that science can be (mis-)used to pursue destructive ends, such as the production of weapons or ecological destruction and that it can stimulate anthropocentric arrogance towards nature[1060] but he never defended relativism nor anti-scientific irrationalism. He made it clear that the search for scientific objectivity does not imply the justification of industrialism or any other type of social peculiarity. According to Shepard, modern scientific naturalism is not the cause of the despair and sense of meaninglessness that haunt modern man. Ecology, above all, plays a significant role in achieving a more balanced view of man as a small part of the natural world. Towards the end of the 1960s, Shepard believed that ecology, understood as a science, had a radical and subversive character since "it requires a type of vision that goes beyond the limits". Modern languages, with a strong idealistic and dualistic accent, hardly manage to express ecological realities. Ecology implies unity and makes it possible to consider the world from a human perspective although not from human chauvinism.[1061]

In Shepard's work, human ecology was always based on evolutionary (Darwinian) biology, since humans are an animal species and a product of eons of biological (Darwinian) evolution. He wrote that the prevailing indifference or even hostility among humanist intellectuals towards Darwin's theory is a consequence of the impossibility of reconciling Darwin's theory with anthropocentric humanism and with humanist illusions about human exceptionalism. Humanists do not like claims about the kinship of humans with other creatures or that man is a small part of the natural world: this is in a way an offense to "human dignity". The confusion between evolution and progress - the only way to get Darwin's theory accepted in humanist circles - has done a lot of damage, even more than the excessive emphasis placed on the existence of competition and violence in nature. But Darwinian natural selection and Darwinian evolution are not progressive processes. Evolution is not some kind of upward movement culminating in a species, but a branching bush with man at the last shoot on the recent twig of the genus Homo[1062].[1063][1063][] Evolutionary theory could have helped overcome man's distance from the natural world, but instead it was used as a justification for social inequalities and exploitation. Modern humanism never forgave Darwin for demolishing the illusions of human independence and uniqueness.[1064] Shepard had great sympathy for ethology, sociobiology, and other neo-Darwinian theories and their extensions into the realm of the social sciences. Morris[1065], Fox[1066], Wilson[1067] and other contemporary neo-Darwinists rightly place great importance on our evolutionary past and criticize the prejudices of anthropocentric humanism. The criticisms of contemporary humanism to sociobiology are the continuation of the old humanist anti-naturalism, a secular version of the ancient religions of agricultural civilization.[1068]

Unsurprisingly for an ecocentric and naturalistic thinker, the wild plays a central role in Shepard's work. It establishes a difference between wildness and natural spaces[1069]. The wild is the living world of the Earth, the complex formed by the habitats and wild species that perpetuate the biosphere, the real framework of human existence, the unit of place, the specific environment of evolutionary adaptation for certain species and genetic states. Natural spaces are a social construction of urban man, landscape and tourist attraction, the way urban men have of escaping from the tedious and desperate conditions of civilized existence.[1070] Organized forces try to destroy wildness for the benefit of natural spaces or to convert wildness into landscapes for tourist consumption.[1071] Wildness is our natural ecological context, in which we have been living for millions of years and which cannot be erased by a few thousand years of agro-urban existence. The disappearance of the wild is like the amputation of a part of the body.[1072] Shepard has offered a detailed critique of the concept of "landscape" as a symptom of the anthropocentric reduction of nature to a pleasing image for humans to see. In the new mechanical paradigm, wild nature is reduced to a quantitative abstraction and the landscape understood as an interesting tourist attraction, something subject to ever-changing fashions and tastes. The defenders of nature understood as landscape have never been enemies of Promethean arrogance[1073] but only its helpers and the promoters of the humanization of wild nature. But even that crippled concept of nature may be a sign of a healthy human need to feel nature organic and wild.[1074]

Shepard has written extensively about animals. For him, many of our capacities, which we emphasize when explaining that we are different from other species, actually come from our primate origin.[1075] Fundamental to Shepard's philosophy is the conviction that Other Animals played a crucial role in making us human.[1076] Without the Other Wild Animals we cannot truly be human because wild animals are necessary for human spiritual health and maturation. There is a deep ontological need, in every human being, to coexist with wild animals; It is something necessary for the development of humanity. This perspective is incompatible with the various humanist ideologies that emphasize human exceptionalism and the supposed gulf that separates humans from other species. Industrial humans live in a domesticated environment with disabled and controlled animals, but the need to coexist with the wild animal Other remains present nonetheless. Misconception of animals as machines or adorable babies is also a product of humanist ideology, of the refusal to accept independence from Others.[1077] Humans are not unfinished animals and we do not mature from animality, but through it.[1078] The expansion of agriculture and livestock has been generating the progressive disappearance of the Other animal in culture and in the way of thinking. The metaphors of the living for hunter-gatherers are the other species, for farmers the mother, for ranchers the father and for industrial humans the machine.[1079]

Shepard had a very negative opinion of pets. They are degenerate, disabled monsters, as their wild genome changed under human control, something that has never happened before in billions of years of evolution. They are miserable caricatures and cannot be adequate substitutes for the wild species. Just like civilized humans, domesticated animals lost their connection to their natural habitat and the possibility of normal maturation. Animals isolated from their natural context are ecologically dead. Domestic animals have many defects compared to their wild cousins: a smaller brain, the deviation of many of the organs, a less acute sense of smell, sight and hearing, longer maturation, etc.[1080] Domestic animals are slaves to humans who divert our attention from wild species. Zoos and pets can give satisfaction to civilized humans because of the poverty of their lives. Zoos, like prisons, become havens for defective and disabled animals whose habitats have been devastated.[1081] Humans do not want to admit that domestic animals are their slaves or degenerates, as they remind them of the old wild life. Humans are even more depraved than their pets since they have not been genetically altered through domestication. The extremes in the attitudes of modern humans towards domestic animals - from deep love to cruel mistreatment - are symptoms of the strong disappointment we suffer because they are unable to reconnect with our wild genetic past. Pets are organic slaves and cannot satisfy the compelling human need for connection with wild nature. But a love of pets signals an intuitive understanding that animals are necessary for human development and maturation and as a defense against despair and madness.[1082]

Criticism of animal liberation and (moral) vegetarianism appears frequently in Shepard's work. According to him, animalism -whose most famous representatives are P. Singer[1083] and T. Regan[1084]- has a certain meaning if it is applied to domestic animals and wild animals that are subjected to control by humans. But it is completely absurd if you try to forcefully apply it to wild animals in their natural habitats. Wild animals do not have "rights" but they do have something much more important: a genetic heritage and an evolutionary past, both of which must be respected. The concept of "law" is a product of modern liberalism and is meaningless outside of industrial society. In nature there is a lot of cooperation and altruism, but not friendship. Wild animals do not need our "friendship" but rather protection from those who want to destroy their habitats in the name of "technological progress", and from those who want to extend humanist ethics in the name of "moral progress" to include wild animals as well. It is true that animalism is a healthy symptom of the human need for the Other animal, but expressed in a distorted way, without connection to ecology and reducing nature to a few individual beings, in the image and likeness of humans.[1085][1085] Humans must, like any other species, modify and intervene in certain parts of the natural world but must not try to impose their social and ethical values on that world.[1086]

Shepard pointed out that animal advocates often preach moral vegetarianism with great fervor, believing that the acts of dying and killing are evil and unnatural. But this is absurd, since life feeds on life - dying and killing is something that is an inseparable part of the foundations of life. The condemnation of hunting and meat eating is a symptom of humanistic ideology, neurotic oppression, hysterical fear of death, and the inability to accept the acts of dying and killing as a normal part of the natural world. Moral vegetarianism had its origins in India, in a degenerate and overpopulated environment, but it has found fertile soil in all civilized societies.[1087] Shepard also criticized the ethical philosophy of Albert Schweitzer[1088], a well-respected name in environmental circles, as an example of anti-naturalist ideology. Schweitzer's famous dictum "reverence for life" (Erfurcht für Leben) only appears to have a naturalistic and proto-ecological orientation, but in reality it is a sign of the old humanist desire to attain eternal life. and to defeat death. Schweitzer was an atomist, he did not understand ecological realities and he was a man who considered nature a bloody battlefield. For him, man had the "mission" to bring "order" and "meaning" to cruel and chaotic nature. Schweitzer's ethic is a product of several thousand years of agricultural domestication and Christian humanism with its black and white view of nature and its demonization of predation.[1089]

Shepard sharply criticized traditional (institutional) or axial religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., but especially Christianity for being the dominant Western religion.[1090] The hatred of wild nature has been and is deeply embedded in Christianity, the most urban of all religions. Christianity took part in the destruction of the natural world, which was understood as a temporary stage and a valley of tears or, in the best of cases, as the background of the stage in which the human drama was represented.[1091] The central religious and philosophical dogma of the West is the attempt at a radical separation between the spiritual and natural worlds. The New Testament is perhaps the most anti-organic and anti-naturalistic example of human thought of all time.[1092] But, according to Shepard, there is no significant difference between Western religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) and Eastern ones (especially those of India). All world religions are anthropocentric and afterlife oriented, containing a deep hatred or indifference towards wild nature. They can do little to prevent it, since they are a symptom of fundamental alienation from our natural evolutionary context and a consequence of the abandonment of hunter-gatherer life. His orientation towards the supernatural and his individualistic salvationism are consequences of the increasing social and ecological disintegration, meaningless life and abnormal social conditions of civilized humans.[1093] Jainism and Buddhism are not the manifestation of a proto-ecologist love of nature but of a hatred of organic processes and a desire to escape from the intolerable, socially repressive and ecologically devastated agricultural world of India.[1094] Sacrifice - a typical characteristic of all livestock and agricultural religions - is a symptom of the substitution of the old conviction, typical of hunter-gatherers, that humans are guests who receive gifts, by negotiating with supernatural beings, full of envy. and greed. The liturgy of sacrifice reveals a despiritualized natural world, full of scarcity and violence, which becomes a resource for human bargaining. Shamanism is part of this change, since the shaman is not the personification of ecological consciousness but an opportunist and usurper who misuses the fear felt by the livestock and farming population, caused by the growing scarcity and the increasingly frequent wars. Shamanism was creating the despiritualization of habitats and wild species for the benefit of an abstract and celestial world. Shamanism probably constitutes the first case of patriarchal domination, since shamans were and always are men.[1095]

A significant and extensive critique of the concept of "history" is made in Shepard's work. Shepard defended that the central theme of that western construction that is history is the “rejection of the habitat. [The story] formulates the experience outside of nature and tends to reduce the place to a mere emplacement... The story is the enemy of complicity with nature, having arisen in a tragic perspective of man against nature, or of nature like something neutral. Using nature as a political parable, he sees all events ideologically.”[1096] The Jewish and Greek demythologizers destroyed the myth of the eternal return which was the beginning of the later model of nature as alienation. The story rejects the "ambiguities of overlapping identity, of space and time, and creates its own dilemmas of discontent and estrangement from the Others, from non-human life, from primitive ancestors and tribal peoples." It creates a continuous neurosis and a life of quiet despair subjected to the oppression of illusions and falsehoods.[1097][] History is the “declaration of independence from the deep past and its peoples, from life and death , of the natural state of being, which is outside its own domain. History means the desacralization of the past, of the place and of nature, it is an ideological construction of civilized man, which contributes enormously to collective pathology and madness.[1098] The story denies the ancient mythological interpretation of the world "which sees time as a continuous return and space as something sacred, where all life is indigenous." History creates a state of remoteness from other species, from human ancestors, and from one's own (local) territory. Historical consciousness has gradually "uprooted animal metaphors, organic continuities and, above all, the perception of non-human spirits of the earth." Historical thought cannot answer the question of how to become native in a place, because it is “the great denativizing process, the great uprooting. Historical time focuses on change, on novelty, and escapes the renewed stability and continuity of the great natural cycles that anchor us to place and to life on earth in general.”[1099] History is not a neutral record of past events, but "an active psychological force that separates humanity from the rest of nature, due to its indifference to deep connections with the past." History is also a declaration of independence from nature, which remains important only as an object of scientific and technological manipulation. By rejecting the importance of myth, history distorts the basic human sensory and intellectual processes that have always been a vital part of our humanity.[1100] History is the “ideological framework that excludes (Western) man from the restrictions of seasons, places, nature and their religious implications. History is the desecration of the world based on writing, prophetic interference and opposition to the natural order. It is not precisely what it seems - the evidence of continuity with the past. On the contrary, it is a convulsive rupture with the true profound past, a divine intercession, full of coincidences and radical novelties.”[1101]

Shepard was ambiguous when it comes to the human future. In one of his first works, Shepard defended the creation of technocinegetic societies with complex technology, synthetic food, bacteria genetically designed to process food, and other techno-miracles. In such societies, around 8 billion people would live in megacities separated from each other by wild spaces.[1102] But later, he no longer wrote about techno-hunting societies or any other future utopia. Instead, he called for the restoration of at least some aspects of ancient life within today's industrial order. He knew that we cannot recover hunter-gatherer life or animistic consciousness, but the recovery of at least some aspects of ancient life might be possible. Humans are an animal species that belongs to the Pleistocene and this is our hope for a better future.[1103] We never abandoned our evolutionary heritage and it would be enough to stop to realize it and develop an ecological citizenship that restores some principles, metaphysical notions and basic spiritual features of Pleistocene life. This does not have to be a rational decision, since humans are unconscious builders of culture.[1104] There are many difficulties and problems but there will be hope for human beings as long as the green Earth and wild nature remain with us.[1105]

***II. The continuing topicality of Shepard's thought and some of its problems.

As I have already said, part of the great strength of Shepard's philosophy is the relationship it establishes between ecology and evolutionary biology or the fact of basing human ecology on Darwinian biology. Many philosophers, theologians, sociologists, and other thinkers have "discovered" ecology over the last 30-40 years, but for them ecology has been (and mostly still is) separate from biology. Most of these thinkers received a humanist education and are not comfortable with Darwinism, especially when they are unable to separate Darwin's original ideas from so-called Social Darwinism. Without biology, the "greening" of social thoughts is quite superficial. Very often, “Darwinism” has negative connotations for modern environmental thought or is simply ignored by it. Popular versions of Darwinism often emphasize competition and give a dark view of nature by presenting it as a bloody battlefield[1106] or confuse evolution and progress. But Shepard knew well how to recognize that the so-called social Darwinism is a perversion or a misapplication of Darwin's theory in order to justify the various inequalities of human societies. The "essence" of Darwinian evolution is genetic adaptation to changes in the local environment and cannot be used to justify some important aspects of complex societies that are the product of social macrodynamics in the recent human past. Darwin's theory has a normative implication - all living things should live in their natural environment - and for humans this means that we should live as hunter-gatherers. Civilizations are recent phenomena and cannot be the product of long-term processes of Darwinian evolution. Contemporary Darwinian thinkers - evolutionary psychologists, sociobiologists, bioanthropologists and others - accept the existence of an evolutionarily shaped human nature, which means nothing more than the genetic adaptation to living in small nomadic groups in a wild environment.[1107] Shepard made clear the distinction between evolution and progress and, from the early 1970s, defended the theory of biosocial discontinuity accordingly. By integrating three crucial perspectives on human behavior - the ecological, the evolutionary and the sociohistorical - he was one of the first integral thinkers.

A detailed and well-argued critique of civilization and domestication appears in Shepard's work. This criticism was consistent - unlike many others, Shepard did not only partially reject the myth of historical progress - and was based on the theory of biosocial discontinuity. Thus he was warned against the usual objection - the fallacy of the noble savage. Critiques of civilization, which ignore evolutionary biology and biosocial discontinuity theory, easily fall prey to romanticism and the idealization of hunter-gatherers.[1108] But, there is no need to moralize or idealize the old way of life. Optimum quality of life and the absence of anthropic problems are consequences of genetic adaptation, not moral perfection. These two criteria - that is, fundamental needs (positive approach) and anthropic problems (negative approach) - are crucial for any substantive and scientific critique of social macrodynamics and its harmful consequences. Shepard clearly differentiated the wild (or the wild natural world), on the one hand, from domestication/civilization, on the other. In recent years, there have been multiple disputes about whether or not wilderness is a mere concept of cultural/social origin.[1109][] Many futile disputes would have been avoided if Shepard's distinction between wilderness and natural spaces[1110] (not necessarily with these same words) would have been adopted. But this would imply a radical critique not only of industrial society -something too radical for many ecological thinkers- but of civilization as a whole. Even for many deep ecologists, with their often idealized emphasis on "anthropocentrism"

(that is, in anthropocentric ideas and worldviews), Shepard's thinking seems too radical.[1111] His critique of animalism and moral vegetarianism is very convincing but is overlooked by recent academic literature.[1112]

Three “revolutions” -or paradigm shifts- in contemporary science come together in Shepard: the historical/anthropological (a significantly different interpretation of recent human history, civilization, and hunter-gatherers), the evolutionary/Darwinian ( giving importance to the deep evolutionary past of humans) and ecological (considering man as part of nature and recognizing the importance of the natural world, not only for physical survival, but also for human health and well-being). Shepard was truly an all-encompassing thinker as he brought together three crucial aspects of human life and three crucial perspectives for understanding human behavior: the ecological (our belonging to a larger natural world), the sociohistorical (social macrodynamics), and the biological. (our evolutionary past or our genetic inheritance). This is a valid scientific perspective, not like the confusing and obscure New Age considerations about an "inner dimension", a "spirituality", a "subjective life", etc. These terms make sense as expressions of human genetic inheritance or the human biogram, that is, our genetic adaptation to a particular, evolutionarily shaped social and ecological environment.[1113] Shepard's perspective was totally naturalistic and this is not, in my opinion, a flaw, but rather his greatest strength. He showed very convincingly that the naturalistic perspective and scientific materialism do not lead to nihilism or moral relativism. Quite the contrary, the naturalistic perspective -not necessarily always with the same conclusions as Shepard, of course- is the only way to avoid subjectivism and metaphysical obscurantism. Science - and this refers mainly to evolutionary biology - can tell us what a good and meaningful life consists of or how we should live - if science can't, then who?[1114] And the defense Neither does scientific materialism imply the justification of modern society, industrialism or capitalism, since Shepard knew that the bases of scientific objectivity are part of the cognitive structure of the human brain -the product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. biological - and are not the product of this or that sociohistorical peculiarity. It integrated the best parts of modern science and its ecocentric (not anthropocentric) tradition. Therefore, the defense of scientific rationality and objectivity does not mean the defense of industrial civilization or of civilization as such. This conclusion is especially relevant to your fellow Americans, among whom fundamentalist religion and attacks on scientific naturalism have been and continue to be very strong. Shepard knew that we can find a good and meaningful life in this world, but not in industrial society or any of the other unnatural social systems, but in the wild natural world to which our genome has adapted and continues to adapt. He had no patience for humanist talk about the "social construction" of meanings that must be imposed on a meaningless world.

Shepard's theory, based on the theory of biosocial discontinuity, is a successful alternative to two opposite but equally partial perspectives: the typical model of the social sciences (the human is a blank slate, only matters sociohistorical contingencies, the only important thing is social macrodynamics) and the typical model of social Darwinism[1115] (only human nature matters, biology is the only important thing). For Shepard, human behavior is changing -and a lot- with "ideas" and with the rest of the idealistic baggage, but not human nature. Shepard was not a biological determinist, as he recognized the great importance of social macrodynamics (with mainly harmful consequences) and the existence of different forms of human behavior in different societies. Shepard avoided the false dichotomies of cultural and biological determinism, typical of the two typical models, but also the dark metaphysics and the idealistic/subjectivist spirituality typical of much of the New Age (especially the Californian current) and of the so-called integral thought. . Shepard knew that the recognition of certain elementary facts about humans, understood as an animal species and part of nature, is not enough. Those are true but superficial statements. Our naturalness and animality have a deeper meaning, that is, genetic adaptation to specific social and ecological conditions and the existence of a universal human biogram.

In the academic literature, Shepard is regarded primarily as a follower of the "school" of deep ecology.[1116] This is true in the sense that the critique of anthropocentrism and the "cult" of the wild are typical of deep ecology. But there are also significant differences, as Shepard was much more consistent in his perspective than most deep ecologists are. For example, Arne Naess, creator of the concept of "deep ecology", knew nothing about the theory of biosocial discontinuity, and the Darwinian perspective and the critique of civilization were quite far from him.[1117] The lack of an evolutionary (Darwinian) perspective is a major flaw in most of the deep ecology literature. In deep ecology the idealistic point of view - for example, G. Sessions[1118], B. Devall[1119], A. Drengson[1120] and many others - is often the more significant. But, as we have seen, for Shepard, ideas, consciousness and worldviews are much more symptoms and consequences than causes of anthropic, ecological or other problems. Most proponents of deep ecology have accepted Naess's fundamental ideas - self-realization and identification - as central to this type of ecological philosophy. But Naess's notion of such ideas was very confused and took on the appearance of some kind of obscure psychologizing metaphysics.[106 107 [1121] Views from Shepard's work, self-actualization (i.e., the satisfaction of fundamental needs) and identification (that is, the connection with a local social and ecological context, or with the environment of evolutionary adaptation), acquire the sense that the Darwinian perspective gives them. But for Naess and most deep ecologists, that Darwinian perspective was terra incognita.

Certainly there are some problems and confusions in Shepard's work. He unnecessarily burdened his theory with the hunting hypothesis and was never able to totally reject it. The terms he used to describe hunter-gatherers -"hunting" or "hunting" societies- are also signs of the primacy that hunting had in his thinking. In the 1960s and 1970s, this hypothesis was very popular, but not so much later. Today, most scholars believe that hunting did not play a crucial role in human evolution and that it only gained significant importance with the appearance of Homo[1122] sapiens sapiens anatomically modern, too late to form part of our genetic heritage.[1123] Certainly hunting with firearms, by members of the industrial middle class - to which Shepard himself belonged - and in national parks (a form of megazoans) cannot be in touch with our old way of life.[1124] Unlike biosocial discontinuity theory, however, the hunting hypothesis was never central to Shepard's fundamental position. There is also some discrepancy between the materialist and idealist positions in Shepard's work. Biosocial discontinuity theory is basically a materialist position, but Shepard often emphasized the great importance of worldviews and ideas while offering some practical suggestions. He advocated some form of cross-cultural utopianism or an attempt to recapture certain vital aspects of hunter-gatherer life within industrial society (or to create a way of life that better fits our genetic heritage) but never explained how that could be achieved. His suggestions ranged from impractical utopianism to ethereal idealism. Community, one's own territory, equality, and a clean and wild environment were an integral part of hunter-gatherer life and probably could not exist in a fundamentally different social order. Perhaps Shepard would think differently today, when demographic and societal collapse are a far greater possibility than it was in his lifetime. The current mega-crisis of industrial civilization as a whole would not surprise him, but he would see it as the logical consequence of excess, yet another symptom of the culmination of ten thousand years of crisis.


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The Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess is a key figure in what is known as deep ecology, he was the one who coined that term in his 1973 article, “The movements of superficial ecology and deep ecology: a summary". Initially, the dissemination of Naess's ideas was limited to academic environments, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s, deep ecology landed in the United States and began to spread more widely. beyond academic circles. The author of the text that follows this presentation, the Californian philosopher George Sessions, played a very important role in this dissemination. Together with Naess, Sessions was responsible for writing the principles of deep ecology (1984) and for editing two of the most important monographs on deep ecology (the first in 1985, Deep Ecology—along with Bill Devall- and the second in 1995, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century).

In “Wildness, Cyborgs, and Our Ecological Future,” George Sessions responds to the criticisms launched from postmodernism, social ecology, and feminism against deep ecology and, at the same time, reviews the situation of the deep ecology movement in the context of global ecological crisis and reaffirms its basic ideas.

The typical philosophical style in which the text is written, constantly citing and referring to other authors, makes it quite heavy and cumbersome to read. But, despite this, the text deals with many issues of interest. This is the case, for example, of the debates about the existence of a wild Nature.

Sessions provides examples that clearly illustrate the incompatibility between the defense of social justice and the ecocentric defense of Nature. But, in this text, the reader will not only be able to appreciate the errors and miseries derived from social ecology, feminism or postmodernism, but will also be able to see the many and serious burdens that deep ecology drags.

THE WILD, CYBORGS, AND OUR ECOLOGICAL FUTURE: Reexamining the Deep Ecology Movement.

By George Sessions[i]

Public awareness of global warming, as the most alarming and visible aspect of the global ecological crisis, has increased dramatically in recent years. This most recent phase of ecological consciousness has been brought about by the scientific community (particularly the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), religious leaders around the world, Jared Diamond's bestselling Collapse , environmental journalists like Bill Moyers, Bill McKibben and Mark Hertsgaard, and now Al Gore's documentary on global warming. As Rajenda Pachauri, director of the Intergovernmental Panel, said last year, "we are endangering the ability of the human species to survive." But let's not just obsess over global warming, Diamond lists twelve problems (including - in addition to global warming - overpopulation, loss of biodiversity and loss of wildlife habitats leading to a critical decline in ecosystem services), each of which, according to him, would be capable of causing the global collapse of civilization.[271] British scientist James Lovelock recently warned that “no more natural habitats should be destroyed anywhere [...] ecosystems Earth's natural resources underpin the planet's climate and chemistry.

In his critique of sustainable development, environmental historian Donald Worster notes that:

In the 1960s and 1970s, the goal [of the most thoughtful leaders] of environmentalism (...) was to save the living world around us, millions of species of plants and animals, including humans, from destruction by our technology, our population and our appetites. The only way to do that (...) was to embrace the radical idea that there must be limits to growth in three fields (...) limits to population, limits to technology, and limits to appetite and greed. Underlying this view was a growing concern that the secular, materialistic, progressive philosophy on which modern life rests, on which, in fact, Western civilization has rested for the last three hundred years, is profoundly wrong. and, ultimately, it is destructive to us and to the entire fabric of life on the planet.

This necessary combination of population, consumption, and technology with limits to growth was formulated in 1971 by Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich and UC Berkeley physicist John Holdren in their famous I=PAT equation: the ecological impact is the product of the size of the population multiplied by the level of consumption and by the nature of the technology used.[2] This equation provides the basis for scientific consensus regarding the ecological state of the world.

But what place do contemporary ecophilosophers, environmental ethicists, and environmental historians—social ecologists, ecofeminists, and Callicott with his Leopoldian ethic[272]—have in this new ecological renaissance? Or is it that, in reality, they have been counterproductive for said rebirth? Generally, these contemporary ecophilosophers and environmental ethicists have paid very little attention to the implications of the I=PAT equation and to the dire warnings from scientists around the world about the global ecological crisis. Furthermore, there has been a recent coordinated effort by Deweyan neo-pragmatists[273] (Brian Norton, Bob Taylor, Ben Minteer, Andrew Light, Paul Thompson, and others) to appropriate the field of ecophilosophy through the pages of Environmental Ethics and other magazines, even though Bob Taylor admits that Dewey was anthropocentric and promoted the exploitation of Nature.[3] At the same time, William Cronon, Carolyn Merchant, and a new circle of anthropocentric left-wing postmodern deconstructivists have wrested the field of environmental history from Donald Worster, Roderick Nash, and other environmental history founders, who were primarily concerned with philosophical development. of environmentalism and the worsening of the ecological crisis. Michael Zimmerman has drawn parallels between neo-pragmatists and postmodern theorists, with their fundamental political concern with such human issues as social justice, democratic institutions, and fear of totalitarianism and fascism.[4] But why call this ecophilosophy or environmental ethics? Concern about the global ecological crisis and the ecophilosophical critiques and theorizing inspired by it have been forgotten or deliberately discouraged. The most important philosophical/ecological controversies taking place today, such as critiques of anthropocentric and economic worldviews and of the cybernetic/technological substitution of the biosphere, have been sidelined. It is as if these theorists have gone back in time, to a moment before there was widespread awareness of the global ecological crisis.

David Nicholson-Lord, writing recently about the disappearance of the overpopulation issue from the public consciousness and from the political agendas of environmental organizations, wonders if we shouldn't be concerned that the human population has doubled three billion in 1960 to six and a half billion today and that, according to forecasts, it will reach nine to ten billion in 2050. Points out that analyzes of the ecological footprint show that, at present, Humans have exceeded the carrying capacity of the Earth by 40 percent and that this number could grow to 130 percent by 2050. The influence of Julian Simon's "unlimited growth" perspective on both the right and the left Politics has contributed greatly to this lack of awareness, and the public, and perhaps a new generation of academics, have been captured by the anti-ecological propaganda of the right wing. ta the point of not taking into account the reality of the global ecological crisis. Furthermore, Nicholson-Lord also notes the widespread return to anthropocentrism in recent decades (“human society turns in on itself and loses touch with nature”) as a major cause of this lack of awareness.[5] This runs parallel to the ecologically conservative anthropocentric backlash of neopragmatists and postmodernists in the academic fields mentioned above.

At the same time, the deep ecology movement, which since the 1960s and 1970s has been primarily concerned with the full dimensions of the global ecological crisis and the abandonment of anthropocentrism, has been ruthlessly attacked by both the right and the right. the political left. Fred Buell's extraordinary and scholarly analysis of environmentalism, From Apocalypse to Way of Life, rigorously documents the vast campaign of anti-environmental misinformation waged by the Republican right that began with Ronald Reagan and Julian Simon, and which pointed to deep ecology as the main culprit.[6] One textbook author noted that “sometimes it seems as if Deep Ecology acts as a lightning rod for criticism and attacks on environmentalism. Because Deep Ecology questions the dominant worldview, we should not be surprised to find a significant critical reaction.”[7] The attacks continued into the 1980s, from the academic left with Murray Bookchin and his social ecology, ecofeminists, and, more recently, neo-pragmatic and postmodern theorists. Some of these attacks are part of legitimate academic give-and-take, but many others have been the result of unusually careless intellectual and ideological blindness. And to the extent that, during this process, the nature and severity of the global ecological crisis have been misrepresented and belittled, such attacks go beyond the mere "academic game." Many of these academic theorists seem to have lost their way, remaining in ecological ignorance.[8] In what follows, I will examine these critiques from postmodern theorists, social ecologists, ecofeminists, and others, and try to reexamine the position of the deep ecology movement as it has developed since Rachel Carson and the Sierra Club[274] by David Brower in the early 1960s, passing through Paul Ehrlich and Arne Naess in the 1970s, up to the present day.[9]


Scientists Barbara Ehrenreich and Janet McIntosh refer to postmodern theorists as the "New Creationists" who hold that biology is irrelevant to understanding humans.[10] For example, Stanford philosopher John Dupre asserts that “even thinking of ourselves as a biological species in the usual sense—that is, a group that possesses common tendencies or 'universal properties' that might shed some light on our behavior - is 'essentialist'[275]”. He quotes Clifford Gertz, an early advocate of social constructivism, as saying that "our ideas, our values, our actions, even our emotions are, like our own nervous systems, cultural products" that have nothing to do with biological evolution. “Some of the strongest rejection against the biological”, affirm Ehrenreich and McIntosh, “comes from scholars with a left-wing or feminist perspective (...)”. In the case of postmodernists, that rejection has become a dogma, much like Biblical creationists do, and they respond harshly to intellectual disagreement with that dogma. But, according to these authors, "by portraying human beings as pure products of the cultural context, secular creationists not only make biological mistakes but also defy common sense." Ehrenreich and McIntosh conclude that “this climate of intolerance, often imposed by left-wing scholars, is inconsistent with an academic tradition rhetorically committed to human freedom. And what's worse, it provides intellectual support for a political perspective that sees no real basis for arguing that humans of different sexes, races, and cultures have something in common."

The modern separation between sciences and humanities (and now between “hard sciences” and humanities/social sciences) has a long history, going back at least to Descartes. In 1969, Paul Shepard, in his development of an "ecology of man," discussed the gulf between the sciences and the humanities, how the left saw evolutionary theory as leading to social Darwinism and eugenics, and how both the sciences ( in its mechanistic stage) like the humanities, had led to a culture that was alienated and hated Nature.[11] In his recent book on deep ecology (The Culture of Extinction), philosopher Frederick Bender acknowledges postmodernism's exorcism of Eurocentrism in anthropology. But, like Ehrenreich and McIntosh, he argues that the tide of postmodern relativism is beginning to turn and that an idea of "universal cultural design" is receiving support from ethology, primatology, hominid paleontology, linguistics, and the like. Paleolithic archaeology. For Bender, one of the keys to understanding the biological basis of human nature is Mary Midgley's concept of “open instincts”. Based on this "universal design", Bender joins Shepard's "Paleolithic counterrevolution" against modernity.[12]

Examining more deeply the roots of the “New Creationism” Nature/Culture debate, Michael Zimmerman, in Contesting Earth's Future: Radical Ecology and Postmodernity, summarizes the emergence of French postmodern thought. This began, according to him, after the failed European student revolution of 1968, when French intellectuals moved away from Marxism and utopianism. The Nazi holocaust, accompanied by the then recent revelations about the Soviet gulag, made the main fears and concerns of French postmodernists political: protecting democracy, promoting social justice, and avoiding totalitarianism and fascism, even if all this resulted in nihilism. French intellectuals sought inspiration in the antihumanist critique of modernity developed by Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the anthropologist Levi-Strauss.[13]

Not surprisingly, for these three thinkers, the rejection of humanist modernism was accompanied by the rejection of anthropocentrism. Fred Bender argues that Nietzsche, with his idea of "perfect nihilism" as a joyful affirmation of "fidelity to Earth", could be considered "the first philosopher of deep ecology".[14] Heidegger criticized the humanistic anthropocentrism of modernity for its aggression against the Earth. Most surprising to me is Levi-Strauss's critique, in 1962, of Jean-Paul Sartre's humanist existentialism. Sartre was the quintessential French anthropocentric Enlightenment humanist: with his promotion of unlimited Eurocentric progress and his rejection of human science for its alleged strict cause-and-effect determinism, which he believed undermined the possibility of human freedom. Sartre has been described as the "anti-Nature philosopher"; his goal, according to Sartre himself, was "to rescue the entire species from animality." For him, humans are totally free and unlimited (what Pete Gunter refers to as "the infinite man"). In contrast to his fellow French existentialist Albert Camus, Sartre was a biophobe.[15]

According to Zimmerman, Levi-Strauss affirmed that "anthropocentric humanism has justified the extermination of thousands of species, each of them as valuable as the human". In a similar way to John Muir's critique of “Master and Master Man”[276], Levi-Strauss argued that his anti-humanism was not misanthropic but criticized the cocky arrogance of modern humanity, a humanism that “turns man in the lord, in the absolute master of creation”. Levi-Strauss preferred the “humility of primitive peoples”, pointing out that “concern for humanity without joint and simultaneous concern for other forms of life (...) [leads] humanity to self-oppression and self-exploitation”. The French postmodernists (Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard), as Zimmerman points out, "focused on human, social, and cultural issues, downplaying Levi-Strauss's and Heidegger's critiques of modernity's assault on nature." ”.[16] Many centuries before, his compatriot Rousseau had argued that Europeans were becoming too civilized and needed to go back to Nature. However, there is a direct lineage in French philosophy that links, through Sartre, Descartes' Christian mind/body dualism, contrary to nature, with Derrida. Postmodernists have rejected modernism when it comes to human society but, unlike the thinkers who inspired them (Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Levi-Strauss), they have failed to address the issue of anthropocentrism and the destruction of wild nature. by modern humanity. So the French postmodernists have extended a central part of the Enlightenment project by developing convoluted theory and theoretical linguistic constructs designed to boast of humanity's uniqueness and superiority and, at the same time, cast doubt on the existence of a Independent nature of human language and culture. For postmodernists, humans are not biologically part of Nature.

The politicization of science and ecocide

Ehrenreich and McIntosh further point out that “postmodern perspectives go beyond a critique of the misuse of biology to offer a critique of biology itself that extends to all of science and often to the very notion of rational thought. ”. Ehrenreich and McIntosh value Foucault's idea that power is everywhere, even in what is presented as truth, as one of the strengths of postmodern analysis. Thus, as a holdover from Marxist analyses, postmodernists assert (according to Zimmerman) that "what passes for objective truth is a construction generated by power-motivated elites." To counter hegemonic control of the truth by the ruling elite, postmodernists argue that "truth should be the result of negotiations in which as many voices as possible are heard." Zimmerman goes so far as to suggest that even Arne Naess's[277] T-Ecosophy is a power-motivated approach, because it promotes Naess's striving for Self-actualization and his desire to be in wild places.[17] Postmodern theory about truth allegedly serves its democratic concerns while at the same time delegitimizing any biological understanding of humans and, in essence, undermining the continuing quest for truth in the theoretical sciences. objective (or impartial). When the world is viewed exclusively from the perspective of political 'power', the truth, like everything else, must be 'negotiated'.

Although Ehrenreich and McIntosh agree that "science needs rigorous and ongoing review," they agree with evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould when they say that "some facts and theories are truly universal (and true)—and no cultural tradition can change that." - (...) we cannot allow a supposedly friendly left current to be exempt from criticism from anti-intellectual positions”. Of course, this runs counter to the postmodern claim that all knowledge is socially constructed, and in particular calls into question Donna Haraway's view that knowledge should only be "relative" and local. But there are legitimate ways of knowing that are both universal and local. For example, paleontologist Niles Eldredge points out that hunter-gatherer peoples have a deep understanding of their local ecosystems. His classification of plants and animals coincides, often exactly, with that developed by biologists. Eldredge concludes that “when we compare lists of plants and animals made by local people with those of professional biologists, it confirms our idea that species are real entities in the natural world, and not simply figments of the classificatory imagination of the human being. Western world”: in other words, knowledge is not so culturally relative and reducible to “social constructions”.[18]

The distinguished ethical theorist Bernard Williams also recently criticized both postmodernists and pragmatist Richard Rorty for denigrating and relativizing the concept of truth. Williams says that deconstructivists "start from the startling assumption that the sociology of knowledge is in a better position to state the truth about science than science is to state the truth about the world." Physicists and biologists are also unsatisfied with the careless politicization of, and subjective mistrust of, their specialties.[19] So we have both the right and the left politicizing science to serve their respective agendas.

In an article on social constructivism and deep ecology, Mick Smith states that I maintain that (1) “current scientific theory [is] an adequate and unalterable representation of the world as it really is (...) which gives us a privileged access to the truth”, (2) that by supporting the genetic theory, I am also supporting its technological applications, ( 3) that although I criticize anthropocentric humanism, in reality, I remain within the enlightened modernist paradigm in supporting the natural sciences in their attempt to provide a true description and understanding of Nature, and (4) that Paul Shepard and I are sociobiologists and biological determinists for holding that biology has an important role to play in understanding human behavior and nature.[20] Smith's claims seem to me to represent typical postmodern fallacious arguments of the type discussed above. Due to my training as a philosopher of science, I am quite aware that science undergoes changes. Smith seems deliberately to ignore my explicit statements about the need to be skeptical of a science ever reaching the final and complete Truth. I also make the usual distinction between theoretical science and its applications (applied technoscience); I support the first while I have serious reservations about much of the second. With respect to (4), in essence, as discussed above, I agree with the analyzes presented by Ehrenreich and McIntosh and by Fred Bender.

Inspired by Spinoza's ideas about the three levels of knowledge, Arne Naess (a major theoretical philosopher of science) makes a decisive distinction between the “contents of reality” and the “ structure of reality”. Naess's description of “Gestalts” as the fundamental “contents” of reality is his version of non-dualism.[278] Theoretical science, for its part, provides a description of the structure of reality, and both its contents and structure are independent of the relativization of social construction. As a philosophical analysis of knowledge, I think Naess is on the right track, which of course contradicts and weakens the postmodern sociological analysis of truth and knowledge.[21]

In February 1992, timed to coincide with the UN environmental conference in Rio, the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London (recognizing, in essence, the correctness of early analyzes of Paul Ehrlich and other environmentalists of the 1960s and 1970s) jointly announced that world population growth of almost 100 million people a year was the "fundamental reason" for forest loss, global warming, and the rate of extinction. of species. They said that “the future of the planet hangs in the balance” and called for the rapid stabilization of the world population. Later that same year, 1,575 scientists from 69 countries, among the world's foremost, including 104 Nobel laureates, signed the 1992 World Scientists Notice to Humanity, stating that "human beings and the world natural have conflicting paths (...) we, the undersigned, members of the world scientific community, warn all humanity of what awaits us. A great change is necessary if enormous human suffering is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated (...) There is only one or a few decades left before the opportunity to avert threats is lost. what we are now facing

(...)”. In 1993, fifty-eight National Academies of Sciences from around the world came together to draft a similar declaration. Recently, Lester Brown has analyzed the exponential global ecological deterioration that has continued to take place after the Rio conference and the warnings of world scientists.[22]

It is significant that Fred Bender begins The Culture of Extinction with a detailed 40-page scientific summary of the global ecological crisis: from overpopulation, global warming, and ozone depletion, to biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, ecosystem collapse, toxic pollution, ocean degradation, loss of arable land, freshwater scarcity, and deforestation; the set of what he calls “ecocide”. Business-as-usual[279] policies, such as sustainable development, could allow us to grow for a few more decades. Drawing on computer models from the 1990s by Donella Meadows and others, Bender asserts that strong evidence suggests "that the point at which the carrying capacity of the planet will be exceeded and collapse will occur will be within the present century." unless major social change takes place rapidly (current ecological footprint analyzes indicate that carrying capacity actually began to be exceeded in the 1970s). A similar analysis, specifically focused on species extinction and habitat loss, has been conducted by University of Hawaii researcher Franz Broswimmer in his book Ecocide. Current estimates are that 30,000 species are going extinct every year, compared to 1,000 species a year in the 1970s, in what scientists call the Sixth Mass Extinction of Species. The analyzes of the global ecological crisis provided by Bender and Broswimmer reflect the general consensus among world scientific organizations.[23] Arne Naess, like Bender, has considered various scenarios stemming from the collapse of ecosystems for the twenty-first century that, according to him, could result in harsh totalitarian measures by governments aimed at restoring order. Naess hopes that a more rational deep ecology approach will avoid both ecospheric collapse and totalitarian measures.[24] By seeking to undermine the impartiality and "objectivity" of the natural and biological sciences, the postmodern social constructivist stance undermines the credibility of scientists' warnings about the ecological state of the world.

Of course, the refusal to accept the global ecological scientific consensus completely changes the landscape in terms of social priorities and the need for radical worldview and social change. For decades, the political right, through Julian Simon and his followers, has criticized the scientific consensus, saying there is no such thing as an overpopulation problem or a global ecological crisis. In 1995, a book by environmental journalist Greg Easterbrook was published stating that the environment is better than ever. Easterbrook is influenced, in part, by the New Age approach of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.[25] More recently, the left has found its ecological maverick champion in the young Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, who, inspired by Julian Simon, has questioned all the data about deforestation, species loss, population growth rates, global warming etc Lomborg says he is a “boy on the left” who wants to use all the money unnecessarily wasted on ecological protection to promote development in the Third World and feed the poor. As the situation has evolved, Simon and Lomborg's irresponsible views have become a worldwide scandal. Ehrlich and Diamond show that Simon is ignorant when it comes to ecology. As for Lomborg, the scientific establishment, led by Peter Raven and other members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, rushed to refute his theses in the pages of Scientific American and other posts. More recently, a team of scientists (the Danish Committee Against Scientific Fraud) examined Lomborg's book and decided that it is academically fraudulent. However, they charitably concluded that Lomborg basically overdid it by not really understanding the nature of the issue at hand.[26] Was criticizing the views of Simon and Lomborg simply another Foucauldian power play by scientists (as Zimmerman and postmodern social constructivists would say), or was it rather an attempt by scientists to clarify the done for the long-term good of the interests of humanity and the Earth?

The religions of the world against the New Creationism

As we have seen, the new generation of postmodern environmental historians and neopragmatic "ecophilosophers" has become increasingly conservative and reactionary toward evolutionary science and the global ecological scientific consensus, and has, in fact, slowly regressed toward the traditional Western “anthropocentric shelter”. As the philosopher Roderick French has pointed out in relation to the traditional Western anthropocentric approach, “it is very disturbing (...) to consider the idea that the formation of human consciousness through the study of literature, philosophy, history, religion and other related disciplines can, in fact, inculcate values and behaviors that endanger the continuity of life itself.”[27]

Christian theologians have traditionally given one of lime and another of sand with respect to the ecological crisis but, starting in the 1980s, under the push of the ecologically radical Catholic theologian Thomas Berry and Mary Tucker, professor of the course on "Religions of the World and Ecology” at Harvard University (which was influenced by Berry), significant progress has been made in alerting and radicalizing world religious leaders about the catastrophic nature of the global ecological crisis and the rejection of anthropocentrism.[28]

In 1997, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, made the following statement:

Committing a crime against the natural world is a sin (...) That humans cause the extinction of species and destroy the biological diversity of God's creation (...) that humans degrade the integrity of [the] Earth by causing changes in its climate, stripping it of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands (...) that humans contaminate the Earth's waters, its soil, its air and its life with poisonous substances, all of them are sins.

Earlier, the Pope had shocked the world with his statement about the overwhelming evidence supporting Darwinian evolution. In June 2002, Bartholomew I and John Paul II issued a "Joint Declaration" on the environment stating "our desire that [God's design] be developed through our cooperation to restore its original harmony."[29]

Religions, in both rich and poor countries, are beginning to take a leadership role in addressing the global and local dimensions of the ecological crisis. For many years, the Dalai Lama has been an outspoken advocate for ecological responsibility and the protection of Tibet's ecosystems and wildlife. Buddhist monk Sulak Sivaraksa is a leader of the Assembly of the Poor, which combines social justice and ecology approaches to protect forests and wildlife (and the home of indigenous people) in Thailand. Sivaraksa, Thich Hanh, Gary Snyder, and the American Buddhist/deep environmentalist Joanna Macy have been recognized as instrumental figures in leading Buddhism around the world into a new third phase of social and ecological activism. Furthermore, the Brazilian Christian theologian Leonardo Boff has written that, since the late 1960s, liberation theology has progressively moved from a concern for the poor, starving blacks and Indians, and the oppression of women, towards a new concern for ecological theology and spiritual ecology focused on the destruction of wild species and ecosystems and based on their "autonomy" and "intrinsic value". Boff says that "according to this theology," in which humans and society "are an integral part of Nature," "social injustice becomes ecological injustice."[30]

The conflict between a worldview of free market capitalism and unlimited economic growth and an ecological worldview was clearly highlighted in 1995, when Thomas Berry made the dramatic claim that "we are already on the verge of a total [ecological] dysfunction of the planet (. ..) [which] requires a drastic reduction in the plundering processes carried out by the industrial commercial economy [and] a drastic and total change in the way of life”. This is in stark contrast to New York pundit Thomas Friedman and his staunch support for economic globalization (The World is Flat) whereby American super-consumer lifestyles spread to China, India and the farthest corners of the globe; the rich get richer while the poor get poorer; and multinational companies rule more and more over the world. George Monbiot wrote last year [2005] in The Guardian that the modern economy sees unlimited growth as the cure for all the world's ills, while global warming "makes our economists look like fanciful utopian..." At the 2004 Parliament of the World's Religions in Spain, which emphasized spirituality and ecology, Rabbi Michael Lerner received the highest praise for his critique of globalization as a "heartless religion of the Market." ”—a global worldview that “acts like a proselytizing religion, promising salvation through consumption, technological gadgetry, and economic power.”[31]

The most radical religious/ecological statement to come out recently is the World Church Council document “God's Earth Is Sacred” (available on their website). In it, the idea of “business as usual” is rejected and calls for a drastic reduction in consumption and economic production, along with the protection of ecosystems and species. Confronting the global ecological crisis, he says, is "the most important moral imperative of our time." Yet the most flagrant omission of this entire radical ecological religious awakening, from Thomas Berry to the World Church Council, is the lack of any reference to human overpopulation! They have accepted and promoted most of the global scientific consensus except for one of its most important aspects. They need to study Diamond's Collapse and the Ehrlichs' One with Nineveh and represent the world from global ecological analysis and critique.

While the religious leaders of the world are now taking ecologically radical positions and aligning themselves with the global scientific community and the position of the deep ecology movement, the right-wing Republican movement of the George W. Bush administration, the “Wise Use movement ”[280], finds himself in collusion with apocalyptic Christian fundamentalists who see ecological collapse as “a good sign”. Journalist Glenn Scherer provides a rare analysis of “end times” anti-ecological apocalyptic Christians and how they have seized political control of the US Congress. The same analysis was echoed by veteran journalist Bill Moyers when, in In 2004, he received the Global Environment Citizen Award from Harvard Medical School.[32]

What an irony that scholars as educated as postmodern leftist deconstructivists end up as “new creationists” who take scientific and ecological positions similar to those of right-wing Christian biblical creationists! And now, some theologians (who have traditionally been dogmatists) are at the forefront of the radical ecological movement, while philosophers, supposedly without prejudice (such as neopragmatists), have been left behind, turned into anthropocentrists with little concern for ecology. Ecophilosopher Jack Turner (in The Abstract Wild) comes very close to expressing my thoughts when he says that, despite his training in the Western philosophical tradition, he “distrust[s] that tradition, its means and its ends, although it continues to be at your service.”[33] Given the current reactionary stance of most of Western philosophy (including the new generation of "ecophilosophers"), which seems unable to overcome its anthropocentric biophobic past, I am beginning to feel more sympathetic to the radical ecological theologians of the world.


The most recent phase of critiques of Wilderness[282] began in 1989 with the Indian social ecologist Ramachandra Guha who, in a highly influential article, assumed the role of mouthpiece for the Third World providing a "Third World critique." [3. 4] Calling himself an "outsider sympathizer," Guha said the deep ecology movement is nothing more than a radical strand of the US wilderness movement that has little relevance to the real issues. environmental challenges facing humanity—social justice, overconsumption by the wealthy, and militarization (Guha sees these as “the greatest dangers to the integrity of the natural world”). Guha goes even further, suggesting that "in the American context, a truly radical ecology movement should work for a synthesis between appropriate technology, alternative ways of life, and a movement for peace." Guha euphemistically refers to India as a "densely populated country." By any realistic ecological perspective, India is grossly overpopulated and has now rapidly overtaken China as the world's most populous country. Given the global ecological scientific consensus, one is stunned to see such a characterization of the ecological crisis.

Guha is upset with the nature reserves established in India in the 1970s by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in collaboration with international conservation organizations, to protect tigers and other endangered species. Guha rejects the view that "intervention in nature should be guided primarily by the need to conserve biological integrity rather than human needs." In his view, India's tiger reserves (which also protect many other endangered species) are an example of "elitist ecological imperialism" resulting in "a direct transfer of resources from the poor to the rich." Guha also asserts that US parks and wilderness areas[283] (like those in the Third World) are designed primarily as tourist attractions for the wealthy. "Deep Ecology," he says, "runs parallel to consumer society without seriously questioning its ecological and sociopolitical foundations." Ecological issues, for Guha, are first and foremost issues of human social justice. Moreover, the anthropocentric-biocentric[284] distinction of deep ecology is “largely false”. He dislikes deep ecology's attraction to Eastern traditions such as Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism as bases for its ecocentrism, claiming that such attraction is politically motivated to provide an "authentic lineage" and to present itself as a universal philosophy (and not as a particular American philosophy).

Guha cites the book Deep Ecology by Devall and Sessions, however that book, even with its flaws, contains enough information to head off most of their mistakes about deep ecology. If you had read the book more carefully, you would have realized that the deep ecology movement is not exclusively focused on the wilderness. For example, bioregionalism is highlighted in the book as an ecologically sound way of life for people around the world. There is criticism about inappropriate technology. In this book, Guha would also have found criticism about excessive consumption by the rich. The Hindu author dismisses the attraction to Eastern religions as a "political ploy" without seeming to realize that, for example, Arne Naess is a recognized world authority on Gandhi's philosophy and that he incorporated Gandhi into his own philosophy. ecological (Ecosophy-T). In addition, Gary Snyder trained for ten years as a Zen monk in Japan and bases his philosophy and practice of deep ecology on Zen.[35] In short, Guha's knowledge of the deep ecology movement appears to be grossly distorted. And Guha is not the "impartial" or representative spokesman for the Third World that many take him to be. There are many people throughout the Third World who place a high priority on efforts to protect biodiversity and wilderness in their countries. What's more, he is not even necessarily a representative spokesman for India. For example, the famous Hindu physicist/ecofeminist Vandana Shiva argues that deep ecology's insistence on the intrinsic value and protection of wild species and habitats is the only way to ensure a long-term healthy lifestyle for the world's poor.[36] Despite his mistakes, however, Guha puts his finger on the nerve: the issue of displacing indigenous peoples from their homes to create reserves to protect wild ecosystems, endangered species, and the continuation of the evolutionary flow of nature. Wild nature.

A much more systematic and exhaustive critique of the concept of Wild Nature[285] was developed from 1991 by J. Baird Callicott, one of the most prominent popularizers of Leopold's land ethic. Summarizing Callicott's position, he first says that John Muir's original reason for protecting wilderness was for aesthetic and spiritual value. But this is misleading, Muir also rejected the anthropocentrism of what he called the "Owner and Lord Man": for Muir, non-human wild beings have the right to exist by and for themselves, which requires the protection of great extensions of wild territories that serve as their habitat. Thoreau was the first modern thinker to stress the crucial importance of protecting Earth's wildness; Muir agreed with Thoreau and emphasized the role of anthropocentrism in the destruction of the wild.[37] Secondly, according to Callicott, the conservation of wild areas[286] is a defensive strategy that, in the long term, has everything to lose. Third, similar to Guha, Callicott says that wilderness is a uniquely American, non-exportable concept, driving the eviction of indigenous peoples from their homes in the remaining wilderness of the Third World. Fourth, it is an ethnocentric concept. No wilderness is pristine (untouched by the hand of man): Native peoples managed and, in certain cases, altered the landscape through fire and other means. Fifth, recent ecological theory says that ecosystems are in a process of constant change and instability, while according to Callicott, wilderness conservation assumes ecosystem stability. And sixth, by excluding permanent human occupation, the concept of wilderness reinforces a real and philosophical separation between humans and nature.

Unlike Guha and his colleagues, who focus exclusively on social justice, Callicott has extensive knowledge of the ecological literature and is aware of the need for the protection of ecosystems and species. He proposes replacing the concept of legally declared wild areas[287] with that of “biodiversity reserves”, to protect biodiversity and ecological habitats. But in their anthology The Great New Wilderness Debate, Callicott and Michael Nelson insist that these “biodiversity reserves” must be managed. What do Callicott and Nelson have against unmanaged wildness? Do they feel the need to “control Nature” through their management? Perhaps the most insightful debate took place between Callicott, conservation biologist Reed Noss, and Dave Foreman. Noss and Foreman seem to respond satisfactorily to most of Callicott's arguments.[38]

In addition to his alternative of biodiversity reserves, Callicott supports the concept of "sustainable development." Biologist Edward Grumbine has refuted Callicott's proposal for sustainable development. Sustainable development involves too much management and development, and is tied to Callicott's vision of a "global technological society." Grumbine argues that Callicott provides "very little about the kind of limits" that will be necessary for future ecologically compatible societies.[39] Callicott appears to be totally oblivious to the vast body of literature critical of sustainable development. And, like the reformist leaders of environmental organizations in the 1980s, Callicott seems to have returned to an earlier "limits to growth" analysis, while promoting the much less radical position that Fred Buell calls "ecological modernization." ”. On the other hand, Arne Naess has proposed replacing the ecologically flawed concept of sustainable development with that of “ecological sustainability”.[40]

Postmodern social constructivism entered the debate dramatically in the work of environmental historian William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature”.[41] In 1995, excerpts appeared in the New York Times Magazine and other newspapers, with titles like “Inventing the Wilderness” and “Is Wilderness a Threat to Environmentalism?” In 1990, the noted environmental historian Donald Worster engaged in debate with the new postmodern environmental historians. Worster said that Cronon and Carolyn Merchant were trying "to reduce environmental history to social history and to adopt the causal arguments and moral concerns of the latter—the importance of gender, race, class, etc." Cronon has so broadly redefined the environment as a cultural landscape that it could almost "encompass anywhere on Earth, including hospitals and military bases."[42]

Cronon's article makes use of Guha and Callicott's arguments, but adds the postmodern theme that Nature and wilderness are cultural concepts that need to be “reinvented”. Cronon's style seems unusually ambiguous and winding, and much of the force of his argument rests on that. For example, Cronon says that "wildlands represent a serious threat to the responsible environmentalism of the late 20th century." But are you talking about the concept of wilderness or the physical landscape to which that concept refers? It turns out that both. For Cronon, the Euro-American idea of wilderness is romanticized and based on historical inaccuracies, such as not taking into account the extent to which the Earth's surface has been altered from its "pristine" state by indigenous peoples. . Following Callicott, Cronon says his criticism "is not directed against wilderness, or even against efforts to preserve large tracts of wilderness." But this is tricky, because Cronon ultimately sides with Guha. For Cronon, the "bottom line" is that "responsible environmentalism" needs to be redirected from protecting vast wilderness areas around the world (for wild species and protecting biodiversity) towards a concern for our "backyards": places like cities and other areas where we “live, work and play”.

Cronon's insights into ecological science seem somewhat scant: for example, he says that the genetically domesticated tree growing in our backyard is just as wild and "different" as one growing in a mature forest. In a valuable ecological critique of Cronon, conservation biologist Donald Waller draws Cronon's attention to the tree example and explains how conservation biologists understand and classify wild ecosystems.[43] Referring to another example of such scientific confusion, David Kidner (in his excellent critique of social constructivism) criticizes Cronon for suggesting that many of the dramatic global ecological problems (global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, loss of biodiversity) " they exist primarily as simulated representations in complex computer models of natural systems.”[44] Is Cronon suggesting that scientists are fabricating and “constructing” global ecological problems, thereby downplaying these problems in order to focus on local urban pollution and issues of social and environmental justice?

Any doubts about the direction that Cronon and his postmodern colleagues are taking should be dispelled by taking into account the orientation of the participants and the issues raised at the "Reinventing Nature" conference (organized by Cronon and inspired by his article), held in 1994 at the University of California at Irvine. The title of the conference is taken from the famous work “Cyborg Manifesto”[288], by Donna Haraway, who also participated in the conference. For example, Richard White analyzed the struggle to protect the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest in terms of workers (loggers) versus recreationists[289], while downplaying ecological issues. Candice Slater and Carolyn Merchant accused environmentalists of trying to return to a lost paradise of pristine and wild Nature. Giovanna DiChiro promoted the fusion between environmentalism and social justice. Katherine Hayles spoke of the convergence of virtual reality with experiences arising from the natural world. It is significant that the ecologist Daniel Botkin was invited to Cronon's conference, although he was unable to attend. It appears that Botkin also rejects "limits to growth" and the global ecological scientific consensus. Donald Worster has criticized Botkin for wanting to develop most of the Earth to the point where it has become "a comfortable home" for civilization. "In the twenty-first century, nature," according to Botkin, "will be a nature made by us." But what will then happen to the wild species and ecosystems that have made the Earth a system capable of supporting life?[45]

Conference participants went on field trips to Disneyland, Sea World and South Coast Plaza with their Nature Company to see how the corporate world is “reinventing” Nature. If more “reinventing Nature” conferences are held in the future, a more appropriate field trip would be to the National Museum of Natural History in New York to watch biologists “invent” Nature. In 1998, Niles Eldredge, the curator of the museum's Biodiversity Hall, presented a major exhibition called Life at Play. It explained the functioning of ecosystems, the values of biodiversity, human dependence on wild ecosystems and what could be done to avoid the Sixth Mass Extinction of Species. In the book that accompanied the exhibition, Eldredge makes an impassioned call to protect biodiversity and species habitats that is, in itself, a profound refutation of postmodern deconstruction. Eldredge says that "remaining anchored in the idea that we have escaped from the natural world, few see the true dependence that our species has on the health of the global system." If you can't make it to that exhibition, Botkin and the other participants in the “Reinventing Nature” conference should read Eldredge's little book![46]

Gary Snyder has little patience with Cronon and postmodernists. He points out that early ecologists understood that ecosystems were in flux and change. Many pre-agricultural societies cause a relatively minimal impact on the environment, which is why, in many cases, these territories should be called “virtually pristine” instead of “pristine”.[47] Snyder says that Cronon and Botkin's positions are “simply the most sophisticated development of the 'Wise Use movement'”. Cronon and postmodernists fail to realize that "wilderness is where large and rich ecosystems are found and is therefore (among other things) a place to live for beings that cannot survive elsewhere." habitat type.”[48]

David Orr (whose strong views on ecological issues have, over time, come to rival those of Snyder, Arne Naess, and Donald Worster) provides an excellent summary and assessment of what he calls "the Debate." Not-So-Great about the Wilderness. The basic assumption—that Nature can be reinvented—“is only useful if one considers it an ephemeral social construct. If Nature is so liberated from its ties to rigid physical reality, it can be redefined however one pleases." Cronon's assertion that we should redirect our attention to the "wildness" in our backyards is an "insignificant idea" when we must "cope with global problems like species extinction, climate change, emerging diseases and the collapse of entire ecosystems. Orr refers to historian Peter Coates' claim that “irresponsible deconstructivism undermines arguments for the conservation of threatened species”. Like Snyder, Orr also sees postmodern perspectives as similar to those found "only on the political far right." He concludes that "postmodernism provides no realistic basis for a viable and intellectually sound environmentalism."[49]

The “wilderness debate” from Guha to Cronon is only a small part of much larger leftist “culture wars” and socio-political intellectual conflicts. You also need to look, for example, at urban planner Robert Gottlieb's book Forcing the Spring. Mark Dowie aptly refers to it as “a milestone in the revisionist history of environmentalism” emphasizing urban pollution and humane environmental justice as the essence of environmentalism. Gottlieb's research is superficial, describing “old wilderness conservationists” as concerned with protecting wilderness primarily for scenic and recreational reasons. It also describes biologist Rachel Carson as fundamentally concerned with questions of pesticide pollution and "quality of life," while ignoring her broader ecological and anti-anthropocentric stance. Gottlieb points out that the New Left (inspired by Paul Goodman, Herbert Marcuse, and Murray Bookchin in the 1960s) was proposing a post-scarcity urban and social environmentalism focused on pollution, new technologies, and the problem of overconsumption (very similar to what Guha does today). The purpose of Gottlieb's book is to make the case for the revival of New Left urban environmentalism.[50]

Dowie extends Gottlieb's analysis and program for a "new urban environmentalism." Using typical leftist rhetoric, he calls old wilderness conservationists “racist” and “elitist” (a few were but not the majority) and shares the “shift in emphasis from the natural to the urban sphere, that has transformed American environmentalism (...) The fundamental concern of the new movement is human health. Its supporters consider the conservation of wild territories as (...) something respectable but overrated”.[51] Dowie does a good job of detailing all the weaknesses of the environmental movement and organizations that, in the 1980s and 1990s, came under attack from the Republican right and demands from the left to adopt their justice agendas. urban social security as the main objective, have ended up being increasingly ineffective and increasingly disorganized and confused about their priorities. But Dowie's scant knowledge of ecological realities and of the ecological scientific consensus results in him placing questions of social justice above ecological ones. Like most urban/social justice environmental theorists who hail from the political left traditions, Gottlieb and Dowie appear to be ideologically blind to the details of the historical and biological foundations of the environmental/conservation movement as it developed over the years. based on the writings of Rachel Carson and David Brower's leadership of the Sierra Club during the 1960s. In his book, Gottlieb cites the most important studies in the history of this movement (John Muir and his Legacy</em > by Stephen Fox and The History of the Sierra Club by Michael Cohen) but seems not to have taken on the biological/ecological message. For the left (including postmodern deconstructivists) everything is seen in terms of "race, class and gender." For Gottlieb and Dowie, the early conservationists/ecologists were all “racists” and “elitists”. And now we have Carolyn Merchant (a leading postmodern/ecofeminist environmental historian) who ignores John Muir's extraordinary ecological understanding and achievements and claims that he was a racist.[52]

Ultimately, environmentalism's version of social justice and the New Left (originated by Bookchin and Marcuse and now resurrected by Gottlieb, Dowie, Guha, Cronon and the postmodernists) should be contrasted with these observations by Gary Snyder:

Deep ecology thinkers insist that the natural world has value in its own right, that the health of natural systems should be our primary concern, and that such concern is also the one that best serves human interests (... ) It's good that the scope of the movement ranges from wildlife to urban health. But there can be no health for humans and cities apart from the rest of nature. A proper radical environmental stance is by no means anti-human. We capture the pain of the human condition in all its complexity and add recognition of how desperately threatened certain key species and habitats are.[53]


Foucault, in general, was right – power is almost everywhere and, of course, also in leftist (and postmodern) tendencies, who see everything as power politics. As Fred Bender (a former Marxist scholar) has pointed out, beginning with Marx, the left has rejected religion, including religious spiritual traditions that provide an understanding of reality that includes techniques to temper ego's dominance. And now postmodernists reject reason and unbiased evidence (the search for truth) in favor of (often incendiary) rhetoric. This was never more evident than in Murray Bookchin's virulent political power play when, in July 1987, at the first American Greens conference in Amherst, Massachusetts, he took the podium to rail against deep ecology (and promote deep ecology). society).[54] Deep ecology has been promoted by Fritjof Capra and Charlene Spretnak, in their book Green Politics,[55] as the basic philosophy of The Greens. Bookchin's diatribe included the claim that deep ecology is a "black hole"—a "bottomless abyss in which diffuse forms and ideas of all kinds can be completely sucked into a toxic ideological dump." Deep ecology is misanthropic in seeing humanity as something "ugly" and anthropocentric that is "overpopulating the planet, devouring its resources and destroying its wildlife and the biosphere" (Bookchin at least got this last part right - and him? Are those things okay with you?) Along with his violent rhetoric, Bookchin hits all the rhetorical points of the right, with various accusations that have become the standard repertoire of leftist critiques of deep ecology: for example, linking Earth First! Foreman (and Michael Zimmerman's promotion of Heidegger's philosophy as a basis for the deep ecology movement) with ecofascism and Nazism.

The controversy appeared in the pages of The Nation. Kirkpatrick Sale saw a "planned and coordinated campaign" when he engaged in a debate with Bookchin and his colleague, Ynestra King, at the Conference of Socialist Scholars in 1987, where they inveighed against deep ecology and bioregionalism.[56] During a major ecofeminist conference held at the University of Southern California in 1987, King also said that "there is only one ecology, and that is social ecology." Alston Chase points out how Sale was repeatedly interrupted while giving a talk on deep ecology/bioregionalism at an earlier conference at UCLA (“International Green Movements and the Prospects for a New Environmental/Industrial Politics in the US”) co-sponsored by the author of <em >Forcing the Spring</em>, Richard Gottlieb.[57] Chase, who is right-wing and critical of deep ecology, says that Gottlieb (and Bookchin) were trying to extend the New Left model of the German Green Party to the United States: “environmentalism has not replaced Marxism but has been absorbed by him. Sale concluded that Bookchin, King, and the others were "really determined to destroy the influence" of the deep ecology movement.

Fred Bender has little sympathy for social ecology, which he calls "the human chauvinism of the left." He asserts that “social ecology and ecofeminism continue to develop the traditional concerns of the historic left, particularly the analyzes of, and opposition to, class and gender domination and unwarranted inequalities rooted in Extinction Culture.” [58] In her study of the political approaches to the environment of Marxists, ecosocialists, and the New Left, political scientist Robyn Eckersley notes how Marx, like Locke and other classical liberals, "considered the non-human world as a mere terrain." for human activity, which only acquired value when it was transformed by human work or its prolongation —technology”. In this regard, the entire leftist tradition has not deviated substantially from the original Marxist position. Eckersley proposes two "litmus tests" to determine whether an ecological position is adequate: concern about overpopulation and the protection of wild territories (understood as the habitat of wild species). Both Bookchin's social ecology and ecofeminism fail miserably on both tests.[59]

As the intellectual leader of the New Left, Bookchin was hostile to the ecological approach pioneered by William Vogt and continued by Paul Ehrlich (the terrifying "neo-Malthusians") that warned of overpopulation, overconsumption, and loss of wilderness and wildlife habitats. , and defended the existence of limits to human growth and expansion. According to Robert Gottlieb, "the ecological question for Bookchin was fundamentally an urban question."[60] Bookchin proposed a "post-scarcity anarchism" in which human resources and production are apparently unlimited (so there is no problem of overpopulation). Ecologist David Ehrenfeld quotes Bookchin as saying: “For the first time in history, technology has reached an open end. The potential for technological development (...) is virtually unlimited”. Ehrenfeld criticizes Bookchin's "boundless optimism" and asks: why does he embrace "the unwarranted optimism of a humanistic cult whose efforts to redesign the world in its own image have yielded nothing but a long string of ever-worsening failures"? Fred Bender points out the irony of how Julian Simon appropriated Bookchin's post-scarcity leftist ideas, transforming them into a "right-wing" argument for unlimited and "unfettered" "free enterprise" growth![61]

In a 1988 article on the new ecophilosophies, there is a photograph of Bookchin conversing with Marxist ecologist Barry Commoner at the 1987 Conference of Socialist Scholars. Chris Lewis notes that in 1990 Commoner (in his book Making Peace with the Planet[290])

It refuses to accept calls to control population growth, stop economic growth and development, and transform the modern world. It argues that, because humanity lives in two worlds, the natural world or ecosphere and a social world of its own creation —the technosphere [Nature/Culture]—, the environmental crisis is not an ecological problem but a social and political problem .[62]

Today, the Commoner-Ehrlich debates of the 1970s must be seen in a new light: Ehrlich representing the ecocentric scientific/ecological branch of the environmental movement (which would eventually become the global ecological scientific consensus based on equation I =PAT) and Commoner essentially representing the anthropocentric political agenda centered on urban pollution of the New Left. The fundamental accuracy of Ehrlich's analyzes and efforts was recognized by the scientific community when he was recently awarded the first Service to Humanity Award by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1989, Eckersley provided a critique of Bookchin's philosophical ecology centered on his teleological interpretation of evolution as a process leading to greater diversity, complexity, and freedom, with humans at the top rung of the evolutionary ladder. For Bookchin, humans have created a “second nature” that has evolved from “first nature”—again, the old Nature/Culture dualism. According to him, it is necessary for humans to incorporate Nature into Culture, thus adding "the dimension of freedom, reason and ethics to the first nature" in a new dialectical synthesis that he calls "Free Nature". Marx had divided Nature and Culture into the realm of necessity and freedom, respectively, and Bookchin's distinction between first and second nature obviously reflects that separation. Comparing Bookchin to the French Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Eckersley worries that Bookchin was willing to bioengineer wild "first nature" and "take the reins of evolution in those fields where he already let us know its address and be ready to, and be able to, give it a hand”.[63] For Bookchin, letting nature and wild species "follow their own evolutionary destinies" (in the words of Gary Snyder), on their own, would mean that humans would be "too passive."

Bookchin claims to be in the tradition of Aristotle, Hegel, and Marx. In 1974, at the dawn of ecophilosophy, the Australian philosopher and historian John Passmore hit the nail on the head in pointing out what is ecologically wrong throughout the Aristotelian and Hegelian/Marxist tradition.[64] For Aristotle, "nature reaches its optimum when it completely satisfies the needs of man—which, in fact, constitutes its reason for existing (...)" This tradition continued, according to Passmore, with Fichte's German idealist metaphysics and Hegel and was incorporated into the thought of Marx, that of the New Left, that of Marcuse (and Bookchin) and that of Teilhard de Chardin. Marcuse continued with Fichte's ideas by saying that there are "two types of human dominance: one repressive and the other liberating (...) At the same time that [man] civilizes nature, he frees it, as Hegel also suggests, from its 'negativity', of its hostility towards the spirit”. Non-human nature must be humanized and spiritualized. In Hegel's Christianized dialectical philosophy, there was no lost love for Nature. Bender says that, like the modern philosophical basis for the Culture/Nature dualism, Hegel held that Nature had no intrinsic value. He quotes Hegel as saying that humans should "abuse her (...) and annihilate her." Hegel also affirms that “man being Spirit is not a creature of Nature”.[65]

Bender argues that the Nature/Culture distinction is ultimately false and unsupported by biology and other sciences; contemporary human cultures remain completely imbued with wild Nature and natural processes. His critique of Bookchin's social ecology continues along the lines developed by Eckersley. Bender says that "social ecology's vague notion of 'free' nature amounts to nothing less than absolute planetary management, in support of massive, paternalistic intervention in evolution itself." But Bookchin's position is even more disastrous and dramatic. After attempting to establish that humans, through their Culture, have abandoned Nature—evolving outside of it in the completely separate realm of Culture—Bookchin would return humans to Nature to integrate it. totally in culture. "Free nature" is the form that Culture would take after engulfing Wild Nature. So everything will be culture! The Hegelian tradition is so anthropocentric, so nature-hating, and (in Hegel's case) so unearthly that it is difficult to see how an adequate ecophilosophical position could originate from it. Dialectics is also often used to insinuate the inevitability of progress that, in many cases, is highly questionable.

Thomas Berry has tried to unravel the vast anti-ecological implications of the non-human Wilderness focus of mainstream Western philosophical and religious traditions. As a disciple of Teilhard, Berry has attempted to reinterpret Teilhard from an ecocentric perspective. Contrary to both Teilhard and Bookchin, he says that "the evolutionary process reaches its maximum expression in the Earth community, seen in its global dimension and not only as a human community that reigns triumphantly dominating the rest of the components of the Earth. Land". The spontaneous course of evolution and wild Nature must be respected and protected.[66]

According to Bender, John Clark is currently "the ablest philosopher" of social ecology. Clark maintains that the most characteristic statement of social ecology is that "the human drive to dominate nature (...) is, primarily, the result of the domination of some humans over others."[67] Warwick Fox has criticized that view, and Eckersley appears to agree with Fox.[68] Bender also argues why this claim of social ecology cannot be true: for example, historically, anthropocentrism has preceded the domination of some humans over others. Bender also criticizes Clark's attempts to defend the anthropocentrism of social ecology. Bender notes that Clark now considers himself a "deep social ecologist." He has tried to distance himself from Bookchin's position and now says he supports bioregionalism and "a vast expansion of wilderness." But what is the priority that the protection of biodiversity (along with the other aspects of the ecological crisis) has in Clark's new adaptation of social ecology? And what is the position of the new “deep social ecology” on overpopulation, “post-scarcity anarchism” (unlimited growth), and the idea that humans drive evolution by absorbing wild Nature into humans? culture? Clark now apparently supports (along with Michael Zimmerman) Ken Wilber's anthropocentric Hegelian spirituality. Does Clark agree with Wilber that primitive peoples have a less developed form of spirituality?69 Bender thinks otherwise. More recently, Clark has tried to form strong links with ecofeminism. Which leads to the question of your opinion about social constructivism and Donna Haraway's “Cyborg Manifesto”.[70]

Clark has recently said that my approach and Naess's are so different from each other that they represent two different conceptions of deep ecology.[71] Over the years I have criticized Bookchin's social ecology for many of the reasons mentioned above, while Naess (in a more Gandhian style) has tended to be conciliatory. Clark notes that Naess argues that the deep ecology movement should be kept separate from social justice concerns (ideally, according to Naess, these movements should unite and cooperate, where possible, under the umbrella name of Green movement). I agree with Naess's tactical approach to this issue, but Clark doesn't. To the best of my knowledge, I do not disagree with Naess on any major deep ecology issue, including the delicate issue of the ecological consequences of overly liberal immigration policies from poor to rich countries. Naess has pointed out, for example, that "the children of immigrants will adopt the dire consumption habits of rich countries, thereby increasing the ecological crisis," not to mention the added stress on ecosystems and social infrastructure that they are causing. growing population pressures. In other words, there are limits to growth unless, of course, one believes that Culture has become totally detached from biological/ecological reality (these considerations are serious enough not to be ruled out). as a Garrett Hardin-style “racist” stance). Given the equation I=PAT, environmental scientists today refer to the United States as "the most overpopulated country in the world." And both Jared Diamond and the Ehrlichs have said that immigration to developed countries should be substantially reduced for ecological reasons.[72] This is a key terrain where leftist social justice movements (and, apparently, “second generation” ecophilosophers) appear to be moving away from sound ecological and social politics. Clark also totally disagrees with Naess and me on this. Finally, one is forced to ask what social ecology as an ecophilosophical stance might look like if Clark acknowledged the criticisms made by Eckersley, Fox, Bender, and others.

The incredible strategy of postmodernism - everything is Culture!

The social constructivism of the postmodernists provides a new and original basis for the resolution of the Culture/Nature question. There is no such thing as a Nature/Culture dualism—Nature either becomes a social construction wholly dependent on Culture, or is wholly integrated into, or eliminated by, Culture. This constitutes an intellectual strategy of such magnitude that it makes Bookchin's attempt at influence seem minuscule by comparison. For example, Australian zoologist Peter Dwyer has said:

Modern thought treats nature as something separate from culture and has assigned the former an ontological priority (...) I would like to modify and, to a certain extent, turn that tradition upside down (...) I will say that, in the sphere of human affairs, culture must be placed first and nature in an emergent position.[73]

But, unless we are Biblical Creationists, Hegelians/Marxists, or Postmodern “New Creationists,” Culture is not “separate” from Nature. Humans and their cultures emerge from cosmic and biological processes and remain fully embedded in those processes. Bender provides ample arguments to support the belonging of humans to Nature. The Earth and many other species have historical ontological priority over humans. By rejecting the scientific explanation of the evolution of the Universe, calling into question the veracity of the physical and biological sciences, the postmodernists have, in effect, turned things “upside down” in a huge attempt to achieve power that has implications in many ways. practical issues (such as the priority of social justice issues over ecological ones). They have turned things “upside down” to the point of turning reality inside out -it's all Culture! Through an intellectual sleight of hand, the social sciences now become the fundamental or “sciences”. hard”, while the physical and biological sciences become the “soft” sciences dependent on culture. This bizarre intellectual power coup has been so successful that today the anthropocentric social sciences and humanities are holding the reins! Today, as a result of their newly acquired position of power, such sciences provide a new and unique intellectual basis for the ecological destruction of the Earth and its savageness only dreamed of before by Old Testament authors and modernist thinkers of the Enlightenment, from Bacon, Descartes, Hegel, Marx, and Bookchin, to the techno-utopian Nouveau followers of Teilhard de Chardin in Silicon Valley.

As a way of summarizing the critique of anthropocentric postmodernism and its potentially devastating social and ecological impacts, I would like to refer to Paul Shepard's insightful little essay “Virtually Hunting Reality in the Forest of Simulacra”. After analyzing the approaches of Derrida, Rorty, Lacan, Lyotard and Foucault, Shepard says,

But is [postmodern deconstruction] really new, or is it a continuation of an old and unnatural stance that David Ehrenfeld has called “the arrogance of humanism”? (...) As tourists flock to their (...) fantasy worlds, cynics take refuge from daunting problems by announcing that all lands are illusory. Deconstructivist postmodernism rationalizes the last step to remove the connection: from relativism to denial. It seems more like the final act of an old story than a revolutionary perspective.

And recalling Nietzsche's "perfect nihilism" (the cheerful affirmation of "fidelity to the Earth"), Shepard points out, as an alternative, the genuine and innovative direction of our time is not the final surrender to the anomie of nonsense or the flight to fantasy worlds, but the opposite direction—towards affirmation and continuity with something beyond representation. The new humanism is not really radical. As Charlene Spretnak says: "the greening of consciousness is much more radical than the ideologues and strategists of current political forms (...) seem to have realized."[74]


Ecofeminism has been germinating since the mid-1970s, but burst onto the ecophilosophy scene in 1984 with Australian sociologist Ariel Salleh's article "Deeper than Deep Ecology: The Ecofeminist Connection."[75] Several ecofeminists, including Patsy Hallen, have pointed out that much of the development of ecofeminism has taken place in reaction to deep ecology.[76] Most ecofeminists (like Bookchin and his social ecology), with the notable exceptions of Charlene Spretnak, Hallen, and a few others, have seen ecofeminism as in deadly competition with deep ecology. Before the attacks began, deep ecology theorists naively and positively looked at both social ecology and ecofeminism. Salleh's article was the beginning, and with few exceptions, ecofeminists have uniformly misunderstood the deep ecology movement; as a consequence, most of his criticism has been far from on target. For example, Salleh thought that deep ecology is a "masculine" rational and ethical system (which is not true) and that women are physically and emotionally closer to Nature than men (it seems obvious that in alienated cultures contemporary women, this varies fundamentally according to the individual experiences of each man or woman). As a Marxist, Salleh has recently charitably attempted to "help" deep ecology by proposing that it place less emphasis on consciousness change and more on the "material" conditions of life.[77]

The question of the alienation of male deep ecology from Nature (most deep ecology theorists are male) has been a central theme of ecofeminist critiques up to the present day. [Since most ecofeminist intellectuals are highly urban-focused postmoderns and social constructivists, one might more convincingly argue that such intellectuals are some of the most remote-from-Nature people in the world.] Mountaineer/philosopher Jack Turner points out that because people who spend a lot of time in the wilderness and on mountaintops often have a broader perspective on reality, it is no coincidence that many modern conservation leaders (John Muir , David Brower, Arne Naess, George Sessions, Gary Snyder) have been mountaineers. Brower used to complain that the Sierra Club was often run by mountaineers, but beginning in the 1980s, it was run by MBAs and other bureaucrats and lost its boldness and ecological perspective. In the same vein, the philosopher William Barrett referred to Henri Bergson's comment that “most philosophers seem to philosophize as if they were locked in the privacy of their office and did not live on a planet surrounded by a huge organic world of animals. , plants, insects and protozoa, with whom his own life is linked in a single story. Barrett thought that the "first lesson (of trees and rocks) is to get us out of the narrow and presumptuous horizons of our humanism." Although Naess is often cited as the "father" or "founder" of the deep ecology movement, such a claim is misleading. Naess says the founder of the movement is marine biologist Rachel Carson. In his original 1973 article on deep ecology, Naess notes that "enormous numbers of people in all countries," many of whom were field ecologists (both male and female) who identified with Wild Nature, have come to spontaneously to similar deep ecological attitudes and beliefs. Naess saw himself as providing the philosophical articulation of a global deep ecology movement that had already been in existence for a decade.[78]

Cheney, Plumwood and Warren on Deep Ecology

Val Plumwood and Karen Warren are two of the most prominent contemporary ecofeminist scholars, both initially drawing heavily on the work of Jim Cheney. Cheney introduced postmodern ecofeminism to the world of ecophilosophy in the late 1980s. Influenced by Donna Haraway, he defended local bioregional[291] narratives and criticized the position of Warwick Fox, whom he accused of promoting a “cosmic identification ” universal and rational, instead of worrying about the particular, the social, the historical, the personal and the “politics of difference”. Cheney then developed a convoluted analysis claiming that followers of "S-Ecosophy" (for "Stoic," "Self-realization," or both)—namely Warwick Fox, Bill Devall, Sessions and to a lesser degree Naess—are committed to a "metaphysical project of salvation" that places the deep ecology position "out of reach for negotiation." Like the Stoics' reaction to the destruction of the ancient world, alienated male followers of S-Ecosophy want to climb a "[metaphysical] tower that stands beyond tragedy" (Robinson Jeffer's phrase) to escape the demise of modernism. Of course, it was Naess who was initially inspired by Spinoza's metaphysical system, and Cheney simply assumes that postmodern deconstruction (with its rejection of metaphysics, truth, etc.) is the correct position. But even the criticism of Cheney by the Stoic academic William Stephens, in which he says that his comparison of deep ecology with Stoicism is inappropriate and that the argument is fundamentally ad hominem, has not deterred Cheney. ecofeminists to continue using it.[79]

Karen Warren's 1999 article “Ecofeminist Philosophy and Deep Ecology” is the most recent example of ecofeminist critique of deep ecology.[80] Warren is familiar with the Eight Principles program[292] but begins his article by characterizing deep ecology in the terms used in Naess's original 1972 statement and, throughout his article, uses both [the program and the statement] indistinctly. It seems strange that, at this point, Warren is still unable to understand that the Eight Points program and the 1984 Apron[293] Diagram superseded the 1972 statement. She claims that the program of the Eight Principles itself is predisposed towards the "masculine", but at no time does it try to explain this affirmation. The main question of ecofeminism, according to Warren, is that "if patriarchy were eliminated (...) the rest of the 'isms of domination' would also be eliminated (including 'naturism' or unjustified domination of non-human nature by part of humans), since patriarchy is conceptually linked to the rest of the 'isms of domination' through the logic of domination”. Responding to Warren, Arne Naess says that he supports eliminating patriarchy, but finds it "hard to believe" that such an event would eliminate domination over Nature.[81]

Frend Bender has keenly grasped the "ecological claims" of both social ecology and ecofeminism and is much more critical than Naess of ecofeminism's central questioning. Although she maintains that ecofeminism has deeply examined the role of patriarchy (and of oppressive dualisms and schemas) in the rise of the ecological crisis, ecofeminists remain “considerably further from reaching the roots of the problem than might appear to the public”. first glance". They are wrong to believe that androcentrism is more important to the crisis than anthropocentrism: anthropocentrism historically preceded the rise of patriarchy. The main problem with ecofeminism, according to Bender, is that, like social ecology (and the feminist movement in general), its allegiance lies more with leftist emancipatory politics than with the ecology movement (a movement with a few “very different intellectual origins”).[82]

Plumwood's critique of Aldo Leopold and Naess's concept of self-realization

Like many ecofeminists, Warren draws heavily on Australian Val (Routley) Plumwood's well-known critique of Naess's concept of Self-Actualization. [In 1973, Plumwood's ex-husband, Richard Routley (Sylvan), had written the first major paper in the field of environmental ethics. He defended Leopold's land ethic as a formal ethical position. Sylvan soon became a leading critic of Self-Actualization and deep ecology's ontological approach to ecophilosophy].[83] Apparently thinking that he could “clear the way” for ecofeminism by removing the inherent “male alienation” existing in the fields of environmental ethics and ecophilosophy, Plumwood launched an attack on both Leopold's land ethic and stance. of Naess's Ecosophy-T about Self-realization.

Plumwood expands on Cherney's critique to say that in accepting Leopold's land ethic one is assuming an abstract, rationalistic masculine moral scheme. However, Bender claims that Plumwood's criticisms of Leopold and Naess are completely wrong. Calling attention to John Rodman's interpretation of Leopold (with which I also agree), Bender argues, unlike Plurnwood, that the land ethic should not be separated from the general context of the Sand County Almanac —the book as a whole should be seen as a rejection of the anthropocentrism that gradually builds up (and leads the reader towards) the “gestalt shift” of the land ethic. Therefore, Plumwood is wrong to treat this as a formal ethical theory; Bender says that Leopold's position is actually a form of "non-dualistic" holistic ecocentrism.[84]

Plumwood's critique of deep ecology focuses on Naess's personal stance on T-Ecosophy (with its Self-Actualization norm), mistakenly thinking, as Bender points out, that T-Ecosophy and deep ecology are the same. [85] Drawing on postmodern concepts such as “logic of identity”[294] and “essentialism”[295], Plumwood says that Self-actualization is guilty of (1) indistinguishability ( a monism in which there are no boundaries between humans and Nature—humans and nature are “identical”—), (2) expanded self (the sense of Self for deep ecology is fundamentally the magnified and enlarged male ego that absorbs and nullifies the "other"—a denial of the importance of difference—) and (3) the transcended or transpersonal self (here Plumwood uses Cheney's critique of the Warwick Fox's view that humans should overcome their limited personal concerns and identify impartially with all individual beings). Karen Warren also believes that the "transcended self" is one of the most serious flaws in the deep ecology approach. When Naess and I use Spinoza's metaphysical system as a source of inspiration, Warren says that it leads to "a rational concern with the universal and the ethical as opposed to the particular and the personal."[86]

The failure of Western intellectuals to understand non-dualism

Few ecofeminist theorists, apart from Charlene Spretnak, seem to be familiar with Eastern spiritual/psychological traditions. This also seems to be the case for all the criticisms of Naess's concept of Self-Actualization by Western ecophilosophers, from Baird Callicott and Eric Katz to Plumwood and Warren. There are now at least three separate and independent critics of Plumwood (including Bender's), all of whom say that it fails to understand the non-duality of Naess's position.[87] As a result, all your criticisms of Self-Actualization, as involving the ideas of “indistinguishability”, “extended self”, and “transcended self”, are wrong. Fred Bender was initially a Marxist scholar, but his study of the Buddhist spiritual discipline, coupled with concern for the global ecological crisis, led him to endorse the deep ecology position. Bender describes non-dualism as a three-step process of growing spiritual and ecological awareness: (1) starting from egoistic dualism and passing through (2) monism (the awareness that "everything is one”), until reaching (3) the resurgence of individuals who, at that moment, understand that they are ontologically integrated and interrelated with everything else. In more technical language, "ontological details reemerge as if they were both interdependent or interpenetrating details-in-relation and spatiotemporal manifestations of the otherwise unknowable terrain of being." Bender considers Lao Tzu, Nagarjuna, Spinoza, Leopold, and Naess, among others, to be non-dualists. For example, based on Spinoza's third way of knowing, Naess describes the fundamental ontological reality as made up of individuals-in-relationship, understood as gestalts of a more or less high order.[88]

Naess calls his concept of non-dualistic human Self-Actualization the “ecological self”.[89] It is ironic that both Plumwood and Warren fail to understand Naess's non-dualism and claim that feminism's “relational self” is the correct position. And, following Naess, they refer to the "relational self" as the ecofeminist version of the "ecological self." Bender points out that Plumwood sometimes approaches non-dualism in her descriptions, but the "relational self" is really nothing more than a dualistic feminist abstraction in which one does not relate to Nature beyond one's personal and local environment. . Bender refers to him as "the caring, empathetic human individual, otherwise detached from nature." As a way of moving beyond the superficial ecofeminist “relational self” approach, Bender proposes the Gaia hypothesis as an example of “non-dual science”. Lovelock and Margulis hypothesize that the biosphere as a whole is an organism: "they argue, consistent with the non-dualist idea of the interdependence of all beings, that, within the ecosphere, each thing exists by virtue of its relationships." with everything else." Therefore it should be possible to identify with the biosphere itself understood as an organic whole. Understood in a non-dualistic way, such a hypothesis does not deny each individual, as an integral member of the whole, the search for their own self-realization.[90]

The most serious problem with ecofeminism, as Bender rightly points out, is that “ecofeminists [are] not interested in, or even hostile to, the idea that a distinctively feminist ethic of nature is based on fundamental ideas of ecology”. Ecofeminism has "failed to grasp the philosophical importance of ecology" and is therefore "more feminist than ecological."[91] Australian philosopher Patsy Hallen is committed to both ecofeminism and deep ecology. Not an urban classroom academic, she has spent a significant part of her life in the Australian outback and other wild places around the world. In her comments on the Warren-Naess debate, Hallen agrees with Bender (and with Warrick Fox's earlier criticisms) that ecofeminists are primarily concerned with issues of social justice linked to feminism, overshadowing Nature and ecological issues. Ecofeminism, she says, needs to "bring Wild Nature to the fore."[92] But the postmodern and social constructivist orientation of many ecofeminists seems to make it difficult for them to gain any meaningful ecological understanding, as well as to accept the global ecological scientific consensus. In the case of many ecofeminists, it is doubtful that they even understand what Hallen means by the “wildness” of ecosystems[296].

Karen Warren's rejection of Australian/American deep ecology and Plumwood's analysis

Karen Warren has begun to realize this glaring deficiency and, searching for ecological references for ecofeminism, seems to have rejected Plumwood's criticisms of Leopold and Naess. She now maintains that a rapprochement between ecofeminism and Leopold's land ethic is necessary.[93] It also suggests that Naess's Self-Realization gets rid of the accusations leveled against her by Plumwood. But like the social ecologist John Clark, Warren seems to want to drive a wedge between the Naessian and American versions of deep ecology. While Warren currently thinks that Plumwood's critique of Self-Actualization (as well as Cheney's of "S-Ecosophy neo-Stoicism") does not apply to Naess, she is convinced that it does apply to Fox, Devall, and Sessions. .[94]

In his otherwise valuable 1990 book, Warwick Fox says that all major deep ecology theorists subscribe to some version of Self-Actualization and therefore concludes that Self-Actualization was the hallmark of deep ecology. Fox thus generated much of the confusion that caused the attacks on Self-Realization.[95] He then proposed that the term “deep ecology” be dropped and that deep ecology should henceforth be considered a form of transpersonal psychology. Naess immediately objected, arguing that deep ecology is fundamentally a philosophical/social activist movement and that it should be characterized primarily by the 1984 program and the Apron Diagram. A reply to Fox, supporting Naess's position and reflecting the views of all major deep ecology theorists except Fox, was written and widely circulated by Harold Glasser in 1991 (although it was not published until 1997).[96]

Warren's critique of American/Australian deep ecology is dead wrong. To begin with, it attributes to Fox quotes that are from Naess, so that if he attacks Fox, he also attacks Naess. Second, it fails to realize that, since the late 1980s, leading American deep ecological theorists (Alan Drengson, Harold Glasser, Andrew McLaughlin, Devall, and Sessions) have accepted the 1984 Eight Principles program and the Apron Diagram, which differentiates the “fundamental premises” (such as Self-Actualization) of the Eight Principles program. So the Plumwood/Cheney criticisms are no longer as applicable to them as they are to Naess. This information has been readily available in the literature on the subject.[97] In his reply to Warren, Naess limited himself to commenting that Warren has exaggerated the differences between theorists. Ultimately, as with Bookchin and Clark, much of the ongoing call by Plumwood, Warren and other ecofeminists for the “ecofeminism/deep ecology debate” is nothing more than academic “game” and use of power. politician to trip up the “status dispute” that has basically entangled the issues and prevented realistic solutions to the ecological crisis.

This does not detract from Warren's recent effort (along with Patsy Hallen, Charlene Spretnak, and Vandana Shiva) to belatedly marry ecofeminism with a genuine ecological perspective. In the early 1980s, Spretnak recommended that ecofeminists read G. Tyler Miller's ecological science manual, Living in the Environment. She has also been critical of postmodern deconstruction.[98] But while Warren is attempting to green ecofeminism, Donna Haraway is luring other so-called ecofeminists down a techno-utopian anti-ecological path.

Haraway's cyborg proposal for the reinvention (destruction) of Nature: Postmodernism gone completely insane.

It is an extraordinary phenomenon that the West, in contrast to Eastern religious/spiritual traditions such as Taoism and Buddhism and to most primitive peoples around the world, developed such an anthropocentric tradition of Nature-hatred and that, for millennia , so few Western philosophers, with the exception of Nietzsche and possibly Rousseau, have managed to escape from it. A notable exception was the Harvard philosopher George Santayana, who produced the most radical philosophical approach of the early twentieth century. In 1911, he delivered a speech at the University of California at Berkeley condemning the anthropocentrism of American philosophy and religion, and rejecting the bias of his Hegelian and pragmatist colleagues. Santayana proposed an ecocentric revolution for Western philosophy and culture.[99]

The prominent British philosopher Bertrand Russell (whose orientation, it has been said, was fundamentally Spinozist) spent the years of World War II reflecting on the development of philosophy in the West, resulting in his monumental A History ef Western Philosophy.[297] Like Santayana, Russell observed that the philosophies of Dewey and Marx were anthropocentric “philosophies of power” and tend to regard everything that is not human as mere raw material. ”. Russell concluded that these philosophies of power, which he linked with Fichte and the Hegelian tradition, are intoxicated with technological power over Nature, and such intoxication is the most dangerous form of madness in the modern world. An objective concept of truth, which Marx and Dewey rejected, helped keep the risk of "cosmic desecration" in check. [The parallels to the criticisms made by postmodernists and neopragmatists are too obvious to mention!] Finally, Russell issued a warning that, almost 50 years later, was to be spelled out in terrifying detail by world scientists. : namely, that the desire of Dewey and Marx (and others influenced by those traditions) to gain social power over Nature "contributes to the growing danger of an enormous social disaster."[100]

It is well known that Aldous Huxley, along with Zamyatin and Orwell, warned that modernity is heading towards a technological utopia that will inevitably be totalitarian. In Brave New World Revisited[298](1959), Huxley took the position that the exponential increase in human population was the main factor driving the world towards totalitarianism. Huxley's new interest in ecology led him to write the novel Island[299] (1962), a bioregional utopia based on spiritual/ecological principles. He said that his “modest ambition” was “to live as fully human beings in harmony with the rest of life on this island.”[101] It seems that Huxley would have preferred to live as a fully human, organic, and ecologically integrated being rather than as a cyborg.

Criticisms of postmodernism, social constructivism and the deconstruction of Wild Nature[300] converge in the figure of Donna Haraway (famous for her “Cyborg Manifesto”). With his radical and "playful" ideas about "transgressing the boundaries" of distinctions ("dualisms") between humans and animals, the physical and the non-physical, organisms and machines, and the masculine and feminine, Haraway is an intellectual inspiration for those who would turn the Earth into a fully technological human construct. By way of culmination, Haraway extends Western culture's biophobic departure from a wild, organic Earth, even to the organic nature of the human body. As Michael Zimmerman describes it, "Haraway celebrates the fusion of the organic and the mechanical, the natural and the artificial, to the point of codifying the world in a way that undermines the integrity and innocence of the 'organic whole'." [102]

Haraway's ideas of a technological utopia are not new. They are essentially a feminist and social constructivist adaptation of the techno-utopian thinking of Buckminster Fuller and Teilhard de Chardin, the intellectual leaders of the New Age movement. In a striking passage written in 1965, Teilhard foreshadows Haraway's thought:

Technology has a role that is biological (...) From this point of view (...) there are no longer any distinctions between the artificial and the natural, between technology and life, since all organisms are the result of the invention; if there is any difference, the advantage is on the side of the artificial (...) the artificial absorbs the natural (...) [Human thought] suddenly bursts in to dominate and transform everything that exists on earth.

For Teilhard, the Omega Point will be reached when the Earth is totally engulfed by the "archmolecule" of humanity living in a totally artificial megatechnologically created environment.[103] For both Teilhard and Haraway, the current ecological functioning of Nature is swept away while Culture, in the form of a techno-utopia, reigns supreme.

In his analysis of the development of environmentalism, Fred Buell provides a detailed critique of this type of techno-utopian fantasy which he refers to as "the culture of hyperexuberance." According to this perspective “the global eco-catastrophe ultimately becomes something fantastically desirable, and even fun”. Buell speaks of Haraway and Alvin Toffler as the foundations of this kind of thinking, as well as of Wired magazine's Kevin Kelly, who espouses Teilhardian theology to support his views on neobiology, neo-evolution, cyberbodies and cyberecosystems as substitutes for organic Earth. Wired presents Julian Simon as the “exterminating angel”.[104] Considering that Haraway inspired and participated in William Cronon's “Reinventing Nature” lecture, is Haraway's anti-ecological cyborg fantasy what Cronon and his new cadre of postmodern and anthropocentric environmental historians are actually endorsing?

Haraway's interpretation of the world as essentially 'codes' and 'information', however, reflects an old-fashioned Baconian/Cartesian mechanistic view of science, not more organic and recent views of life like the Gaia hypothesis. In keeping with her Marxist heritage, Haraway is a technological determinist who promotes such “boundary-transgressing” technologies as bioengineering, nanotechnology, and even, presumably, the “downloading” of human brains into computers. Michael Zimmerman has warned of the "death denial" impulse that drives patriarchal men to try to dominate Nature and, specifically, to merge with machines in an attempt to avoid physical death of the body and achieve immortality. Is this same “death denial” impulse now playing out in feminists like Haraway?

For Haraway, the problem of social justice (particularly the question of women's equality) has a technological solution. If historically women have been discriminated against by being identified with Nature, then their solution is to eliminate gender. Haraway would have the women reject their organic evolutionary origins and become cyborgs—part human and part machine. Racial problems can be solved in a similar way by eliminating so-called "racial" characteristics. Jean Paul Sartre would be elated—with all natural limits and boundaries transgressed, women can guide the technological future toward unlimited creativity and freedom. But does it all result in a celebration of "difference" and diversity? On the contrary, it seems to lead to a homogenization of humans and cultures such as the one that occurred in the process of US world colonization known as economic globalization.

The unabashed technological optimism and enthusiasm of Haraway, Wired magazine, and the New Age movement about the destruction and replacement of Earth's ecological systems have managed to blithely gloss over the all-important criticisms to the technology of the last 70 years: from Huxley, Orwell and Ellul, to the most recent critiques of EF Schumacher, David Ehrenfeld, Jeremy Rifkin and Jerry Mander. Ecophilosopher Keekok Lee has recently pointed out that the most serious global ecological threat comes from technologies that break down the distinction between the natural and the artificial. Even more sobering for Silicon Valley techno-utopians was when one of them, Bill Joy (chief scientist at Sun Microsystems), warned of the very real dangers of self-replicating systems running amok; Joy recommended a ban on new research in robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology. A growing number of thinkers are calling for a moratorium on such technologies. For example, Sadruddin Aga Khan, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, concerned about the environment, said that "perhaps the time has come to impose a moratorium on scientific or technological innovations that have potentially negative implications for the planet and the society". Joy's analysis and recommendation may have temporarily cooled techno-utopian tempers, but not for long, as research in such fields continues to advance at full speed.[105]

It was to be expected that the ultra-postmodern deep ecology critic Peter van Wyck would agree with Haraway's cyborgism, but it was quite a surprise that Michael Zimmerman did as well.[106] Zimmerman is a Hideggerian scholar who has in the past highlighted Heidegger's critique of anthropocentric humanism, as well as Heidegger's persuasive critique of the technological world, thinking that Heidegger provided yet another philosophical basis for the deep ecology movement. But when Heidegger's close ties to the Third Reich were revealed, Zimmerman immediately abandoned it, wrote extensively on the postmodern theme of the possible dangers of ecofascism, and radically changed his position towards neo-Hegelianism [Fortunately, in his 1993 work on Heidegger and Deep Ecology, concluded that "deep ecology theorists are hardly to be confused with ecofascists."] Zimmerman ends Contesting Earth's Future by endorsing a number of thinkers he calls “critical postmodernists,” including Ken Wilber, Alexander Argyros, and Donna Haraway. Zimnerman notes that Argyros (like the neo-Hegelian Wilber and Haraway) "does not seem particularly concerned with the fate of non-human life." Granted such a thing, to what extent can these thinkers (and Zimmerman) be considered to defend an ecological position? Teilhard's anti-ecological and anthropocentric phrase comes to mind that plants and insects have very little relevance since they are not part of the evolutionary development towards consciousness, which manifests itself to the highest degree in humans. [108]

It would have been inspiring to have Donna Haraway and Rachel Carson in the same room. You would imagine that one of the most interesting topics they would talk about would be child rearing.

Carson was a strong advocate of instilling in children a "sense of wonder" toward the natural world and, like Naess, of developing strong identifiable ties to wild ecosystems, plants, and animals.[109] Haraway, I suppose, would respond by illustrating Carson about the need to "reinvent Nature," and how he would propose raising children in the electronic world of video games, virtual reality, and simulated wild ecosystems[301] to prepare them for the genderless techno-utopia of cyborgs and hyperreality. Jerry Mander explains how children growing up in our carnival-like postmodern world of theme parks and hyperreality, exposed to a constant diet of television and video games, find themselves in a state of confused reality and by being constantly "revved up"—they become "addicted to at speed”. Nature, on the contrary, is too slow and boring for them, there is no emotional contact, and this prepares the ground for the exploitation of Nature. There is growing concern among people that the younger generation will become cyborgs as a result of living inside their “electronic bubbles” and isolating themselves from the outside world – hooked on mobile phones, “ipods”, laptops, etc. . Meanwhile, companies lure them into TV shows and children's ads, and later MTV for teens, turning them into American[302] superconsumers.[110]

It seems that Warren's work in laying a solid ecological foundation for ecofeminism is most timely. Chris Cuomo notes that ecofeminists "have banded together to appropriate Haraway's visions of an anti-dualist cyborg feminism."[111] Warren needs to be careful, in her enthusiasm to reject all dualism (or distinction), not to end up also rejecting the “dualism” between the natural (or wild) and the artificial; that could downplay the Leopoldian land ethic and all the ecological foundations it wants to establish.


In order to ensure the Earth's continued ecological health, there has been a renewed interest in Thoreau and Muir's nineteenth-century emphasis on the wild. At present, some ecophilosophers propose that the protection of the wild character[304] of the Earth is the central ecocentric question. For example, after analyzing the recent controversy between the ecological theories of stability and instability. Ned Hettinger and Bill Throop state that "the emphasis on the wild provides the most promising general strategy for defending the ecocentric ethic."[112]

In The Abstract Wild, Jack Turner does better than anyone else the job of deciphering and interpreting the meaning of Thoreau's radical and enigmatic statement made in 1851, “In the wild is the preservation of the world.” [113] Turner acknowledges his debt to Gary Snyder's The Practice of the Wild, which provides an innovative analysis of the wild and the “old ways” of primitive peoples from a contemporary bioregional perspective.[114] For years, conservationists and environmentalists have misinterpreted Thoreau and often distorted his words by using the expression “the wilds” instead of “the wild”[305]. Turner points out that conservationists and ecologists have interpreted wilderness as a place (such as legally protected wilderness[306]) rather than as a quality of people, plants, animals, and the specific places. A certain amount of human settlement does not necessarily negatively affect the wilderness of a place. As Tumer points out, “A week-long stay in the Amazon, the high Arctic, or the north western Himalayas would suggest that what matters about wildness and what makes a territory wild is not determined by nature. absence of people, but by the relationship of people and place.”[307] The word “wild”[308] is etymologically linked to the ideas of health, wholeness, and vivacity.[309] What Thoreau refers to as “the wild” is “that which has a will, a determination, and an order of its own”[xl]. Wilderness territories must be understood as “lands with their own will” where ecological processes, not humans, are dominant.[115] The concept of wilderness goes way back in history. Criticism by Cronon and others, as Turner points out, focuses on “territories that have a 'wildland act'”x—a specific legal designation created to fit the US situation.

In saying that the wild preserves the "world," Thoreau referred to the world as cosmos—as harmonious order. Summarizing this point, Turner says, "Thus, in a broad sense, Thoreau's phrase 'In the wild lies the preservation of the World' may be said to refer to the relation of free 'things', possessing a will and self-determination, with the harmonious order of the cosmos.”[116] It is this spontaneous and self-determined order that we call wildness[xlii], which has been, until very recently, the dominant characteristic of the Earth and its flora and fauna, and which now it must be protected from further suffering irreparable destruction.

Thoureau also links the wild with freedom. In his own words, “all good things are wild and free”. Much like Naess's concept of the "ecological self," Turner says that for humans, wilderness and freedom are a "project of the self." Both Thoreau and Turner agree that human freedom consists in having a "will of one's own" and not in being mere selfish "social beings" shaped by their society. But, unlike Sartre's existentialist position that human freedom is limitless and consists of autonomous individuals who reject and transcend wild Nature, for Thoreau freedom also implies being part of wild Nature. According to Turner, “to create a wilder self, said self must live the life of the wild, mold a particular form of character, a way of life (...). It is from this perspective of a wild order in complete interdependence that freedom comes.”[117] According to Thoreau, humans must "reintegrate into the natural world," experiencing for themselves that they are "an integral part" of wild Nature and living bioregionally as harmonious parts of biotic communities. To achieve this wild freedom and non-dualistic perception, and minimize the socially sanctioned greed that is the basis of much ecological destruction, Turner (a practicing Buddhist) says, following Naess and Zen Buddhism, that we must also integrate a spiritual practice in our lives.[118]

The Amazon basin, Vogel and the death of nature

Over the years, an important controversy has been generated between geographers, anthropologists and cultural historians about the extent to which the Earth has been historically modified by humans. As Charles Mann points out in an article in the Atlantic Monthly, some scholars say that there were more than 10 million indigenous people in North America before contact with Europeans. That huge population was decimated by European diseases, giving early settlers the impression that North America was one vast, sparsely populated wilderness. Based on that huge population and other archaeological evidence, some social scientists now claim that the indigenous population "managed to impose their will on the landscape in such a way that, in 1492, Columbus set foot on a hemisphere completely dominated by humanity." Certain parts of the Western Hemisphere were as civilized as Europe. In some parts of South America, the human impact was so great that some anthropologists say, for example, that the Amazon basin "is a cultural artifact." Mann draws the political and ecological implications of the above by referring to Cronon, Callicott, and “the great wilderness debate”[xliii]. And Donna Haraway and other social constructivists draw on these controversies to argue that social justice concerns should prevail in regions once thought to be untouched wilderness[xliv]. Ecologists and conservation biologists, so claim, have been wrong; there is no wild character[xlv] that needs to be saved, so the development of those regions to extract resources for humans should continue.[119]

In this connection, it is instructive to examine philosopher Steve Vogel's critique of Bill McKibben's main claim in The End of Nature. McKibben says that with global warming now affecting every corner of the Earth, the Earth as a whole has become man-made and artificial. Vogel interprets McKibben to mean that a Nature independent of humans has come to an end—"there is no longer a world unaltered by human action."[120] McKibben's claim was not particularly well thought out and became easy prey for Vogel's criticism. But when Vogel concluded that Nature had ceased to exist since humans began to transform it, it should have occurred to him that something in his interpretation of McKibben was seriously wrong. Vogel is enthusiastic about the elimination of Nature (or the concept of Nature) and says that he uses such arguments to convince his students that Nature does not exist, nor has it ever existed. [Students put up with enough nonsense about ecology in economics and forestry classes. But what is happening today, at the hands of teachers like social constructivists, to students' fundamentally sound insights into the destruction of Nature and the wild? Sir Karl Popper's observation, made in the early 1970s, seems particularly appropriate for both Vogel and social constructivists: "The greatest scandal of philosophy is that, while all around us the natural world perishes—and not only the natural world—philosophers continue to speak, sometimes intelligently and sometimes without it, on the question of whether this world exists” [121].

The most glaring problem with Vogel's position is the fallacious trade-off it sets — either Nature is totally pristine (literally untouched by human hands), or it doesn't exist. Thoreau's description of the wild (and Wild Nature) deftly cuts its way through Vogel's dilemma—namely, he refers to Wild Nature as having “a will of its own” and not <em >dominated</em> by humans (not "untouched by human hands"). Hettinger and Throop raise the all-important point that we need to think in terms of a continuum, with “virtually pristine” (in Gary Snyder's words) wilderness environments at one extreme, and fully developed and dominated environments. by humans on the other (as in the case of cities and areas with large-scale agriculture where most of the wild has been largely suppressed or eliminated). Although Cronon and his colleagues seem incapable of doing this, we need to be able to distinguish between New York's Central Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Wilderness environments will become increasingly human-dominated environments as we approach the center of the continuum. This reflects the ecological reality of the situation and avoids unrealistic and misleading dichotomies such as Vogel's.[122]

This same question applies to claims about ancient civilizations in the Amazon Basin and other areas of the Western Hemisphere. Unlike most of Europe, these regions were not totally dominated by indigenous peoples. They were still wild enough and had enough wild species[xlvi] that, after the fall of such civilizations, wild Nature gradually and spontaneously reasserted itself. Hettinger and Throop describe this process as that of humanization being “erased” from these natural systems: “early human influence on a system is lost over periods of little impact. The wildness of a system may return to its previous levels as human influence diminishes.”[xlvii,123] Other biologists refer to this process as “rewilding”[xlviii], whether it occurs

[xliii] “The great wilderness debate” in the original. This is the expression with which the critical postmodern discourse with the notion of “Wild Nature” is usually called in English. N. of the trad.

[xliv] “Pristine wilderness” in the original. N. of the trad. [xlv] “Wildness” in the original. N. of the trad.

[xlvi] “Enough wildness and wild species remained” in the original. N. of the trad.

[xlvii] “A system can recapture previous levels of wildness as human influence diminishes” in the original. N. of the trad. spontaneously as if in response to deliberate and conscientious attempts to restore an area with native species — what is known as “ecological restoration”. So discussions of the extent to which the Western Hemisphere was altered by ancient indigenous peoples and civilizations are interesting but largely irrelevant to trying to protect today's wild ecosystems. Biologists have not been wrong. They are able to recognize functional and biologically diverse wild ecosystems (such as those in the Amazon basin) when they see them. Since Leopold's time, countless biologists have spent their entire careers in the field, studying the world's remaining wild ecosystems. Today, many have become conservation biologists in an effort to save them. Hettinger and Throop also show how Baird Callicott, who seems to have an aversion to wildness[xlix], has modified Leopold's land ethic to accommodate ecological instability in ways that have unacceptable consequences.

Jack Turner describes himself as a fundamentalist when it comes to Wild Nature, and most advocates of deep ecology undoubtedly agree with him. But while his criticism of the conservation biologists' Wildlands Project for North America (expanding wilderness and connecting it through corridors) is thought-provoking and important, it is somewhat overstated. Protecting biodiversity and protecting the wild are not necessarily the same thing, and Turner points out that conservation biologists seem to be more concerned with the former than the latter. Like Callicott and Nelson, biologists are too eager to manage such areas, and wilderness and human management, he says, are incompatible. Citing Foucault, Turner points out that modernity is about human control, management and domination, and too often biologists have not freed themselves from this way of thinking. Conservation biologists counter that many wilderness areas are now too small, ecologically fragile and disconnected to sustain themselves, requiring varying degrees of management. There is also the growing problem of invasive species. Given the current state of crisis in wild ecosystems around the world, in some cases some degree of management appears to be a practical necessity. It is important to distinguish between temporary emergency measures and desirable longer-term goals.[124]

Certainly, Turner's warnings about the danger of biologists becoming "control freaks" should be welcomed by biologists, and concerns about keeping the wild, along with protecting biodiversity, should be at the forefront of their minds. Unlike ecologists who design ecosystems using computer models and other scientists, it is doubtful that most field ecologists and conservation biologists see wild plants and animals in a mechanistic way, merely as "information". ” or genetic “codes”, or mainly as genetic raw material for pharmaceutical companies – in other words, as mere “resources” for human use. It is likely that most field ecologists were driven to carry out extensive field studies of ecosystems (being thus in the Wild for long periods) out of love and respect for Wild Nature, and that most biologists respect the dignity, “otherness” and the right to self-realization of the creatures with whom they work. Turner goes too far in comparing the Wildlands Project to Daniel Botkin's biophobic and power-hungry wise use plans (and those of Cronon and the social constructivists) to "reinvent" Nature.

The great insight of Thoreau and Muir was to understand that the wild preserves the world and all its inhabitants. From the "practical" point of view of survival, this means that the sum of all the wild ecosystems of the Earth (the biosphere) is, literally, the "life support system" of the Earth and all its species. Less obvious, but just as important, is that wilderness defines the freedom, health, and "vitality" of both humans and non-humans. It is the primary force that moves the living world. The wild must be experienced and lived, and this is why, as Western culture becomes increasingly civilized and technological, there is less and less understanding of what is being lost.

[xlviii] “Rewilding” in the original. N. of the trad. [xlix] “Wildness” in the original. N. from trans.

Recently, Turner has taken a position much like Keekok Lee—that biotech, nanotech, and other “replacement technologies” pose an immediate threat to Earth's wild ecosystems. He focuses especially on forests and GM salmon, since those changes are imminent. Turner worries that some environmentalists might be tempted to support biotech fixes as a way to try to solve other environmental problems.[125]

EO Wilson, Ame Naess and Niles Eldredge on protecting the wild

EO Wilson and Paul Ehrlich of Harvard have been an inspiration to many people involved in conservation biology. But Turner's concerns about the acceptance of biotech fixes by environmentalists seem to be confirmed by Wilson's view that genetically modified seeds will feed a world population of 10 billion people in the 21st century. . Wilson also says that, over time, up to 50 percent of the Earth's surface could be protected in the form of refuges for biodiversity and wildlife. And Wilson and Norman Myers' strategy to protect biodiversity by conserving “hot spots” for biodiversity across the Earth has been challenged by Niles Eldredge, and by the studies cited by the Ehrlichs, as totally inadequate.[126] British environmental journalist Fred Pearce rightly points out that Wilson tends to be politically naive in thinking that free-market capitalism (and biotechnology) will provide realistic solutions to the ecological crisis. Wilson seems to deny the role of the United States as the main cause of the social and ecological crisis. He suggests that the trajectory of globalization is inevitable (implying continued growth and high consumption patterns) and hopes to harness multinational capitalism's ability to transform itself in ways that make it ecologically benign. Wilson is also criticized for his apparent lack of concern and sensitivity towards the poor living in or around the proposed biodiversity/wildlands refuges.[127]

In the late 1980s, Ame Naess took a similar stance to Wilson when he suggested that a good mix for Earth would be around 1/3 uninhabited wilderness (wildlife refuges), 1/3 "free nature ” (with a sparse human population and a predominance of the wild) and 1/3 of landscapes dominated by humans (cities and fields of intensive agriculture).[128] In response to Ramachandra Guha, Naess revised his views as to how much territory needed to be protected in the form of human-free havens. In his 1991 reply to Guha ("The Third World, Wildemess, and Deep Ecology"), Naess referred to "certain people" who think that deep ecology is a form of Western "neocolonialism" that proposes to drive people out of their homes. Third World people to make room for "spectacular animals."[129] Naess was citing Gary Snyder's point (in The Practice of the Wild) that throughout history, humans have lived in moderate numbers of wilderness without reducing significantly the biological richness and diversity. But today, Snyder said, this is not possible in wealthy countries like the United States, where consumerist lifestyles and other destructive practices require the establishment of vast wilderness areas[310] to protect wild ecosystems and the biodiversity. In addition to being desperately poor, Naess thinks that most people in the Third World care about protecting the wilderness and biodiversity. Wildlife refuges can be established where appropriate, but part of the protection might consist of people living in traditional, ecologically benign ways in sparsely populated “free nature”. But since the poor can no longer enter the forests and destroy them, Naess suggests that the severe and growing overpopulation of Third World countries will require new, redesigned cities for these additional people to live in.

Niles Eldredge has proposed a strategy that combines some features of the Wilson and Naess strategies. Eldredge stresses that everything possible must be done to humanely stabilize the human population. Furthermore, “the endless cycle of agricultural land expansion” must be broken to feed more and more people. He and Naess are also in no doubt about the role of consumer patterns in the ecological crisis. Eldredge disagrees with Wilson that globalization can help solve our problems—living standards for the poor must rise, but "global economic development is pure fantasy, a pipe dream." Eldredge also says Wilson's call to protect global biodiversity "hot spots" doesn't go far enough. For Eldredge, protecting these "hot spots" is very important, but an excessive emphasis on them tends to "minimize the true magnitude of the habitat that we should conserve." The greatest emphasis must be placed on protecting wild ecosystems, not just saving species and biodiversity. Furthermore, local people affected by the establishment of reserves should be involved in these efforts. He notes that “in short, conservation is doomed unless the economic interests and well-being of local people are given serious consideration.” Eldredge believes that "ecotourism", such as that practiced, for example, in Costa Rica, may be an option. But he warns that it is not a “panacea”—the effects of tourists on reserves disturb wildlife and have a negative impact on ecosystems.”[130]

The solutions proposed by Wilson, Naess, Eldredge and others are difficult to apply in a world marked by growing and multiple crisis situations. As the decades have passed since environmentalists began warning of human overpopulation and the loss of ecosystems and wildlife, the destruction of ecosystems has increased exponentially and the solutions have become less clear, more desperate and more difficult. difficult to put into practice. But there is no realistic alternative to protect what remains of the wild world.

As a comforting contrast to William Cronon and postmodern historians, Donald Worster sides with Wilson, Naess, Ehrlich, and Eldredge:

We must make careful and strict conservation of the heritage of billions of years achieved by the evolution of animal and plant life our first priority. We must conserve as many species, subspecies, varieties, communities and ecosystems as possible. We must not, through our actions, cause the extinction of more species.[131]


Frederick Bender concludes The Culture of Extinction by proposing an important revision of the position of deep ecology. His view is that Naess made a basic mistake when he revised the original description of the deep ecology movement from 1973 and replaced it, in 1984, with the more philosophically neutral Eight Principles program. The 1973 version included a non-dualistic statement of the "integral relational picture—organisms as nodes in the biospheric web or field of intrinsic relationships."[132] Naess also left out the “anti-class” (social justice) clause. In his proposed revision of deep ecology, Bender reinstates these and many other aspects of the original 1973 formula in a well thought out and complex reformulation of both the Apron Diagram and the Eight Principles. Bender wants deep ecology to be a global philosophical position based on non-dualism. As a partial justification for these changes, he points to Naess's claim that the deep ecology program is supposed to provide a basis for "changing everything."[133] And as for Warwick Fox's proposal to shift deep ecology toward a transpersonal psychology, Bender also says that the real "depth" of deep ecology comes not from Naess's insistence on "deep questioning," but primarily from the depth that its non-dualistic philosophical orientation gives it. Without this broader globality, deep ecology runs the risk of being an “ecological only” movement that lacks the necessary resources to transform Extinction Culture.[134]

First, Bender's comment about “changing everything” needs to be contextualized. In his 1991 article, “Politics and the Ecological Crisis,” Naess tells us that Rachel Carson (who he says started the deep ecology movement) insisted that everything needed to be changed, not just politics. He agrees with Carson, though he later added the caveat "everything except democratic forms of government." In that article, Naess contrasted Carson's position with the slogan of neo-Marxists and the Frankfurt School (from which the New Left positions of Marcuse and Bookchin grew) that "everything is political."[135] And so, one of the key things that Naess is making clear in relation to the deep ecology movement's "change everything" stance is that, contrary to the almost entirely political orientation of neo-Marxists, the ecological crisis calls into question questions Fundamental philosophical issues that need to be addressed, such as the anthropocentric orientation of Western culture and the intrinsic value of ecosystems and wild species. Moreover, the limited (or “superficial”) analysis of the crisis based on “urban pollution” elaborated by the New Left and the mainstream of environmentalism, is not able to reveal the extent to which more radical social changes are needed.

Naess continues to insist on the importance of "deep questioning" for the deep ecology movement. One important reason is his belief that the motivation for effective environmental activism stems from deep religious and philosophical principles. Activists need to reach out to them, and acknowledge them, through the process of 'deep questioning'. The fundamental principles also provide the basis for a "total perspective." Naess argues that, whether they know it or not, all people have a total perspective. Such a perspective provides the basis for each person's “philosophy of life” and also for understanding the ecological “big picture”. Total perspectives can also be revealed through deep questioning.[136]

In relation to Bender's desire for a global stance, Naess's personal stance, the "T Ecosophy," stands as a kind of schema (or template) for a global deep ecology stance (which includes a social justice component). ), but Naess does not want to impose it on others. He sincerely believes in a diversity of worldviews (akin to the best of postmodern thought) and, as Bender knows, Naess wants to attract as many religious and philosophical positions as possible to support the deep ecology movement. All of these considerations are important to understand why deep ecology should not be presented as a global stance, or a grand 'global narrative'.

Bender, perhaps inadvertently, comes close to one of the main reasons for Naess's shift to the 1984 program, when he argues that deep ecology is in danger of becoming an “exclusively ecological movement. ”. In a broad sense, this is what Naess proposes for the deep ecology movement. Given the aggressive anthropocentric and anti-ecological stances and tactics of Marxist-inspired social justice movements, I think Naess believes that at least one movement has to maintain an ecologically pure position. As documented throughout this article, social justice movements have been successful in many cases in hijacking the agenda of ecological/environmental movements. Unlike the left's agenda, which focuses exclusively on urban pollution and environmental social justice (and with an emphasis on race, class, and gender), Naess stresses that the main goal of the deep ecology movement is promoting ecological sustainability (as opposed to the concept of sustainable development), which for him means protecting “all the richness and diversity of life forms on the planet. To aspire to less," he says, "is contrary to human dignity."

For Naess, the deep ecology movement, the peace movement, and the social justice movements should be seen as separate social movements (with different goals and intellectual histories), but they can, and should, join forces (to help “change everything”) under the general name of the Green movement. In support of this position, he says that "considering the accelerating rate of irreversible ecological destruction throughout the world, I find it acceptable to continue fighting for ecological sustainability whatever the state of affairs regarding the other two objectives of the Green societies [peace and social justice]”. Proponents of the deep ecology movement, he says, "should focus on specific issues related to the ecological crisis (including its social and political consequences)."[137] More recently, Naess has noted that “the interdependence [of the three movements] does not eliminate their differences: we cannot be activists in all of them. We must choose. Support them all, but work mainly on one.”[138] I think that Naess's strategy to keep the deep ecology movement focused specifically on the ecological crisis, as we understand it through the global ecological scientific consensus, is correct.

Deep Ecology as an activist philosophical movement

This leads to concerns from the editors of Beneath the Surface (David Rothenberg, Andrew Light, and Eric Katz) that “Naess, though a philosopher, has often insisted that he is more interested in deep ecology as a political and social movement than as a philosophy”. These editors are more interested in critiques of deep ecology "philosophy" than in the "specific political issues" addressed by the deep ecology movement. But even here Rothenberg, since he collaborated closely with Naess for several years in Norway, could have helped to head off many of the misunderstandings that a large number of authors have made. They could also have done a more precise job of describing "the" philosophy of deep ecology in their introduction.[139]

Michael Zimmerman has argued that the deep ecology movement has been identified with the utopian visions of the counterculture and the New Paradigm of the 1960s. Deep ecology, he says, is a form of utopianism, and thus all criticisms of utopianism made by postmodernists can be applied to it.[140] Devall and Sessions' book has a chapter on "ecotopia," which includes a discussion of the utopian ideas of Huxley, Callenbach, Shepard, and others, but begins with Paul Sears's comment on the possibility of understanding utopian thought as "a criticism of the defects and limitations of society and as a sign of the desire for something better.”[141] Perhaps the bioregionalism of Gary Snyder and others, which is an important aspect of deep ecology activism, can be seen as a kind of utopianism. But by the time, in 1984, Naess had revised the position of deep ecology, it was becoming increasingly clear that society was not going to undergo any drastic change in its ecological course. Recently, Naess and other theorists in the deep ecology movement have become more pragmatic in trying to devise strategies to protect wild Nature and head off the worst of the ecological crisis. Some of Naess's key articles on these questions are "Politics and the Ecological Crisis" and "Deep Ecology for the 22nd Century," concerning the possibilities for Green societies in the future. But the most important emphasis is on “overcoming the growing ecological crisis”.

From its beginnings with Aldo Leopold, Dave Brower, Rachel Carson, and Paul Ehrlich, the far-reaching deep ecology movement has been an activist ecophilosophical movement interested mainly in the search for humanitarian social and political solutions, but realistic, to the global ecological crisis. Conservation biology is a natural continuation of the ecological activism pioneered by Carson, Ehrlich, and others. Naess's efforts have been directed (in both his 1973 and 1984 formulations) to describing the deep ecology movement from its beginnings in the 1950s and 1960s, trying to develop a solid philosophical basis for the movement, and, along with other deep ecology theorists, criticizing various environmental strategies and proposing alternative strategies to deal with the ecological crisis. British environmental journalist Joanna Griffiths suggests that a revived deep ecology movement needs "a popular mantra for a more cynical and deranged age."[142]

The future: a cyborg/New York techno-utopia or a wild land?

Traditional societies attribute identity based on ethnic and tribal traditions, modern societies based on the sovereignty of the State and the market economy. The postmodern world will discover that the true basis of our identity is our belonging to a species interconnected with all others—a foundation far more universal than race, gender, ethnicity, or any other partial and restricted characteristic.

Richard Falk, Political Science, Princeton University

In his critique of deep ecology, Bron Taylor approvingly cites Dan Deudney's claim that deep ecology should go beyond local bioregional concerns and support global solutions to the ecological crisis.[143] Taylor seems to be very unfamiliar with Naess's writings and tends to look at deep ecology through the prism of the Earth First! movement. Since the 1980s, Naess has repeatedly emphasized that ecological problems are increasingly global in scope and must also be addressed from a global point of view: we have to "think and act globally, regionally and locally."[144] Most global action must take place under the auspices of the United Nations. For example, Naess cites the Berne convention in relation to his assertion that “with increased education, combined with economic progress in the Third World, the goal is not only to stop the excessive rate of extinction of animals and plants but also to protect ecosystems as a whole and ensure the continuation of evolution [in other words, the protection of the wildness[311] of the Earth].”[145]

The initial position of the United Nations on the environment was exemplary. In 1982, the General Assembly adopted the ecocentric World Charter for Nature which declared that all life has intrinsic value and that “nature shall be respected and its essential processes shall not be disturbed”. Unfortunately, former UN official Sadruddin Aga Khan paints a bleak picture of the recent United Nations approach to environmental protection. The already flawed concept of ecological sustainability has been degraded into exploitative concepts such as "sustainable use" and "sustainable consumption". The United Nations, he says, has increasingly allied itself with multinational corporations, to the detriment of both the environment and the poor, and has become little more than an agency serving the global economy.[146]

At this point in history, it is entirely reasonable to believe that humanity is at an absolutely crucial and unprecedented crossroads. In his 1992 bestseller, Earth in the Balance, Al Gore proposed the only sensible course when he said that concern for protecting the environment and solving the ecological crisis should become "the central organizing principle of civilization." ”.[147] Gore expounded on global ecological scientific concerns: overpopulation and species extinction. He spent many pages analyzing the dysfunctional consumer-addicted American way of life, and also warned of the danger of relying exclusively on technological fixes.

As a result of the recent furor over global warming, “peak oil” and Gore's global warming video An Inconvenient Truth[312], the latest issue of the magazine <em >Newsweek</em> heralds with great fanfare “America's new greening”. There is mainly talk of hybrid cars and alternative energy sources.[148] The May 2006 issue of Wired magazine has a photograph of Gore on the cover with the caption “the pro-growth, pro-tech fight to curb global warming,” and “Al Gore and the rise of neogreens”. However, “the neo- greens” are “eco-capitalists”, typical defenders of the hybrid car, solar panels, etc., who find their personal identity by leading an “eco-chic” way of life and wearing eco-designer clothes. Is the “new greening of America” and the world going to be just another in the long list of superficial cosmetic answers or will it finally be an awareness of the need for profound change? As part of his strategy, Niles Eldgredge says that we need to use the media. Obviously, a tremendous effort is required to educate the world in a comprehensive understanding of the ecological crisis.

And some people are becoming aware of the true face of Teilhard/Haraway's artificial techno-utopias. For example, lawyer and activist Andrew Kimbrell points to biotechnology's attempt to "remake life in technology's image"—a type of "technogenesis." Two British academics, Lee-Anne Broadhead and Sean Howard, have made an impassioned call for a moratorium on nanotechnology and "nanobots" that could "feed" on greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They are alarmed by the risk that “the end of the natural world is, unbelievably, the explicit and celebrated goal of most pro-nanotech literature and propaganda. But what if the end of the natural world turns out to be the death of all of us?”[149] Extending Bertrand Russell's warning, perhaps the greatest folly of the contemporary world is not just "intoxication caused by power over Nature," but the techno-utopian belief that we don't need the wild ecosystems of the Earth to sustain life and that technologists have the ability to successfully replace such systems. An interesting question is whether Gore will maintain its green commitment to protecting the natural world, or whether it will shift to the techno-utopian mindset of Wired/Silicon Valley magazine. The public should be made fully aware of the issues involved in determining whether a realistic future for humanity is based on protecting a wild Earth or becoming cyborgs/techno-utopian. For the scientists of the global ecological scientific consensus, it is clear that the widely popular attempt to transform the Earth into an artificial cyborg techno-utopia will ultimately be the end point of both humanity's and Earth's destiny. As Paul Shepard prophetically warned in 1969, "the affirmation of its own organic essence will be the final test of the human mind."[150]


1. Mark Hertsgaard provides a devastating expose of the Republican political right's decades-long disinformation campaign against global warming (and the failure of the US media to combat it) in Vanity Fair</em > (May) 2006; Jared Diamond, Collapse (New York: Viking, 2005). [313]

2. Donald Worster, “The Shaky Ground of Sustainability,”[liv] in George Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century (Boston: Shambhala, 1995) pp. 417-27; the I=PAT equation was first published in Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren, “Impact of Population Growth,” Science (1971): 1212-17.

3. Bob Taylor, “John Dewey and Environmental Thought,” Environmental Ethics 12 (1990): 175-84; An anthology exposing the neopragmatic position is Ben Minteer and Bob Taylor (eds.), Democracy and the Claims of Nature (Lanhamm Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002).

4. See Michael Zimmerman, Contesting Earth's Future: Radical Ecology and Postmodernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994) p. 93 and following.

5. David Nicholson-Lord “Blind Spot”, Resurgence 237 (July/August, 2006): 21-22.

6. Frederick Buell, From Apocalypse to Way of Life (New York: Routledge, 2004).

7. Joseph DesJardins, Environmental Ethics, 2[a] ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1997), p. 215.

8. For a “crash course” in ecological literacy, I would recommend (1) Diamond's Collapse (especially chapter 16); (2) Buell's From Apocalypse to Way of Life; and (3) for the most complete and up-to-date explanation of the ecological crisis, along with the steps needed to prevent global catastrophe, Anne and Paul Ehrlich, <em>One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future</em > (Washington DC: Island Press, 2004).

9. An earlier version of this update process appears in my “Deep Ecology” section in Michael Zimmerman, JB Callicott, George Sessions, et al. (eds.), Environmental Philosophy, 3rd ed. (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2001). As a result of his radical shift in philosophical stance (from a generally deep ecological orientation to a Ken Wilber/Donna Haraway/Cyborg Manifesto-type anthropocentric one) Zimmerman withdrew this section from the 4th edition.

10. Barbara Ehrenrich and Janet McIntosh, “The New Creationism: Biology under Attack,” The Nation, June 9, 1997: 11-16.

11. Paul Shepard, “Ecology and Man —A Viewpoint,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, PP-131-140. On the generally legitimate fears and concerns of the left and postmoderns about biology, see Andrew Ross, The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature's Debt to Society (New York: Verso, 1994), Chapter 5 (“Superbiology”).

12. Frederic Bender, The Culture of Extinction: Toward a Philosophy of Deep Ecology (Buffalo, NY: Humanity Books, 2003) pp. 78-101. For an excellent summary of his position, see Paul Shepard, Coming Home to the Pleistocene (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1998). Philosopher Mary Midgley agrees with Arne Naess that it is crucial to examine the role worldviews play in our attitudes toward Nature; see Kate Rawles, “Mary Midgley,” Revision 229 (2005): 42-43.

13. Michael Zimmerman, Contesting Earth's Future, p. 91-92.

14. Bender, The Culture of Extinction, p. 255-61, 283-88; see also the excellent work of Graham Parkes, “Nietzsche's Environmental Philosophy,” Environmental Ethics 27 (2005): 77-91.

15. Bill McCormick, “Sartre and Camus on Nature,” The Trumpeter 13, 1 (1996): 17-20; David Orr coined the word "biophobia" as opposed to EO Wilson's concept of biophilia, see David Orr, Earht in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect (Washington DC: Island Press, 1994) p. 131; see also David Orr, “Love It or Lose It,” in Stephen Kellert and EO Wilson (eds.), The Biophilia Hypothesis (Washington DC: Island Press, 1995). Orr says that "Biophobia is not okay for the same reasons that misanthropy or sociopathy are not (...) is biophobia a kind of collective madness?"

16. Zimmerman, Ibid. p. 92, 116-117.

17. Ibid. pp. 93, 99.

18. Niles Elredge, Life in the Balance: Humanity and the Biodiversity Crisis (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998) pp. 155-56.

19. Bernard Williams, Truth and Truthfulness (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); see also Lawrence Sklar, Theory and Truth: Philosophical Critique within Foundational Science (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Noretta Koertge (ed.), A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodern Myths about Science (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).

20. Mick Smith, “To Speak of Trees: Social Constructivism, Environmental Values, and the Future of Deep Ecology,” Environmental Ethics 21 (1999): 368-372; the writing in question is: George Sessions, “Postmodernism and Environmental Justice”, The Trumpeter 12 (1995): 150-154; for a response to Smith, see Arne Naess, "Avalanches as Social Constructions," Environmental Ethics 22 (2000): 335336.

21. Arne Naess, “Ecosophy and Gestalt Ontology,” in George Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 240-45.

22. The warnings from the world's scientists appear in Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens our Future (Washington DC: Island Press, 1996) Appendices A and B (The Ehrlichs also criticize the ideas of Julian Simon and others in this book); see also Ehrlich and Ehrlich, One With Nineveh; the global scientific consensus is also reflected in the first half of Al Gore's book Earth in the Balance[lv] (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1992); for a deep ecology assessment of Gore, see Harold Glasser, “Naess's Deep Ecology Approach and Environmental Policy,” Inquiry (Oslo) 39 (1996): 157-87; For an explanation of recent trends in continuing global ecological destruction, see Lester Brown, Eco-economy: Building an Economy for the Earth (New York: Norton, 2001).

23. Bender, The Culture of Extinction, p. 17-27, 29-68; Franz Broswimmer, Ecocide: A Short History of the Mass Extinction of Species (London: Pluto Press, 2002) [lvi].

24. Arne Naess, “Deep Ecology for the 22nd Century,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 463-67.

25. Gregg Easterbrook, A Moment on the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism (New York: Viking, 1995); for comments on Easterbrook, see George Sessions, "Political Correctness, Ecological Realities, and the Future of the Ecology Movement," The Trumpeter 12 (1995): 191-196.

26. Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist[lvii] (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001); see also Nicholas Wade, “From an Unlikely Quarter, Eco -Optimism,” New York Times, August 7, 2001, D1-D2; Bjorn Lomborg, “The Environmentalists Are Wrong,” New York Times, August 26, 2002; for a discussion on the report of the Danish Committee against Scientific Fraud,

[lv] There is a Spanish translation: The Earth at stake. Ecology and human consciousness, Emecé, 1992. N. from trans.

[lvi] There is a Spanish translation: Ecocide. Brief history of the mass extinction of species, Laetoli, 2005. N. del trad.

[lvii] There is a Spanish translation: The skeptical ecologist, Espasa Calpe, 2003. N. for trans. see Mark Lynas, “Natural Bjorn Killer,” The Ecologist 33 (2003): 26-29; Anne and Paul Ehrlich, One With Nineveh, pp. 253-54.

27. For the Roderick French quote and a discussion of anthropocentrism in the humanities, see George Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 97-99.

28. For an excellent survey of the history of religion and ecology in the West, see chapter 4 “The Greening of Religion”, in Roderick Nash, The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989). Much less satisfactory, however, is Nash's discussion of "The Greening of Philosophy." For a rare survey of the beginnings of contemporary ecotheology with Thomas Berry and Mary Tucker, see Jim Motavalli, “Stewards of the Earth,” E: The Environmental Magazine 13 (2002): 1-16; for Berry's sweeping 1987 article, "The Viable Human," see Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 8-18.

29. Motavalli, “Stewards of the Earth”: 3.

30. See, for example, Fabien Ouaki, Imagine All the People: A Conversation with the Dalai Lama (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999); see also the Dalai Lama's speech in Allan Badiner, Dharma Gaia (Berkeley, Parallax Press, 1990); Sulak Sivraksa, “A Cloud in a Piece of Paper,” Resurgence 215 (2002): 23-24; Leonardo Boff, “Liberation Theology,” Resurgence 215 (2002): 22.

31. Berry, “The New Political Realignment,” cited in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. xx; for the Michael Lerner quote, see Jordi Pigem, “The Greening of Religions”, Resurgence 229 (2005): 53.

32. Glenn Scherer, “Religious Wrong,” in The Environmental Magazine 14 (2003): 2-6; Bill Moyers, “On Receiving Harvard Medical School's Global Environment Citizen Award,” December 1, 2004 (published at [http://www.CommonDreams.org][www.CommonDreams.org]).

33. Jack Turner, The Abstract Wild (Tucson, University of Arizona Press, 1996) p. xvi.

34. Ramachandra Guha, “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique,”[lviii] Environmental Ethics 11 (1989): 71-83.

35. See Arne Naess, Gandhi and the Nuclear Age (New Jersey: Bedminister Press, 1965); Arne Naess, Gandhi and Group Conflict (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1974); for criticism of Guha, see Arne Naess, “The Third World, Wilderness, and Deep Ecology,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 397-407; Arne Naess, “Comments on Guha”, in Nina Witosek and Andreww Brennen (eds.), Dialogues: Arne Naess and the Progress of Ecophilosphy (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999) pp. 325-33. Typical of the "new generation," anthropocentric ecophilosopher Deane Curtin, in his book Chinnagounder's Challenge (Indianapolis: University of Indiana Press, 1999), basically agrees with, and extends, Guha's position. . He agrees with Guha that the anthropocentric/ecocentric distinction is largely false and that Muir and Leopold's concerns are not relevant to Third World countries. Curtin suggests that the “first generation” of ecophilosophers, such as J. Baird Callicott and many proponents of deep ecology, are misanthropic and attribute extreme perspectives like those of Garrett Hardin to them. Taken together, Curtin criticizes them for placing ecological priorities above concerns for social justice. Curtis tends to clear Arne Naess of many of these accusations while, at the same time, misunderstanding much of his ecological approach. For example, Curtin is correct that Naess is a pluralist when he talks about cultural diversity, but Naess also makes it clear that all cultures have a responsibility to protect their wild species and ecosystems. Again, following Guha, Curtin seems to propose an “ecological” agricultural model for the United States along the lines of that proposed by Thomas Jefferson. Curtin mentions the species extinction crisis and the loss of the wild but doesn't seem to be very concerned about it. The most flagrant omission, however, is its failure to explain why an agricultural model is preferable to the greener bioregional ideas of Naess and Gary.

[lviii] There is a Spanish translation: “American environmentalism and the preservation of nature: a third-world critique” in Political Ecology n°14 (1997), pages 33-46. N. from trans.

Snyder that leave room for agricultural and urban life but emphasize the high priority of protecting what remains of the wild and biodiversity worldwide.

36. It turns out that Guha, prior to writing his paper, was involved for a decade in an anthropocentric version of "social ecology" in India that treats Nature as "human resources" (much like Pinchot's pre-Australian stance). ecological conservation of resources) and rejects conservation biology: see Sahotra Sarkar, “Restoring Wilderness or Reclaiming Forests?” in David Rothenberg and Martha Ulvaeus (eds.), The World and the Wild (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001) pp. 37-55; for another critique of Guha and Cronon, see Philip Cafaro, “For a Grounded Conception of Wilderness and More Wilderness on the Ground,” Ethics and the Environment 6 (2001): 1-17; Vandana Shiva's comments on deep ecology are found in the video “The Call of the Mountain”, (1997) Amsterdam: ReRun Products.

37. J. Baird Callicott, “The Wilderness Idea Revisited: The Sustainable Development Alternative,” The Environmental Professional 13 (1991): 225-47.

38. J. Baird Callicott and Michael Nelson (eds.), The Great New Wilderness Debate (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998), p. twenty; J. Baird Callicott, “A Critique of and an Alternative to the Wilderness Idea”, Reed F. Noss, “Wilderness —Now More than Ever”, Dave Foreman, “Wilderness Areas are Vital”, <em>Wild Earth</em > 4 (1994-5): 54-68.

39. Edward Grumbine, “Wildness, Wise Use, and Sustainable Development,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 376-96.

40. See Donald Worster, “The Shaky Ground of Sustainability”, Wolfgang Sachs, “Global Ecology and the Shadow of Development”, Arne Naess, “Politics and the Ecological Crisis”, all in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, p. 417-53; Buell, From Apocalypse to Way of Life, pp. 71, 189 et seq.; for Naess's proposal, see Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21[st] Century, pp. 323-5.

41. William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature”, in William Cronon (ed.), Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place In Nature (New York: WW Norton, 1995) pp. 69-90.

42. Donald Worster, “Seeing Beyond Culture,” Journal of American History 76 (1990): 1142-47.

43. Donald Waller, “Wilderness Redux: Can Biodiversity Play a Role?” Wild Earth 6 (1996-7): 36-45; see also Holmes Rolston, “Nature for Real: Is Nature a Social Construct,” in TD Chappell (ed.), The Philosophy of the Environment (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 1997) pp. 38-64.

44. David W. Kidner, “Fabricating Nature: A Critique of the Social Construction of Nature,” Environmental Ethics 22 (2000): 339-57; David Kidner, Nature and Psyche: Radical Environmentalism and the Politics of Subjectivity (New York: SUNY Press, 2000); Other excellent critiques of Cronon's social constructivism include: Anna Peterson, “Environmental Ethics and the Social Construction of Nature,” Environmental Ethics 21 (1999): 339-57; Eileen Crist, “Against the Social Construction of Nature and Wilderness,” Environmental Ethics 26 (2004): 5-24; David Kidner, “Industrialism and the Fragmentation of Temporary Structure,” Environmental Ethics 26 (2004): 135153.

45. Donald Worster, “The Shaky Ground of Sustainability”, op. cit.; for another critique of Botkin's ecology, see Stan Rowe, "A New Ecology?" The Trumpeter 12 (1995): 197-200.

46. The papers of the participants are published in Cronon, Uncommon Ground; For a discussion of the University of California, Irvine conference and those papers, as well as the “Reinventing Nature” conferences held at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of California, Davis, see George Sessions , “'Reinventing Nature?': The End of Wilderness,” Wild Earth 6 (1996-97): 46-52; Niles Eldredge, Life in the Balance: Humanity and the Biodiversity Crisis (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998) p. 151.

47. Gary Snyder, “The Rediscovery of Turtle Island,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 454-62.

48. Gary Snyder, “Is Nature Real?”, in Tom Butler (ed.), Wild Earth (Minnesota: Milkweed Editions, 2002) pp. 195-98; Donald Worster also joins the debate in “The Wilderness of History,” in Butler, Wild Earth, pp. 221-28.

49. David W. Orr, “The Not-So-Great Wilderness Debate...Continued,” Wild Earth 9 (1999): 74-80; Peter Coates, Nature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998) p. 185.

50. Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement (Washington DC: Island Press, 1993) especially chapters 1 and 3, as well as the conclusion; Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (Boston: MIT Press, 1995) p. twenty-one; Gottlieb's “environmentalism” orientation toward primarily urban industrial pollution is well illustrated in his Environmentalism Unbound (Boston: MIT Press, 2002).

51. Dowie, Ibid., 2-3, 30, 126-7; for a critique of Gottlieb and Dowie, see George Sessions, “Political Correctness, Ecological Realities, and the Future of the Ecology Movement,” op. cit.

52. Michael Cohen, The History of the Sierra Club: 1892-1970 (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988); Stephan Fox, John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement (Boston: Little, Brown, 1981); Carolyn Merchant, “Shades of Darkness: Race and Environmental History,” Environmental History 8 (2003): 380-94.

53. Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990) pp. 180-81. 554. Murray Bookchin, “Social Ecology versus Deep Ecology,” republished in Witoszek and Brennen, Philosophical Dialogues, pp. 281-301.

55. Charlene Spretnak and Fritjof Capra, Green Politics: The Global Promise (New York: Dutton, 1984).

56. Kirkpatrick Sale, “Deep Ecology and Its Critics,” The Nation 22 (May 14, 1988): 670-75, republished in Witoszek and Brennen, Philosophical Dialogues , pp. 213-226; see also Arne Naess's letters to Foreman and Bookchin, and reply to Bookchin, in Witoszek and Brennen, pp. 22231, 302-309. For an analysis of the takeover of the American Greens and Earth First! for the New Left/social ecology, see George Sessions, “Radical Environmentalism in the 90's” and “Postscript: March 1992”, Wild Earth 2 (1992): 64-70.

57. Alston Chase, “The Great, Green Deep Ecology Revolution,” Rolling Stone 498 (April, 1987): 61-64, 162-68. As a “right-wing guy” (and no fan of deep ecology), it's no surprise that most of Chase's article focuses on the New Left's attempt to seize power over Green politics and environmentalism.

58. Bender, The Culture of Extinction, p. 355; for ecofeminism, see Ariel Sallef, “Class, Race, and Gender Discourse in the Ecofeminism/Deep Ecology Debate,” in Witoszek and Brennen, Philosophical Dialogues, pp. 236-54.

59. Robyn Eckersley, Environmental and Political Theory: Toward an Ecocentric Approach (New York: SUNY Press, 1992) pp. 25, 29; for critiques of Marx from an ecological perspective, see John Clark, “Marx's Inorganic Body,” Environmental Ethics 11 (1989): 243-58; Val Routley (Plumwood), “On Karl Marx as an Environmental Hero,” Environmental Ethics 3 (1981): 237-44.

60. Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring, p. 88. 1976. N. from trans.

61. David Ehrenfeld, The Arrogance of Humanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978) pp. 54, 127. Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism[lix] (Berkeley, CA: Ramparts, 1971): Fred Buell, From Apocalypse to Way of Life, pp. 218-19.

62. Peter Borrelli, “The Ecophilosophers,” Amicus Journal 10 (1988): 30-39; Chris Lewis and Commoner are discussed in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 98-99; Paul Ehrlich has been maligned by both the left and the right, but to better understand his decisive role in the development of twentieth-century ecological thought and global scientific consensus, see the 1996 PBS video, Paul Ehrlich and the Population Bomb.

[lix] There is a Spanish translation: Anarchism in the consumer society, Kairós,

63. Robyn Eckersley, “Divining Evolution: The Ecological Ethics of Murray Bookchin,” Environmental Ethics 11 (1989): 99-116; see also Eckersley, Environmentalism and Political Theory, pp. 147-67; Similar criticisms of Bookchin are found in Andrew McLaughin, Regarding Nature: Industrialism and Deep Ecology (New York: SUNY Press, 1993) pp. 215-17; George Sessions, “Deep Ecology and the New Age Movement,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 303-304.

64. John Passmore, Man's Responsibility for Nature (New York: Scribner's, 1974) chapters 1 and 2. Passmore's ideas are summarized in Sessions, “Deep Ecology and the New Age”: 298-99 .

65. Bender, The Culture of Extinction, p. 365-66.

66. Berry is quoted in Sessions, "Deep Ecology and the New Age," p. 305.

67. Bender, Ibid, p. 355.

68. Warwick Fox, “The Deep Ecology-Ecofeminism Debate and Its Parallels,” in Sessions Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 269-89.

69. John Clark, “A Social Ecology,” in Michael Zimmerman et al. (eds.), Environmental Philosophy 2[th] ed. (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998) pp. 421, 430; Michael Zimmerman, “Ken Wilber's Critique of Ecological Spirituality,” in David Barnhill and Roger Gottlieb (eds.), Deep Ecology and World Religions (New York: SUNY Press, 2001), pp. 243-69.

70. John Clark, “The Matter of Freedom: Ecofeminist Lessons for Social Ecology,” in Michael Zimmerman et al. Environmental Philosophy 3rd Edition (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001) pp. 455-70.

71. John Clark, “How Wide is Deep Ecology?” in Eric Katz, Andrew Light, and David Rothenberg (eds.), Beneath the Surface: Critical Essays in the Philosophy of Deep Ecology (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000), pp. 710.

72. For Naess's views on immigration, see Arne Naess, “Politics and the Ecological Crisis,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 451-52; Norman Myers, “The Most Overpopulated Country,” Population Press, April/May, 2002; Diamond, Collapse, chapter 16; Ehrlich and Ehrlich, One With Nineveh, pp. 106-11.

73. Peter Dwyer, “The Invention of Nature,” in Roy Ellen and Katsuyoshi Fukui (eds.), Redefining Nature: Ecology, Culture, and Domestication (Oxford: Berg, 1996) pp. 157-86.

74. Paul Shepard, “Virtually Hunting Reality in the Forests of Simulacra,” in Michael Soulé and Gary Lease (eds.), Reinventing Nature? Responses to Postmodern Deconstructionism (Washington DC: Island Press, 1995) pp. 17-29.

75. Ariel Salleh, “Deeper than Deep Ecology: The Eco-Feminist Connection,” Environmental Ethics 6 (1984): 339-45.

76. Patsy Hallen, “The Ecofeminist-Deep Ecology Dialogue,” in Witozek and Brennen, Philosophical Dialogues, pp. 274-80.

77. Ariel Salleh, “In Defense of Deep Ecology: An Ecofeminist Response to a Liberal Critique,” in Katz et al., Beneath the Surface, pp. 107-24.

78. Jack Turner, Teewinot (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000) p. 110; William Barrett, The Illusion of Technique: A Search for Meaning in a Technological Civilization (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1979) pp. 365-66, 373; Arne Naess, “The Shallow and the Deep, Long Range Ecology Movements”, in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 151-55.

79. Jim Cheney, “Postmodern Environmental Ethics: Ethics as Bioregional Narrative,” Environmental Ethics 11 (1989): 117-34; Jim Cheney, “The Neo-Stoicism of Radical Environmentalism”

Environmental Ethics 11 (1989): 293-325; William Stephens, “Stoic Naturalism, Rationalism, and Ecology,” Environmental Ethics 16 (1994): 275-86; for a further discussion and critique of Cheney's position, see Zimmerman, Contesting Earth's Future, pp. 284-89, 298-313.

80. Karen Warren, “Ecofeminist Philosophy and Deep Ecology,” in Witozek and Brennen, Philosophical Dialogues, pp. 255-69.

81. Arne Naess, “The Ecofeminism versus Deep Ecology Debate,” in Witozek and Brennen, pp. 273.

82. Bender, The Culture of Extinction, p. 379-382.

83. For (Routley) Sylvan's position, see William Grey, “A Critique of Deep Green Theory”, in Katz et al., Beneath the Surface, pp. 43-58.

84. Val Plumwood, “Nature, Self, and Gender: Feminism, Environmental Philosophy, and the Critique of Rationalism,” in Zimmerman, et al. Environmental Philosophy, p. 286; Bender, The Culture of Extinction, pp. 383-387; see John Rodman, “Four Forms of Ecological Consciousness Reconsidered,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, 121-30.

85. Bender, The Culture of Extinction, p. 441.

86. Plumwood, Ibid., p. 299-300; Warren, "Ecofeminist Philosophy and Deep Ecology," 259-60.

87. “Relational Holism: Huayan Buddhism and Deep Ecology” by David Barnhill, in Barnhill and Gottlieb, Deep Ecology and World Religions, pp. 77-106, is a well-developed critique of Plumwood's analysis, which also includes a critique of Deane Curtin; see also David Loy, “Loving the World as Our Own Body: The Nondualist Ethics of Taoism, Buddhism and Deep Ecology,” World Views: Environment, Culture, Religion 1 (1997): 249-73; see also David Loy, A Buddhist History of the West (New York: SUNY Press, 2001).

88. Bender, The Culture of Extinction, p. 418, 445.

89. Arne Naess, “Self-Realization: An Ecological Approach to Being in the World,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 225-39. This article was published in The Trumpeter and can be read on the Internet in the archives for volume 4, no. 3, 1987.

90. Bender, Ibid., p. 386, 399-415.17; A debate took place several years ago in which the young ecophilosopher Peter Reed took the existentialist position—as opposed to Naess's idea of mutually interdependent Self-Realization for all beings—that humans and Nature are totally separate. Following the existentialism of the Norwegian Peter Zapffe, Reed maintained that we should respect and venerate Nature on the basis of its total “otherness”. In his reply to Reed, Naess provided an illuminating discussion of what he means by "identifying" with the self-realization of other beings (with their conatus[lx], in Spinoza's words). Contrary to what existentialists claim, there is no "separate man." Although there is a similarity between all beings to achieve self-realization (with which we can identify) there are still enormous differences and in any case their alterity remains. em>, and these differences are respected. Plumwood participated in this debate, rejecting the positions of both Reed and Naess, and conflating Naess's notions of "identification" and "identity." Again, Plumwood argued that the feminist concept of the "relational self" is the only acceptable approach. (Peter Reed, “'Man Apart' An Alternative to the Self-Realization Approach”; Arne Naess, “'Man Apart' and Deep Ecology: A Reply to Reed”; Val Plumwood, “Self-Relization or Man Apart?: The Reed-Naess Debate”, all of them in Witozek and Brennen, Philosophical Dialogues, pp. 181-210).

91. Bender, Ibid., p. 383.

92. Fox, “The Deep Ecology-Ecofeminist Debate”; Hallen, “The Ecofeminism-Deep Ecology Dialogue”, pp. 277, 279; see also Patsy Hallen, “Making Peace with Nature: Why Ecology Needs Ecofeminism,” The Trumpeter 4 (1987): 3-14.

93. Warren, Ecofeminist Philosophy, p. 82-3, 149-73.

94. Warren, “Ecofeminist Philosophy and Deep Ecology”: 259, 263-67.

[lx] “Conatus” or “conatus” refers to a philosophical concept used in the past to refer to an inherent inclination or tendency of matter or mind to continue existing and developing. With him they tried to explain phenomena such as life or movement. Today it is considered a scientifically obsolete concept. N. from trans.

95. Ibid., 260-62.

96. Warwick Fox, Toward a Transpersonal Ecology (Boston: Shambhala, 1990).

97. See Andrew McLaughlin, “The Heart of Deep Ecology”; and my introduction (pp. 6-7) in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century; Sessions, “Deep Ecology,” in Zimmerman, Environmental Philosophy 2[a] ed. (1998): 172-173 (of which Warren is a co-editor!).

98. Charlene Spretnak, “Ecofeminism: Our Roots and Flowering,” in Irene Diamond and Gloria Orenstein, eds., Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990). For Spretnak's critique of postmodernism, see Charlene Spretnak, The Resurgence of the Real (Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1997).

99. For an analysis of Santayana's discourse, "The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy," see George Sessions, "Ecocentrism and the Anthropocentric Detour," in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 166-67.

100. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945) pp. 494, 788-89, 827-28; Kenneth Blackwell, The Spinozistic Ethics of Bertrand Russell (London: Allen and Unwin, 1985).

101. For a discussion of Zamyatin, Orwell, and Huxley, see Wayland Drew, “Killing Wilderness,” and Del Ivan Janik, “Environmental Consciousness in Modern Literature,” both in Sessions, <em>Deep Ecology for the 21st Century</em >, p. 104-20.

102. Zimmerman, Contesting Earth's Future, p. 359.

103. The Teilhardian quote is found in George Sessions, “Deep Ecology and the New Age,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 290-310, which is a comprehensive critique of the New Age movement's anti-ecological and techno-utopian thinking; for ecological critiques of Haraway, see Bill McCormick, “The Island of Dr. Haraway,” Environmental Ethics 22 (2000): 40918; Bill McCormick, “An Ecology of Bad Ideas,” Wild Earth 12 (2002): 70-72.

104. Buell, From Apocalypse to Way of Life, p. 211-46.

105. See Ned Hettinger's review of Keekok Lee, The Natural and the Artefactual (Lanham Md.: Lexington Books, 1999) Environmental Ethics 23 (2001): 437- 40; Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn't Need Us,”[lxi] Wired (April 2000): 238-246; see also Buell, Ibid., pp. 153-54; Sadruddin Aga Khan, “Keeping to Our World,” Resurgence 215 (2002): 20-21.

106. Peter van Wyck, Primitives in the Wilderness: Deep Ecology and the Missing Subject (Albany: SUNY Press, 1997) pp. 103-35.

107. For Zimmerman's initial interpretation of Heidegger, see his 1976 article "Technological Culture and the End of Philosophy," widely cited in Sessions, "Spinoza and Jeffers on Man in Nature," Inquiry 20 (1977): 487-89; for his rejection of Heidegger, see Michael Zimmerman, "Rethinking the Heidegger-Deep Ecology Relationship," Environmental Ethics 15 (1993): 195-224.

108. Zimmerman, Contesting Earth's Future, p. 353. Teilhard's phrase is found in Sessions, “New Age and Deep Ecology”: p. 293. For a more in-depth analysis of Ken Wilber's work, see Gus DiZerega's article “A Critique of Ken Wilber's Account of Deep Ecology and Nature Religions” in The Trumpeter volume 13, n° 2 , nineteen ninety six.

109. See Gary Nabham and Stephen Trimble, The Geography of Hope: Why Children Need Wild Places (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994). Peter Kahn and Stephen Kellert (eds.) Children and Nature (Boston: MIT Press, 2002).

[lxi] There is a Spanish translation: “Why the future doesn't need us” in Glenn Yeffeth (ed.), Take the red pill: science, philosophy and religion in the Matrix, Obelisk, 2005. < em>N. of the trad</em>.

110. Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations[lxii] (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991) pp. 85-6; for the corporate colonization of youth, see the PBS video Affluenza and the Frontline video The Merchants of Cool.

111. Chris Cuomo, “Review of Noel Sturgeon, Ecofeminist Natures,” Environmental Ethics 21 (1999): 431.

112. Ned Hettinger and Bill Throop, “Refocusing Ecocentrism: Deemphasizing Stability and Defending Wildness,” Environmental Ethics 21 (1999): 3-21.

113. Jack Turner, The Abstract Wild (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996).

114. Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990).

115. Turner, The Abstract Wild, p. 82, 108.

116. Ibid., p. 81, 84, 107-111.

117. Ibid., p. xiv, 82.

118. Ibid., p. xvi, 91-92. Turner's interpretation of Thoreau should be contrasted with that of the ecologist Daniel Botkin. Botkin says that Thoreau would have consented to the almost complete humanization of the Earth, as long as there were some swamps left near towns and cities where he could experience wild Nature. Thoreau would have liked Central Park in Manhattan. It is clear that Botkin does not have the slightest idea what Thoreau meant by "in the wild is the preservation of the world." Botkin has the honor to provide, in his book, the most distorted account of deep ecology today. He claims to position himself somewhere between the “wise use movement” and the deep ecology movement, but Snyder is correct in describing Botkin and Cronon as “the pinnacle of the 'wise use movement'”. [Daniel Botkin, No Man's Garden: Thoreau and a New Vision for Civilization and Nature (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2001)].

119. Charles Mann, “1492” Atlantic Monthly (March 2002): 41-53.

120. Bill McKibben, The End of Nature (New York: Anchor Books, 1989)[lxiii]; Steven Vogel, “Environmental Philosophy After the End of Nature,” Environmental Ethics 24 (2002): 21-39.

121. Karl Popper, Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach (London: Oxford University Press, 1972).

122. Hettinger and Throop, “Refocusing Ecocentrism,” 17-18.

123. Ibid., p. 18.

124. Turner, The Abstract Wild, p. 108-125; for discussions of conservation biology and the Wildlands Project, see Reed Noss and Allen Cooperridere, Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1994); Edward Grumbine (ed.) Environmental Policy and Biodiversity (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1994); Dave Foreman, Rewilding North America (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2004).

125. Jack Turner, “The Wild and Its New Enemies,” in Ted Kerasote (ed.) Return of the Wild: The Future of our Natural Lands (New York: Pew Wilderness Center, 2001).

126. EO Wilson, The Future of Life (New York: Knopf, 2002) pp. 154-71; Paul Ehrlich, Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species (New York: Random House, 1981); for studies of the inadequacy of “hot spots”, see Ehrlich and Ehrlich, One With Nineveh, pp. 52-3.

127. Fred Pearce, “Review of EO Wilson, The Future of Life”, The Ecologist 32 (2002): 40; for social/ecological critiques of multinational capitalism's globalization plans, see Richard Barnet and John Cavanaugh, Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994); David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World (Bloomfield, CT:

[lxii] There is a Spanish translation: In the absence of the sacred. The failure of technology and the survival of the Indian nations, José J. de Olañeta, Palma de Mallorca, 1996. N. from trans.

[lxiii] There is a Spanish translation: El fin de la Naturaleza, Ediciones B, Barcelona, 1990. N. from trans.

Kumarian Press, 1995); see also “A Better World Is Possible!: Alternatives to Economic Globalization”, a report of the International Forum on Globalization (2002) available at [http://www.ifg.org][www.ifg.org].

128. Arne Naess, “Ecosophy, Population, and Free Nature,” The Trumpeter 5 (1988).

129. Arne Naess, “The Third World, Wilderness and Deep Ecology”, in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 397-407.

130. Niles Eldredge, Life in the Balance, p. 157-165, 183-191.

131. Donald Worster, “The Shaky Ground of Sustainability,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, p. 425; Worster discusses the controversy over whether the North American continent was “totally dominated” by indigenous peoples in “The Wilderness of History,” in Butler, Wild Earth, pp. 221-29; see also his critique of Luc Ferry's The New Ecological Order[lxiv] in Donald Worster's “The Rights of Nature: Has Deep Ecology Gone Too Far?” Foreign Affairs 74 (1995): 111115.

132. Arne Naess, “The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movements,” in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 151-155.

133. Bender, The Culture of Extinction, p. 417-422.

134. Ibid., p. 422-424, 435.

135. See Arne Naess, “'Politics and the Ecological Crisis”, and Arne Naess, “The Deep Ecology Eight Points Revisited”, in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, pp. 445 and 219 respectively; To emphasize that not everything is politics, Naess said in the original 1973 article (“The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movements”) that “philosophy is the most general on the fundamentals (...) and political philosophy is one of its subsections”.

136. See Arne Naess, “Deepness of Questions and the Deep Ecology Movement”, Arne Naes, “The Deep Ecological Movement”, and Stephen Bodian, “Simple in Means, Rich in Ends”, all in Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21[st] Century. For a more in-depth discussion of deep questioning and Naess's approach to deep ecology, see Harold Glasser, “Naess's Deep Ecology Approach and Environmental Policy”; Harold Glasser, “Demystifying the Critiques of Deep Ecology,” in Zimmerman, Environmental Philosophy, 3[a] ed., pp. 204-217.

137. Arne Naess, “Politics and the Ecological Crisis,” Naess, “The Third World, Deep Ecology, and Wilderness,” and Naess, “Deep Ecology for the 22nd Century.”

138. Naess, “The Ecofeminist versus Deep Ecology Debate,” in Witozek and Brennen, Philosophical Dialogues, p. 270.

139. Katz, et al. Beneath the Surface, p. ix, xxii; For a critique of his characterization of deep ecology philosophy, see Andrew McLaughlin, “Keeping Deep Ecologists Together,” paper delivered at the American Philosophical Association (Society for Philosophy and Technology) meeting, December 28, 2000.

140. Zimmerman, Contesting Earth's Future, p. 57-90.

141. Bill Devall and George Sessions, Deep Ecology (Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1985) pp. 161-177.

142. In her somewhat unusual encyclopedic entry “Deep Ecology,” Australian ecofeminist Freya Matthews says that deep ecology became an activist movement when Naess replaced her 1973 analysis with the 1984 Eight Principles. This article does not shows a thorough knowledge of the history of the movement; see Matthews, “Deep Ecology,” in Dale Jamieson (ed.) A Companion to Environmental Philosphy (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003) pp. 218-32. Joanna Griffiths, “Naess at Ninety,” Resurgence 217, March/April 2003, 44-45.

[lxiv] There is a Spanish translation: The new ecological order. The tree, the animal and the man, Tusquets, Barcelona, 1994. N. from trans.

143. Bron Taylor, “Deep Ecology and Its Social Philosophy: A Critique,” in Katz, et al. Beneath the Surface, p. 269-99.

144. See, for example, Naess, “Politics and the Ecological Crisis.”

145. Arne Naess, “Comments on Guha”, in Witozek and Brennen, Philosophical Dialogues, p. 331.

146. Sadruddin Aga Khan, “Keeping to Our World,” Resurgence 215 (2002): 20-21.

147. Al Gore, Earth in Balance (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992).

148. Newsweek, July 17, 2006.

149. Andrew Kimbrell, “Biodemocracy,” in Resurgence 214 (2002): 47-48; Lee-Anne Broadhead and Sean Howard, “The Heart of Darkness,” Resurgence 221 (2003): 22-24.

150. Paul Shepard, “Ecology and Man: A Viewpoint.” In Sessions, Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, p.


Our main value is that of the autonomy of Wild Nature. However, some of us, despite correctly understanding the meaning of this concept, may not have cared much about the "theory" until now and the idea we have had about it has been a rather intuitive idea. For this reason, we believe that it will be interesting to deal with this concept in depth and from a rational and materialistic perspective.

To begin with, it is worth asking what is wild nature? Or rather, does wild nature exist or rather is it something "pristine" that disappears when a human sets foot in it? Is the idea of Wild Nature something solid and material on which to sustain an ideology or is it an ethereal concept more typical of philosophers?

In this text, Foreman delves into this concept and explains its meaning in a solid and justified way. Further, proof of the strength of —the very idea of Wilderness“, which Foreman summarizes as —land with a will of its own” or —land beyond human control“, is that the same meaning that Foreman gives for —wilderness ” (—wilderness”) has been used by the government of the United States to create the legal definition of —wilderness territory” and to give protection to its Law of Wild Spaces (—Wilderness Act”).

It is also interesting how in the last part of the text, to delve into his argument, the author goes through the history of conservationism in the United States, from its appearance in the 19th century to the current currents that try to recover wild areas , going through the appearance of ramifications with which the author does not feel identified, such as the fight against pollution or the fight for the efficient exploitation and prudent management of natural resources. For the Spanish reader it will be clear in this tour how the origin, foundations and evolution of this movement have nothing to do with European environmentalism and how most European environmentalist currents are incompatible with —the authentic idea of Wild Nature”.


By Dave Foreman[1790][1791][1792]

Summary- In recent years, some philosophers, historians and literary critics have condemned what they call “The Commonly Accepted Idea of Wild Nature”[ii,iii]. Closer examination reveals that "The Commonly Accepted Idea of Wild Nature" is a literary/philosophical invention that bears little relation to The Real Idea of Wild Nature[1793] that conservationists have used to establish the National Wilderness Preservation System[1794] of the United States. The analysis of the origin of the English term wilderness, the meaning of the Wilderness Act[1795] and the history of the conservation movement show the solidity of —The Authentic Idea of Wild Nature” and of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

I am not here to praise “The Commonly Accepted Idea of Wild Nature” but rather to bury it. The very expression “The Commonly Accepted Idea of Wild Nature” evokes a mystical origin. If the idea of Wild Nature, which Baird Callicott[1796], Bill Cronon[1797], and other postmodern deconstructionist intellectuals so passionately consign to hell along with Milton's Lucifer[1798], has been the that most people have adopted, I think those intellectuals have come to that conclusion while holding hands in a dark room around a table at a séance, trying to listen to voices coming from the specters of Jonathan Edwards[ 1799] and Henry David Thoreau[1800].[1801]

But first, why should you pay attention to what I say about the idea of Wild Nature? Well, because I'm an expert on the True Wilderness Idea - the one that spawned the National Wilderness Preservation System. I have backpacked many wilderness areas for 40 years, I have descended wild rivers[1802] for more than 30. During the thousands of days and nights I have spent in the wilderness for fun and conservation, I have had several hundreds of partners (not all at once!). I've listened to his thoughts on Wilderness as we strolled leisurely down dusty, rugged paths, navigated canyon walls aglow in the setting sun, and passed Scotch whiskey around a campfire. On many of these trips, my friends and I were checking out the wilderness[1803] of unprotected areas and putting together proposals to delineate these areas and send them to Congress for designation as protected. In the 1970s, I wrote a widely used guide, How to Do a Wilderness Study[1804]. For all these reasons, I have a very clear idea of Wild Nature, one that is widely shared by other conservationists dedicated to the same thing. In 1971, while immersing myself in research on the wilderness of New Mexico, I found an entire collection of The Wilderness Society's journal[1805], The Living Wilderness, in the archives of the library of the University of New Mexico. I read every issue all the way back to the early 1930s. In the early 1960s, The Living Wilderness covered the campaign for the Wilderness Act in detail, including the arguments against it. for and against protecting wilderness. Since then I have read countless magazines, newsletters and calls to action from many wilderness advocacy groups. I have read dozens and dozens of brochures and maps from government agencies about wilderness.

My mentors in the conservation movement were people who led the Wilderness Act campaign and subsequent efforts to protect Wilderness Act affected areas (Forest Service Primitive Areas[1806] and National Parks road-free areas). and National Wildlife Refuges[1807], as well as Forest Service road-free areas.I was trained as a grassroots organizer by Clif Merrit[1808], who organized conservationists in the West to support the Wilderness Act, Ernie Dickerman[1809], who wrote the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act[1810], and Harry Crandell[1811], who wrote the wilderness provision for the BLM charter [1812] Dave Brower[1813], Ed and Peggy Wayburn[1814], Stewart Brandborg[1815], and Celia Hunter[1816] instructed me on how wrestling through the wilds date back to the 1930s. I have spoken at length with the veterans of Silver City, New Mexico, who led the successful citizen struggle against the Forest Service's proposal to partition the Gila Desert[1817] in 1952 (for the purpose of to allow felling). I have had the privilege of knowing Bob Marshall's brothers[1818], Aldo Leopold's daughter[1819], Mardie Murie (the widow of Olaus Murie[1820]) and Sig Olson[1821]. I applied his experience and wisdom as I became a national leader in wilderness campaigns related to RARE II[1822], the BLM wilderness revisions, and the Alaska Lands Act[1823].

I have been present at dozens of public hearings - from Congress and agencies, in the field and in Washington cabinets - on the designation of areas as wilderness. I think I've met people involved in all the wilderness designation bills passed by Congress. For 30 years, I have been involved in wilderness strategy meetings and public presentations in virtually every state in the country. Over the past 15 years, I have given more than 200 wilderness lectures at colleges in 35 states and provinces in the US and Canada, and afterward have discussed wilderness with small groups of students at local bars. I have stood with members of Earth First![1824], risking arrest or physical harm in nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, to protect Nature[1825] from bulldozers and chainsaws. I've attended a dozen professional meetings on wilderness organized by state and federal agency wilderness managers, and I know the key people in the agencies on the subject.

Among my personal files are three complete shelves of sound recordings of congressional hearings and committee reports on wilderness designation; all documents for the recommendation of wilderness designations in Forest Service primitive areas and in National and Park Service wildlife refuges; all official RARE II documents; all the BLM studies of wilderness in each of the western states; responses to all of them from conservation groups and 23 file cabinet drawers of wilderness material dating back to the 1960s (not counting a similar number of drawers of material on other conservation issues). Believe it or not, I've read it all.

During 20 years as writer, executive director or editor of the Earth First! Journal (from 1980 to 1988) and from Wild Earth[1826] (from 1990 to today[1827]), I have read, rejected, accepted and edited more Wilderness articles I want to remember from both North America and the rest of the world. I spent eight years researching for my book, The Big Outside[1828] (with Howie Wolke[xl] as co-author), about 48 minor road-free areas. Over the past 15 years I have been closely involved with leading conservation biologists working on protected area design and strategies for their protection. My work on the wilderness and that of close colleagues now reaches Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada, Chile, Argentina and South Africa. I have been personally involved in defending legally unprotected wilderness areas from dam building, water recreation, logging, road building, mining, oil and gas exploration and extraction, mining of uranium, the abuse of all-terrain vehicles, the poaching of reintroduced wolves, overgrazing, the clearing of juniper thickets with chains[xli], the construction of observatories and the introduction of exotic species. I have helped defend wilderness areas that were legally protected from dam building, overgrazing, pasture development, use of government vehicles, non-commercial logging, government hunting of predators, sabotage to the recovery of endangered species (the Gila trout[xlii]) and the invasion of mountain bikes and snowmobiles. We conservationists have not always succeeded in this defense, and I know of wild rivers now choked behind dams, magnificent forests being clearcut, towering moors razed by open-cast mining...

In short, I know something about the only idea about Wilderness that matters in practice - the one that has led thousands of people to spend their time, money, and sometimes their freedom and even their lives protecting it from exploitation. the wild areas. This is the idea of Wilderness that has been created by the National Wilderness Preservation System of the United States of America.

The True Wilderness Idea is something very different from the Commonly Accepted Wilderness Idea invented and later attacked by Baird Callicott, Bill Cronon and other deconstructionist social scientists. The philosophical and literary writings on which they were based have had little influence on the wilderness protection movement; in fact, scholarly and intellectual discussions of wilderness have been largely ignored by wilderness advocates. Since 1920, conservationists have been primarily motivated by two things: one, they like particular wilderness areas; and two, they see the need to protect them from development and exploitation. As Samuel Hays (1996), the great historian of resource conservation, Nature conservation, and environmentalism, writes, —Cronon's Wild Nature is a world of abstract ideas...but separate from the values and ideas inherent to actions in favor of wilderness areas”.

This Commonly Accepted Idea of Wild Nature is a straw dog[xliii]; does not exist in reality. It is not the Wilderness idea that led to the Wilderness Act and the National Wilderness Preservation System and has spurred thousands of citizen conservationists from Alabama to Alaska. When fighting a ghost it is easy to say that the monster has been mortally wounded.

2,500 years ago, Socrates told Phaedrus[xliv], "I am a man who likes to learn and the trees and open spaces teach me nothing, while the men of the cities do." More recently, Nobel laureate Linus Pauling[xlv] (1995) wrote:

I remember reading a philosophy book in which the author returned page after page to the same question: If there is a leaf on a tree and you see that it is green in spring and red in autumn, is it the same leaf or are they leaves? different? Does the leaf still hold its essence? Words, words, words but 'chlorophyll' and 'xanthophyll' - which are what we can clearly perceive in relation to what has happened to the leaf - are simply not mentioned.

The so-called Commonly Accepted Idea of Wilderness comes from Socrates and his city cronies, not from the wilderness with trees and open fields. And among all the words written or spoken about the Commonly Accepted Idea of Wild Nature, there are no words about landscapes full of life and the political reality that threatens them.

I have spent my whole life confronting the lies, nonsense and myths of the extractive industries about Wild Nature. I have come to the conclusion that their woeful arguments against Wilderness are actually more legitimate, rational, and sound than those of the postmodern deconstructionists.

I am not going to respond point by point to leftist academic complaints about Wilderness. I've done it before, most recently in the Callicott/Nelson[xlvi] anthology, The Great New Wilderness Debate[xlvii], and I don't know of anyone who has refuted me on specific points (Foreman 1998 ). What

[xliii] —Straw dog” in the original. In this case, the expression "straw dog" is synonymous with the expression "straw man" (-straw man", scarecrow) which refers to a logical fallacy consisting of presenting the rival's argument in an altered way and then attacking it and demonstrating its falsity, instead of really attacking the true original argument. That is, create a “scarecrow” that you can “hit” (hence the expression) and give the impression of defeating him, instead of honestly facing the real rival. N. from trans.

[xliv] Phaedrus was an Athenian aristocrat (444-393 BC) close to the philosophical circle of Socrates and the protagonist, together with him, of Plato's dialogue that bears his name. N. from trans.

[xlv] Linus Carl Pauling (1901-1994), American biochemist. He was one of the first quantum chemists. N. from trans.

[xlvi] Michael P. Nelson is a professor of environmental philosophy and ethics at the University of Oregon. N. from trans.

[xlvii] J. Baird Callicott and Michael P. Nelson (eds.), The Great New Wilderness Debate, University of Georgia Press, 1998. This is an anthology of texts on the concept of wilderness. Ten years later, the same publishers published an I would like to do is to present, not the Commonly Accepted Wilderness Idea, but rather the Citizen Conservation Movement's True Wilderness Idea and how it remains strong after all these years, bringing together values and objectives, both ecological and from experience.

Land with a will of its own[xlviii]

In our apathetic age, when rigor in thought and ethics is too much to ask, we often end up grumbling over poorly defined words. From the beer biker[xlix] to the great academics to just about every other English speaker, they carelessly use the term wilderness muddying the conservation debate.

In 1983, in a talk at the Third World Wilderness Conference[1829][1830], in Scotland, the philosopher Jay Hansford Vest[1831][1832] looked up the meaning of < em>wilderness</em> in Old English and, further back, in Old Gothic languages. He showed that wilderness means —'land with a will of its own'"... emphasizing its intrinsic intention.” He interpreted der as of the. what in wil-der-ness there is a 'will-of-the-earth', and in wildeor[liii] there is a 'will of the animal'.

A wild animal is 'an animal with a will of its own' - an untamed animal; similarly, wildland is 'land with a will of its own'”. Vest shows that this intentionality is the opposite of the —controlled and ordered environment, characteristic of the notion of civilization”. The first inhabitants of northern Europe did not feel the impulse to reign over Nature; therefore, the term wilderness —shows an appreciation of the land in and of itself” (Vest 1985). Thanks to Vest we are able to understand that this term, wilderness, is not an invention of modern civilization; is a word created by the pagan barbarians of the Bronze and Iron Ages.

This meaning of wilderness, as “land with its own will”, dwarfs all others. Wilderness means —land beyond human control”. A “land beyond human control” is a slap in the face to the arrogance of humanism — for elitist man as well as for common man, for capitalist as well as for socialist, for first worlder as well as for the third world; for all of them it is also something to fear.

I have called the wilds[liv] the arena of evolution. Anyway, Aldo Leopold, as usual, was way ahead of me. 50 years ago, he saw Wilderness as the —theater” for —the spectacle of evolution.” (Leopold 1989). Evolution has its own will. The land on which evolution can occur has a will of its own, especially in the case of large species.

The Wilderness Act

The greatest gesture of the civilized world in favor of the "land with its own will" materialized with the Wilderness Act of 1964, in the United States. This legislation was the product of eight years of discussions and revisions both in Congress and in public speaking throughout the nation. It was promoted by hikers, on foot or on horseback, canoeists, hunters and fishermen. Contains at least four definitions of wilderness. I believe that each of the four definitions fully maintains the meaning of land with its own will. The first definition of —wilderness” is found in the Wilderness Act's statement of purpose, in section 2(a):

To ensure that growing population, accompanied by urban sprawl and increased mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its domains, without leaving designated lands to be preserved and protected in their natural condition, hereby declares that it is the policy of Congress to assure the American people of present and future generations the benefits of a lasting heritage of wilderness[lv].

Has Congress, spurred on by American citizens, established a National Wilderness Preservation System[lvi] to preserve a mythical past cloaked in literary romanticism, swashbuckling Manifest Destiny[lvii] and Calvinism? dualist[lviil]?[lix] Well... no. It was much simpler. Wilderness needed to be protected because all of the remaining countryside in the United States was threatened by development and industrial exploitation fueled by population growth, mechanization, and urban sprawl.

Both in this case and throughout the rest of the history of the movement for the conservation of Wilderness the main motive has been to protect the land from development. Hays (1996) writes: —Wildness proposals are not normally intended to perpetuate some 'original' or 'pristine' condition but rather as attempts to 'save' wilderness from development[lx]” . Wilderness areas are therefore lands protected from the conquest of industrial civilization. How hard it is to understand?

The second definition is the ideal:

A wilderness, as opposed to those areas where man and his labors dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the land and its biotic community are free from man-imposed fetters, where man himself is a visitor who does not stay. Section 2(c).

It was written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society who, as a professional writer and editor, understood the importance of choosing words, this definition coincides with the concept of land with its own will. First, wilderness areas are not ones where the labors of man dominate the landscape. Wilderness is not subject to human will. Second, Zahniser carefully chose the little-known expression —they are untrammeled”[1833]“, and not just because it sounded good. A traba is the manacle of a horse, therefore it is something that hinders free movement.[lxii] As a verb, trabar means to hinder the movement of something. Unhindered therefore means that something's will is not hindered; that has a will of its own. The untrammeled land is the arena of evolution. Third, humans are only temporary visitors to the wilderness; there are no permanent human settlements. Many of Wild Nature's enemies especially hate this exclusion from human habitation. However, I believe that this absence of lasting human settlements is key to Nature having a will of her own. Wherever we humans dwell for a long period of time, we hinder or impede the will of the land around our settlements and beyond. Until where? That depends on the population size and the technological sophistication of the group.

The third definition of wilderness follows immediately from the second. It is the concrete and practical definition of the wild areas protected by the Wilderness Act and establishes a starting criteria for candidate areas:

A wilderness is defined hereinafter, in this Act and for this Act, as an area of undeveloped federal land that maintains its original character and influence, without permanent improvements or human settlement; that it is protected and managed in order to preserve its natural conditions and that (1) it generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, without an appreciable trace of human activity; (2) possesses exceptional opportunities for solitude or for primitive, outdoor recreation; (3) has at least 2,025 hectares[lxiii] of land or is of sufficient size to enable its preservation and use and to be maintained in perfect condition; and (4) may also contain ecological , geological, or other qualities of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value . Section 2(c)

While maintaining the concept of land with its own will (—undeveloped”, —primitive character and influence”, —without permanent improvements or human settlement”, —natural conditions”), it is a working definition that recognizes that most of the land with a will of its own may not be pristine (—generally appears”, —mainly affected—, —without appreciable footprint”). In fact, the word pristine does not appear in the Wilderness Act.

This realistic view of wild Nature answers the often silly question, "What is natural?" Understand that the natural is not something separate from and opposed to the unnatural. Rather, I think the definition sees the earth as encompassing a continuum from that which is completely subject to human will to that which has a will entirely of its own. At some point, the earth is mostly dominated by humans, at some other point, the earth begins to be controlled mainly by the forces of Nature.[lxiv] There is a wide gray area in between where there is some contribution natural and human forces. When natural forces become dominant, the earth has a will of its own. Given that we humans have different and limited ways of understanding ecology and different depths of knowledge, each one can locate the transition between the zones that have their own will and those that do not at different points of that continuum. But this does not mean that we cannot say, "This place is mainly natural." Let us not fall into the deceptive trap of thinking that natural characterlxv is simply a human idea. The wild[lxvi] exists out there. A tree that falls in a forest does not need someone to hear it to exist.

The ecological wounds suffered by the earth are the result of humans trying to impose their will. The severity of these wounds and their impact remain both where the earth has its own will for the most part (areas primarily affected by the forces of Nature) and where it does not. Some enemies of Wilderness mistakenly believe that conservationists view Wilderness as pristine (an absolute term). Other anti-conservationists, in order to limit protection, argue that to qualify as wilderness it must be pristine. Neither of these refrains is true.

If we read section 2(c) of the law carefully, we see that there are two definitions of wilderness, linked together. One refers to human experiences in the wilderness (—seems”, —traceless”, —loneliness”, —primitive and outdoor recreation”, —educational”, —historical”, —landscape”). The other is an ecological definition (—undeveloped”, —primordial character and influence”, —natural forces”, —ecological”, —scientific”). Understanding that these descriptions of ecological conditions and values figure prominently in the Wilderness Act refutes the persistent accusation that this act and the National Wilderness Preservation System that came from it are only concerned with recreation and landscaping. Even some scientists and conservationists have criticized the Wilderness Act for having an overwhelmingly recreational bias. It is important to understand that this is not the purpose of the law, even though federal agencies have often managed wilderness as if it were.

The two lessons we need to draw from section 2(c) are: that wilderness does not have to be pristine and that the ecological values of wilderness are strongly recognized alongside the values of human experiences.

The fourth definition of wilderness contains rules for managing an area, once it comes under the protection of the Wilderness Act:

Except for the specific cases specified in this Law and subject to existing private rights, there will be no commercial activities or permanent roads within any wild territory[lxvii] designated by this Law and, except for those necessary to carry out the minimum requirements for the administration of the area enforces this Law (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there will be no temporary roads, no vehicles, equipment or motorized boats will be used, no aircraft will land , nor will there be any other form of mechanical transportation or any structure or facility within the designated areas. Section 4(c).

lxiv—At some point, land quits being mostly dominated by humans; at some other point, land begins to be controlled primarily by the forces of Nature”, in the original. The literal translation would be: —At some point, the earth ceases to be dominated for the most part by humans; at some other point, the earth begins to be controlled mainly by the forces of Nature” but this does not make logical sense since both points refer to the same state. It is probably a logical error by Foreman, so it has been decided to correct said error in the translation. N. from trans.

[lxv] —Naturalness” in the original. I have considered the best translation is —natural character.” N. from trans.

[lxvi] —Naturalness” in the original. I have considered that the best translation is —the wild”. N. from trans.

[lxvii] —Wilderness area” in the original. In this case I have translated it as “wild territory”. N. from trans.

(Elsewhere, the Wilderness Act makes certain exceptions to earlier prohibitions to, for example, fight fires, facilitate rescues, or allow grazing and mining until 1984; all of these exceptions were political deals that Wilderness supporters Act had to agree to get Western congressmen to pass this point, so the Wilderness Act kind of fails and sometimes contradicts itself.)

Bans try to keep the land unhindered (with their own will). The bans are stricter than the starting criteria described in section 2(c). For example, it is not a requirement that a wilderness area that is a candidate to enter under the protection of the Law, does not have roads or has not been felled in it; however, section 4(c) implies that it must be managed as a roadless zone once it has been placed under the auspices of the National Wilderness Preservation System. In other words, existing roads will have to be closed and commercial logging will no longer be allowed once an area is officially designated as wilderness[lxviii]. There are many cases of areas that before coming under the umbrella of the National Wilderness Preservation System had roads or were logged on them - including some of the classic Great Wilderness[lxix] of the West.

If the meaning of wilderness and what the Wilderness Act says are clearly spelled out, many misunderstandings about wilderness[lxx] should go away. However, as we see all too often, the meaning of the concept of Wilderness is not always clouded due to sheer ignorance, rather such confusion is a deliberate tactic used by anti-conservationists.

The contention over conservation is ultimately about whether or not we can stand the earth having a will of its own.

The Wild River

In —Rewilding and Biodiversity: Complementary Goals for Continental Conservation”'[1834]“[1], Michael Soulé[lxxii] and Reed Noss[lxxiii] (1998) clearly show that the designation of nature reserves based on criteria Scientists do not overthrow the traditional way of designating wilderness, but rather complement it. To understand this, we will need both an overview of the conservation movement and a metaphor to describe it.

The metaphor I use is to think of the conservation movement as if it were a river, with tributaries coming down from high ground and glacial cirques to mix and flow together in the main basin. From the air, from a bird's eye view, we will have a good perspective that will allow us to see the entire basin stretching out in front of us. The headwater streams that flow together to form the Río Salvaje are those for wildlife protection, management, beauty protection, and forest protection. Downstream, they are joined by tributaries of wilderness protection, ecosystem representation, carnivore protection, connectivity[lxxiv], and wilderness restoration[lxxv]. Nearby, but separately, are the river basins of “recursismo[lxxvi]” and environmentalism[lxxvii]. I see environmentalism (fighting pollution), conservationism (wildlife and wildlife protection), and resourceism as separate movements that differ in their views of humans and Nature. Some of the streams at the headwaters of the Río Recursismo originate from the same cliffs and peaks that feed the Río Salvaje, however, they flow in different directions. The Río Ambientalismo and Río Salvaje do not originate in the same watershed, although their courses later flow parallel with only a narrow strip of land separating them. All the streams that feed the conservation movement spring from protecting the land and wildlife from the threats of development and exploitation.

From the furthest pass flow the rough waters of the stream of the Protection of Wild Fauna. Contrary to popular belief, American conservationism was born from the protection of wildlife and not from the protection of forests. English aristocrat William Henry Herbert came to America in 1831 and brought with him the "sports hunter code." In his role as a man of the woods as “Frank Forester”[1][1], Herbert fought against the predatory nature of commercial hunting at the time and encouraged sport hunters to unite and fight against hunters. unscrupulous[lxxix]. The national hunting magazines were born in the 1870s and joined the fight against the commercial exploitation of hunting and fishing and in favor of the protection of habitats. Sport hunters and their magazines went on a rampage against the unreason of the bison slaughter. The first national conservation group was not the Sierra Club (founded in 1882) but the Boone and Crocket Club[lxxx], founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt[lxxxi] and his fellow hunters. The role of the Boone and Crocket Club in creating the first national parks, wildlife refuges, and forest preserves has been largely overlooked by historians as well as conservationists today (Reiger 1990).

The second stream of the header is that of Management. One of the most prominent Americans of the 19th century was George Perkins Marsh[lxxxii] of Vermont. As ambassador, under the presidency of Lincoln[lxxxiii], first in Turkey and later in Italy, Marsh visited different places in the Mediterranean where, among the ruins of classical civilizations, he found the ruins of the earth. The rocky, treeless hills of Greece were as much a testament to a vanished civilization as was the crumbling Acropolis. His 1864 book, Man and Nature; or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action, is one of the reference texts both in history and science. In it he wrote: —Wherever he goes, man is nothing but a disturbing element. Wherever he steps, he turns the harmony of nature into discord.” Phillip Shabecoff (1993), who was the first foreign correspondent for the New York Times and later an environmental reporter, wrote: —Marsh was the first to demonstrate that the cumulative impact of human activity was not negligible and that, far from being benign, it could cause permanent and widespread destruction on the surface of the earth.” In addition, the Maltusiano spring [lxxxiv] also feeds the Gestión stream. Management is necessary to combat soil erosion and other negative consequences of careless land use; more recently, management has tried to deal with the threats of human population growth and resource depletion.

The third stream in the headwaters is the Beauty—protection of national parks and other similar places to safeguard their spectacular and inspiring landscapes. Yosemite Valley[lxxxv] in the

[lxxvii] —Environmentalism” in the original. N. from trans.

[lxxviii] Frank Forester is the pseudonym with which Henry William Herbert signed his writings. N. from trans.

[lxxix] —Game Hogs” in the original; literally means —the hogs of the hunt” and refers to hunters who hunt abusively. For reasons of style I have considered that it is better —unscrupulous hunters”. N. from trans.

[lxxx] The name of the club refers to the legendary American hunters and trappers Daniel Boone and David Crocket. N. from trans.

[lxxxi] Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was the twenty-sixth president of the US N. from trans.

[lxxxii] George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882), was a United States diplomat and philologist. N. from trans.

[lxxxiii] Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was the 16th President of the United States, considered by some to be the first conservationist in the United States. N. from trans.

[lxxxiv] In reference to the famous principle of Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), an English economist and demographer. Author of the theory on the gap between the rate of population growth and the rate of growth of resources; According to this principle, the population grows faster than the resources, leading to its progressive impoverishment. N. from trans.

[lxxxv] Protected Natural Area of the United States; is located in the state of California. N. from trans.

California's Sierra Nevada[lxxxvi], was not discovered by white settlers until 1851 and the huge redwoods[lxxxvii] around it were not described until 1852. Within a few years the valley and the redwoods were attracting visitors who wanted to behold their splendor. In 1859, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune[lxxxT111], visited Yosemite Valley and wrote for his readers that it was "the most unique and majestic of natural wonders." (Runte 1987). Five years later, on June 30, 1864, while taking a break from the burden of the Civil War[lxxxix], President Abraham Lincoln signed a document transferring ownership of the beautiful Yosemite Valley and redwood forest Mariposa Grove[xc] to California status as a public park.

American citizens supported the preservation of Yellowstone[xci], Yosemite, and the rest of the early national parks primarily because of their beauty, although other factors, such as easy rail access, helped drive the political decision. Conservationists feared that all of America's natural wonders would be threatened by the development of mass tourism and industrial exploitation, as had been the case since the 1830s at Niagara Falls . Alfred Runte[xcii] (1987) writes: —In the fate of Niagara Falls, Americans found compelling reasons to take conservation seriously.... A continuous parade of European visitors and onlookers embarrassed the nation in condemning the commercialization of Niagara." All of this also happened, and in a similar way, in the conservation movement in Canada.

The fourth and last stream in the headwaters is the Forest Protection. It is born from a mountain lake, it falls in the form of a waterfall but just after a rock ledge divides it into two courses. One of them flows into the River of Recursiveness with Gifford Pinchot[xciii], and the other joins the Wild River with John Muir[xciv]. In the 1880s, business interests in New York City led to calls for protection of the Adirondacks[xcv] to ensure a quality water supply from the headwaters of the Hudson River[xcvi]. In the West, irrigators and cities were concerned about the destruction of river basins due to overgrazing and logging in the highlands, and therefore asked for their protection. Lovers of the forests, led by John Muir, feared that all natural forests would be razed to the ground by logging companies. New York protected the state lands of the Adirondacks, and Congress authorized the President to preserve the forests of the West.

The Forest Reserve Act[xcvii] of 1891, as Samuel Hays (1979) explains, —was limited to establishing forest reserves but did not specify anything about their management”. Conservationists, from Muir to the sport hunters of the Boone and Crocket Club, hoped to keep forest preserves from commercial logging, grazing, and other uses. They wanted the reserves to be protected for their water, recreational and landscape values as well as to serve as habitat for wildlife. However, Gifford Pinchot called for "management" that included logging, grazing, and dam construction.

[lxxxvi] Mountain range located in the state of California and in certain places bordering the neighboring state of Nevada. N. from trans.

[lxxxvii] Sequoiadendron giganteum. N. of the trad.

[lxxxviii] New York newspaper founded in 1841 by Horace Greeley, now deceased. N. from trans.

[lxxxix] Refers to the American Civil War (1861-1865). N. from trans.

[xc] Redwood forest located in the southernmost part of Yosemite National Park. It is the area of the park with the largest number of giant sequoias. N. from trans.

[xci] In reference to the Yellowstone National Park protected since 1872 and the first national park in the world. Its location is divided between the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. N. from trans.

[xcii] Alfred Runte is an American environmental historian. N. from trans.

[xciii] Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946) was an American politician, agricultural engineer, and botanist. He was the first head of the United States Forest Service; During his mandate, he stood out for defending the conservation of the nation's reserves through a planned use of them to allow their constant renewal. N. of the trad.

[xciv] John Muir (1838-1914) Scottish-American naturalist and conservationist. N. from trans.

[xcv] Mountain massif located in northwestern New York State; in 1882 it was declared a national park. N. from trans.

[xcvi] River 506 kilometers long that runs mainly through the state of New York. N. from trad

[xcv]" Law passed in 1891 authorizing the President of the United States to 'set aside' lands from the public domain and establish forest reserves on them; these lands would be managed by the Department of the Interior. N. del trad.

The Organic Law of 1897, spurred on by Pinchot, opened the reserves to commercial exploitation. In any case, for both Muir and Pinchot, protecting forests was a response to the threat posed by uncontrolled and inefficient logging.

Downstream, another tributary - the Wild Territory[xcviii] - joins the Wild River. The movement focused on the preservation of wild areas was born at the hands of Forest Service agents, such as Art Carhart and Aldo Leopold. Leopold, who protested against the automobile encroachment on the countryside[xcix], feared that increasing automobile access to national forests would destroy and replace the skills of early forest rangers. He wanted to preserve the possibility of experiencing what he had experienced when he visited the Apache National Forest in Arizona in 1909. Leopold said “Wild areas are mostly havens for travel by primitive means, especially by canoe and on foot” (1987). In 1921, he defined wilderness as —an unbroken expanse of land preserved in its natural state, where legal hunting and fishing can be done, large enough to travel on foot for two weeks without seeing roads, manmade roads, huts nor other works of man. (Leopold 1921). The countryside was threatened by cars and roads. I needed protection. In the 1930s, conservationists such as Bob Marshall called for protecting existing wilderness areas within national parks as they were being threatened by proposals from both the Forest Service and the tourism industry to build scenic highways.].

On the other bank of the Río Salvaje, just downstream from the confluence with the tributary Territorio Salvaje, the tributary Representación de los Ecosistemas empties. As early as 1926, The Naturalist's Guide to the Americas, edited by prominent biologist Victor Shelford[cii], called for the protection of ecologically representative natural areas. Both the National Audubon Society[ciii] and The Nature Conservancy[civ] have attempted to purchase and protect ecosystems that were not represented in state and federal protected areas. The National Park Service and conservationists have attempted to establish national parks representing all the major ecosystems, though, admittedly, without complete success. The Eastern Wilderness Areas Act of 1975, which established legal protection for national forest wilderness areas east of the Rockies, was explicit about the representation of different ecosystems. During RARE II, the Forest Service, with the support of conservationists, sought to designate new wilderness areas to protect previously unprotected ecosystems. This search was motivated by the threats that development entailed. However, the fight for the representation of ecosystems has not achieved the necessary relevance. In a special report for the Department of the Interior, Reed Noss and coauthors (1995) detail the poor record of the United States in protecting representative ecosystems.

Below, the Predator Protection tributary bursts forth like an impressive waterfall. In —A Natural Refuge Plan”, unanimously approved by the Ecological Society of America[cv] on December 28, 1932, Victor Shelford wrote, —Biologists are beginning to realize that it is dangerous to modify nature by introducing plants or animals , eliminating predators or favoring herbivores...”. The Ecological Society said that entire communities of native species should be protected, including large carnivores and the natural fluctuations that occur in the number of individuals of a species (Shelford 1933). Back then protecting wolves and cougars was very daring, so in my metaphor I represent this tributary as a

xcviu —Wilderness” in the original. In this case I have translated it as "Wild Territory". N. from trans.

xcix —Ford dust” in the original; the literal translation would be something like "the dust storms raised by Ford brand cars", for reasons of style I have translated it as "car invasion of the countryside". N. from trans.

[c] National Forest established in 1908 and located in the state of Arizona. N. from trans.

[ci] —Scenic highways” in the original. N. from trans.

[cii] Victor Shelford (1877-1968) was an American zoologist and ecologist. N. from trans.

[ciii] American NGO founded in 1905 and dedicated to nature conservation. N. from trans.

[civ] International NGO dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and the natural environment. N. from trans.

[cv] American professional organization of ecologists who carry out scientific studies, in different branches, on how organisms relate to their environments. N. from trad. waterfall. Large carnivores were clearly under threat of disappearing from the United States, even in national parks.

In the 1960s another tributary of the conservation river was born with the work of EO Wilson[cvi] and Robert MacArthur[cvii] on island biogeography[cviii]. The number of species per unit area is closely related to the biogeography of islands. Michael Soulé (1995) writes, —One of the principles of modern ecology is that the number of species that a given area can support is directly proportional to its area. As a corollary, if the area is reduced the number of species falls”. Species-area relationships have been shown with birds, mammals, reptiles, and other animals on the Greater Sunda Islands[cix] (located in the Malay Archipelago), on Caribbean islands, and elsewhere. An accepted ecological rule is that if the area occupied by a habitat is reduced by 90 percent, 50 percent of the species will be lost.

In 1985, University of Michigan ecologist William Newmark, looking at a map of the western United States and Canada, realized that our national parks were islands. As the sea of settlement and logging engulfed North America, national parks became ecological islands surrounded by human-dominated land. Could the theory of island biogeography be applied to this situation? Newmark realized that the smaller a national park was, and the more isolated it was from other wilderness, the greater the number of species it had lost. The first species to disappear had been those that needed wide range areas —like the lynx and the wolverine[cx]. Species loss (relaxation in ecological jargon) had occurred and was still occurring. Newmark (1987) predicted that all national parks would continue to lose species (as Soulé had previously predicted for reserves in East Africa). —Without the active intervention of park managers, it is quite likely that as the isolation of western North American parks grows the loss of mammals will continue.” Even Yellowstone National Park is not large enough to support viable populations of all the mammals that need extensive ranges. Only the complex formed by the connection of all the national parks of the Canadian Rockies reaches an area large enough to guarantee its survival.

Bruce Wilcox[cxi] and Dennis Murphy[cxii] (1985) wrote that —habitat fragmentation constitutes the most serious threat to biological diversity and is the main cause of the current extinction crisis”. Reed Noss, then at the University of Florida, responded to this warning by designing a conceptual system of nature reserves for Florida, consisting of core reserves each surrounded by buffer zones and interconnected by ecological corridors. In an article presented in 1986 at the Natural Areas Conference[cxiii], Noss (1987) said: —The problems of habitat isolation, derived from their fragmentation, can be mitigated by connecting natural areas through corridors or zones with suitable habitats.

This tributary of connectivity was born as a consequence of the threats of fragmentation posed by dams, highways, logging and other dangers inherent to development.

Those of us who navigate rivers know that it can take a long time before the water of a tributary mixes completely with the main current. We see this in the Yukon[cxiv], when a

[cvi] Edward O. Wilson (1929-) is an American biologist; He is mainly known for his works on evolution and on sociobiology. He also stands out for his work on the theory of island biogeography. N. from trans.

[cvii] Robert MacArthur (1930-1972) was a Canadian biologist noted for his work in population ecology and community ecology. N. from trans.

[cviii] Island biogeography is a field within biogeography that attempts to study the factors that affect the number of species existing within an isolated biotic community. N. from trans.

[cix] The Greater Sunda Islands are a group of islands that includes Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and Celebes. N. from trans.

[cx] Gulo gulo. N. from trans.

[cxi] Bruce Wilcox is an American conservation biologist. He was one of those responsible for coining the term conservation biology. N. from trans.

[cxii] Dennis Murphy is a conservation biologist at the University of Nevada. N. from trans.

[cxiii] Annual congress of the American NGO Natural Areas Association, focused on bringing together and giving support to people and institutions that work in the management and protection of natural areas. N. from trans.

[cxiv] The Yukon is the westernmost of Canada's three Northern Territories. N. trad. milky stream of melting ice empties into the clear waters of another river. A similar scene is repeated in the Southwest, when a clear mountain stream mixes with the reddish waters of a silt-filled river. For miles the two separate streams can be seen by color.

The above is what has happened in our river. The tributaries of wildlife protection, management, beauty, forest protection, and wilderness protection have mixed together quite well; however, the tributary waters of ecosystem representation, predator protection, and ecosystem connectivity have not blended as well. Today, a new tributary has been added - Wilderness Restoration. Unlike the previous currents, this one mixes well with the previous ones, merging into a deep, wide and powerful river.

Soulé and Noss (1998), —distinguish three independent features that characterize the current movement for the restoration of wilderness areas:

-Large and strictly protected reserves-nucleus (the wild).


-Key species.”

In short, these are —the three Cs: Cores, Runners and Carnivores'”'“'.

The wilderness restoration approach is based on recent scientific findings showing that the integrity of ecosystems often depends on the role played by large 'arnivores. Mi'hael Soulé and his graduate students (1988) have shown that native songbirds thrive in large suburban San Diego yearlings where there are oyotes; these birds will disappear faster when they also disappear in the oyotes. The 'oyotes eat the foxes and the prolific domestic cats. Foxes and cats 'omen 'odorni'es, desert matra'as['x'i], thrushes and their clutches are also 'ome['x'ii].

In the East, Da'id Wil'o'e['x'iii], an e'ologist working for the En'ironmental Defense Fund['xix], has discovered that some 'eating birds are 'last of the elimination of wolves and cougars. As we have already seen, the decrease in the population of a'es 'antors' as a consequence of the fragmentation of the forests is well documented, however, Wil'o 'e (1986) has shown that this decline is, in part, due to the absence of large amphibians in the East. Cougars and gray wolves don't 'eat urru'as['xx] or their eggs, but mapa'hes, foxes, skunks['xxi] and opossums['xxii] yes ha'en; and cougars and wolves eat these medium-sized predators. When large mu'ha'hos['xxiii] are wiped out, populations of medium-sized mu'ha'hos'xxiv skyrocket—with dire results for the birds. Soulé refers to this phenomenon—the multiplication of the number of medium-sized predators in the absence of large predators—as

[cxv] In English —núcleo” is —core” that is why Foreman calls these three fundamental features the three Cs; alluding to the initials of 'cores (nuclei), corridors (runners) and carnivores (carnivores)'. N. from trans.

[cxvi] Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus. N. from trans.

[cxvii] —Foxes and cats eat quail, cactus wrens, trashers and their nestlings”, in the original. —Quail” is the common name given to different genera of the order Galliformes. It includes the different species of quail but also breadsticks and humps. As for —Thrashers”, it is used to refer to 15 species of the family Mimidae (family of passerine birds). However, for simplicity, since the meaning of the text is not altered, it has been translated —quail” by —quails” and —thrashers” by —thrushes”. N. from trans.

[cxviii] David Wilcove is a conservation biologist at Princeton University. N. from trans.

[cxix] Environmental NGO based in New York. N. from trans.

[cxx] —Warblers” in the original. At first, in English, the term —warbler” referred to the warblers of the Old World (genus Sylvia), but later, after the colonization of North America and other continents, this term has been used as a common name to designate numerous species of passerine birds (birds) that in reality are not always related to the sylvids. In the absence of more information, it is difficult to know exactly what species of bird Foreman is referring to in this case. N. from trans.

[cxxi] Carnivorous mammals of the family Mephitidae. N. from trans.

[cxxii] Didelphis virginiana. N. of the trad.

[cxxiii] —Big guys” in the original. N. from trans.

[cxxiv] —Middling guys” in the original. N. from trans.

mesopredatory explosion[cxxv]. John Terborgh[cxxvi] of Duke University (in my opinion the dean of trophic ecology) is currently studying the ecological effects of removing jaguars, pumas and the greater harpy[cxxvii] in tropical forests. It tells us that large carnivores are the primary regulators of prey numbers—the opposite of what was once ecological orthodoxy. He has also discovered that the elimination or population reduction of large carnivores can alter the composition of plant communities, specifically, the ratio between large-seeded and small-seeded plants, this is due to increased seed consumption. and of shrubs due to the superabundance of herbivores whose numbers are normally regulated by large carnivores. This is known as a trophic cascade[cxxviii] (Soulé and Noss 1998). There is convincing evidence for the existence of this top-down regulation in forests outside tropical areas as well.

Wilderness restoration is, according to Soulé and Noss, “the scientific argument for restoring large wilderness areas based on the regulatory role played by large carnivores.”

Three main scientific arguments make up the case for wilderness restoration and justify the emphasis on the importance of top predators. First, the structure, resilience[cxxix] and diversity of ecosystems are often underpinned by 'top-down' ecological (trophic) interactions, initiated by apex predators (Terborgh 1988, Terborgh et al. 1999 ). Second, predators that need large home ranges typically need large pockets of protected territory for foraging, seasonal movement, and other needs; such species justify the need for large areas. Third, connectivity is also necessary because in most regions, core reserves are usually not large enough; For this reason, they must be connected to ensure the long-term viability of species that require large ranges. In summary, the argument for the restoration of wild areas postulates that large predators often contribute decisively to maintaining the integrity of ecosystems. For their part, large predators require extensive and interconnected spaces (Soulé and Noss 1998).

If large autochthonous carnivores have been extirpated from a region, their reintroduction and recovery is essential to a conservation strategy. Wolves, grizzly bears, cougars, bobcats, wolverines, black bears, jaguars, and other apex predators need to be restored to their natural ranges across North America.

Despite the fact that Soulé and Noss (1998) affirm that —Our main postulate is that the restoration of wild areas is a crucial step to restore self-regulating communities”, they claim two justifications that are not scientific: (1) —the ethics of responsibility human,” and (2) —the emotional and subjective essence of 'the wild' or wilderness. Wilderness areas are hardly 'wild' where apex predators such as cougars, wolves, wolverines, grizzlies or black bears have been extirpated. Without these components, nature appears somehow incomplete, truncated, too domesticated. Human opportunities to be humble are reduced.”

What Soulé and Noss have done marks a milestone of crucial importance for the wilderness conservation movement as well as for those more concerned with protecting biological diversity. They have developed the scientific basis to justify the need for large wilderness complexes. Here, science underpins the desires and values of those who recreate in the wilderness. The great wildernesses are not only necessary to be inspired and to experience what

[cxxv] —Mesopredator release” in the original. N. from trans.

[cxxvi] John Terborgh is an American conservation biologist. N. from trans.

[cxxvii] Harpia harpyja. N. of the trad.

[cxxviii] —Top-down regulation” in the original; although the literal translation —top-down regulation” is perfectly understandable given the context -in fact it is the translation that I have used elsewhere- here I have preferred to use the term trophic cascade since this term is widely used in Spanish to designate —regulation from top to bottom”. N. from trans.

[cxxix] Resilience in ecology is the ability of ecosystems to absorb and recover from disturbances. N. of the wild trans. in them but are absolutely necessary for the protection and restoration of ecological integrity, native species and evolution.

In some of his writings, Soulé describes wilderness areas as self-regulated, which is just another way of saying that they have a will of their own[cxxx] or that they have no obstacles[cxxxi].

Metaphors are never perfect, but this way of looking at the conservation movement as the Wild River watershed, with different tributaries giving it strength, diversity, and nutrients, is damn good. It allows us to see that the new tributaries have not replaced the old ones. It shows that the headwater streams that initially formed the Rio Salvaje did not disappear when new tributaries flowed into it. It shows the compatibility between the “scientific” tributaries and the ascetic and recreational tributaries. And it shows how the threat of destruction gave rise to all these currents in favor of conservation.

Wilderness and biodiversity conservation are not airy romantic fantasies to recapture a mythical past of purity and goodness, but rather real, earthly efforts to self-willedly protect the earth from the harms of a growing population, from sprawling of settlements and increased mechanization.


Foreman, Dave. 1998. —Wilderness areas for real”. In: Callicott, J. Baird; Nelson, Michael P., eds., The Great New Wilderness Debate. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press: 395-407.

Hays, Samuel P. 1979. Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency: The Progressive Conservation Movement 18901920. New York: Atheneum. p. 297.

Hays, Samuel P. 1996. —The trouble with Bill Cronon's wilderness”. Environmental History. 1(1): 29-32.

Leopold, Aldo. 1921. —The wilderness and its place in forest recreational policy”. The Journal of Forestry. 19(7): 718-721.

Leopold, Aldo. 1987. A Sand County Almanac. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 228.

Pauling, Linus. 1995. Science. 270: 1236.

Reiger, John F. 1990. —The sportsman factor in early conservation.” In: Nash, Roderick Frazier, ed., American Environmentalism: Readings In Conservation History. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishers: 52-58.

Newmark, William D. 1987. —A land-bridge island perspective on mammalian extinctions in western North American parks”. Nature. 325: 430-432.

Noss, Reed F. 1987. —Protecting natural areas in fragmented landscapes”. Natural Areas Journal. 7(1): 213.

Noss, Reed F.; LaRoe, Edward T. III; Scott, J.Michael. 1995. Endangered Ecosystems of the United States: A Preliminary Assessment of Loss and Degradation. Washington, DC: USDI National Biological Service. Biological Report 28. p. 58.

Runte, Alfred. 1987. National Parks: The American Experience. Second Edition. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. p. 335.

Shabeckoff, Philip. 1993. A fierce green fire: The American Environmental Movement. New York: Hill and Wang: 55-59.

Shelford, Victor E. 1933. —The preservation of natural biotic communities”. Ecology. 14(2): 240-245.

cxxx —Self-willed” in the original. N. from trans.

cxxxi —Untrammeled” in the original. N. from trans.

Soule, Michael E.; Boulger, DT; Alberts, AC; Sauvajot, R.; Wright, J.; Sorice, M.; Hill, S. 1988. —Reconstructed dynamics of rapid extinctions of chaparral-requiring birds in urban habitat islands”. Conservation Biology 2(1): 75-92.

Soule, Michael E. 1995. —An unflinching vision: networks of people defending networks of land”. In: Saunders, DA; Craig, JL; Mattiske, EM, eds. Nature conservation 4: The Role of Networks. Surrey Beatty & Sons: 1-8.

Soule, Michael E.; Noss, Reed F. 1998. —Rewilding and biodiversity: complementary goals for continental conservation”. Wild Earth. 8(3): 18-26.

Terborgh, John. 1988. —The big things that run the world—a sequel to EO Wilson”. Conservation Biology. 2(4): 402-403.

Terborgh, John; Estes, J.A.; Packet, P.; Ralls, K.; Boyd-Heger, D.; Miller, BJ; Noss, RF 1999. —The role of top carnivores in regulating terrestrial ecosystems”. In: Soule, Michael E.; Terborgh, John, eds., Continental Conservation: Design and Management Principles for Long-Term, Regional Conservation Networks. Washington, DC: Island Press: 39-64.

Vest, Jay Hansford C. 1985. —Will of the land.” Environmental Review. 9(4): 321-329.

Wilcove, David S.; McLellan, CH; Dobson, AP 1986. —Habitat fragmentation in the temperate zone”. In: Soule, Michael E., ed. Conservation Biology: The Science of Scarcity and Diversity. Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer: 237-256.

Wilcox, Bruce A.; Murphy, Dennis D. 1985. —Conservation strategy: the effects of fragmentation on extinction”. American Naturalist. 125: 879-887.

Petagrams (=10[12] grams) of carbon per year. N. from t.

[n] “Device that shoots cyanide directly into the mouth of the predator when it tries to take a bait. N. from t.

[o] One pound is approximately equal to 453.6 grams. N. from t.

Presentation of “INTIMATE PLACES”

Despite being a rather superficial text and being framed in the typical current of current Deep Ecology (idealist and hippy), this text could be interesting mainly for two of the topics it touches on: the discussion about the concept of “wilderness” ( a concept difficult to translate in a simple way whose meaning oscillates, depending on the case, between “completely virgin area” and “natural space”) and the idea that the personal experience of individuals determines the attitude they have towards the natural world. The author's interpretations and conclusions regarding these two aspects are not important (in fact, they are more than debatable in many cases). The really interesting thing is that it could serve as an introduction to the two topics covered and the questions they imply. Among others: what do concepts such as “Nature”, “natural”, “wild”, etc. mean (and what not)? To what extent is experience and learning important (or not) when it comes to developing an attitude and having certain values? Are nature lovers born or made?


By John Revington[935]

There is a strong connection between our separation from Earth[936] and the damage we do to it. This is nothing new. It's kind of obvious; It has been said on countless occasions and it is not very useful to stop lamenting our alienation and pointing out the importance of ending it. Humans are not inclined to develop intimacy with the places they inhabit just because ethically it would be okay to do so. Changes that are made solely out of a sense of duty lack authenticity and are often not sustainable. But there is a much more powerful reason to develop relationships with the land. Intimacy enriches our lives, whether it occurs with the people we meet or the places we inhabit. On the other hand, if we remain detached from the places we inhabit, our lives become impoverished in all aspects, in the same way as if we never get close to the people with whom we live. So this article explores the ways in which we can learn to develop intimacy with the places we know.

Culture as a barrier

To discover how we can develop a deeper connection with the places we inhabit, it will be helpful to investigate the barriers our culture erects between us and the natural world. My dictionary gives a definition of the word culture as "the sum total of ways of life created by a group of human beings, which is transmitted from one generation to another" and this is the sense in which I use the term. The culture I am talking about is the one produced by the computer you are probably using to read this. It is a culture that prevents rather than promotes intimate relationships with the places in our lives.

Is it realistic to expect people to develop a deep sense of place in our culture? Most of us are not directly dependent on where we live for our food, clothing, and shelter, and therefore our relationships, even with those places that are most familiar to us, end up being conceptual and aesthetic rather than purely emotional. vital. If we take a broader perspective, we can see that life and death are very present. However, we know that not immediately, but on a conceptual level.

It's one thing to know intellectually that if the world's farmland runs out, a lot of people will go hungry for the next ten years; It is quite another to know that if the land I live on stops producing food, then I and my loved ones will starve. In traditional hunter-gatherer societies, every action, every moment, implies some kind of bond with the natural world, and survival depends on those bonds. In our culture this fundamental immediacy has been lost.

In this regard it is worth noting how limited ideas about saving "the planet" or "Earth" or "Gaia" are. While such ideas are useful, I think they lack the power that direct experience brings. I cannot experience the entire Earth directly. It's too big. I can only experience specific parts of the Earth. The Earth will always remain just a concept, no matter how powerful that concept is. Consequently, I believe that the strongest and most authentic motive for environmental activism is rooted more in our affection for particular parts of the Earth than in a commitment to an abstract idea of the whole of Earth. This is what Thomashow's findings, discussed below, suggest about the childhood experiences of environmental activists.

Another effect of our culture is that it physically isolates most of us from the natural world, as James Lovelock points out:

“ Imagine a world in which men and women were raised separately until adulthood. This would not facilitate love relationships. The fact that the Earth is being violated rather than loved may have its origin in our unnatural urban separation from it. [Quoted by Swan, 1990, page 12].

But the separation is not only physical. When compared to indigenous people, members of our culture are at a serious disadvantage even if they are fortunate enough to live in places where the land is not covered with asphalt and concrete. Robert Greenway has been guiding wilderness outings[937] for over twenty years to help people strengthen their connections to wilderness. He believes that the success of these excursions to “experience the wilderness” depends on “the extent to which we are able to leave our culture behind” (Greenway, 1995).

On the other hand, traditional hunter-gatherer societies do not need to leave their culture behind to enter into communion with Nature. Such an idea would seem extremely strange to them, since their cultures are the expression of their ties to the land. Such links are present in information about food and its procurement, totem animals, creation stories, sacred places, shelter building, dress making, and many other areas of life. In fact, it will be difficult to find any aspect of these cultures that does not refer us in some way to a link between a person and a place. In our culture, these direct connections have been supplanted by our dependence on stores, institutions, and money.

Another way our culture works against that intimacy is by making time a scarce commodity. Intimacy generally requires conversation, and as David Orr points out, “Good conversation is to be kept unhurried. It has to have its own rhythm and cadence. Dialogue with nature cannot be rushed. It must be governed by the cycles of day and night, by the seasons, by the rhythm of procreation, and by the larger compass of evolutionary and geological time. The human sense of time is increasingly frenetic, marked by clocks, computers and revolutions in transportation and communications. [Orr, page 53].

If we allow our busy lives to dictate the amount of time we can spend in natural places, then we are likely to engage in hurried monologues instead of good conversations.

Cataloging the defects of our culture is not particularly helpful if we stop there. But an understanding of the roots of our alienation is essential if we are to do anything to combat it. What our culture does is place restrictions on the ways in which we interact with the natural world and, coming to the point of this text, interaction is the key to intimacy, whether that intimacy is with the land or with the land. with other humans.

Let me use an analogy. Suppose I fell in love with a woman as soon as I saw her for the first time. Unless he was scared or, for some other reason, more inclined to observe life than to live it (he could be an Internet addict or an intellectual) he would immediately want to go from looking at her to chatting with her. If that looked good, I might want us to get into a relationship, to develop intimacy. If I were prevented from doing those things, all I could do was look at her, admire her from afar. He might come to believe that simply by being in his presence, he had already come into contact with his spirit. But without real interaction, how could I know that what I came into contact with wasn't just my own projection? Even if she could try to maintain that contact, the first excitement of falling in love would inevitably fade. In the absence of any real experience of that woman, I would be creating fantasies about what she would be like. There would be a relationship, not between me and another person, but between me and my fantasy.

I don't want to go too far into this analogy. What I want to point out is that a relationship with a piece of land, based solely on appreciation for its visual beauty, will always remain one-dimensional. A sustainable and satisfying relationship is only possible through interaction.

The title “Intimate Places” is a cheap trick to get your attention, and since you're still reading, it seems to have worked pretty well. But the comparison between the relationships between human individuals and the relationships between humans and the earth was more than a way to catch your attention. It offers a useful way to look at our relationships with the earth and the assumptions we make about them.

In order to explore these implications a bit more deeply, I would like to briefly discuss the concepts of 'natural places', 'wildlands' and 'intermediate areas'. By “natural places”, I mean those where there are a large proportion of natural species that are not under the direct control of humans. This definition is deliberately imprecise and does not refer exclusively to “wilderness” areas, which I consider to be areas where overt human intervention is minimal. Areas that are natural but not wilderness I have called “intermediate areas”.

In general, we learn to relate to our environment through interaction, just as we get to know people through interaction with them. In other words, we test our knowledge and understanding through action, and any further action will be determined in part by how the environment responds to that action. This is true whether we are talking about how children learn to walk, how two adults learn to relate to each other in mutually satisfying ways, or how someone learns to use the Internet.

Is wild nature[939] a story?

When it comes to wilderness, however, interaction seems to be discouraged, as Steven Van Matre points out:

“ It is a sad irony that many of the institutions that should be countering such [alienating] views (parks, reserves, nature interpretation centers) have become so jealous about the number of visitors they receive that they are often perpetuating unconsciously the separation of people from the natural world around them. A huge number of signs („Do not leave the road', „No collecting', „Keep distance', „No running', „Do not touch') have become the usual solutions to control visitors nowadays” . [Van Matre, 1979, page 7].

By definition, a place is not considered "wild" unless the amount of human impact on it is negligible. So when we enter a protected natural area[940], our relationship is usually reduced to passive observation. Although we can walk or row through it or camp in it, I think there is a fundamental difference between this type of relationship and the relationships that usually develop in a normal context. Going back to our analogy, one could argue that simply admiring a picturesque landscape is a bit like looking at the Playboy magazine centerfold. In neither case does the observer have a satisfactory relationship with the object of his admiration. Making love to a place or person requires intimate knowledge and requires interaction rather than passive observation.

The very concept of wilderness as places where humans have had no impact does not hold up to closer scrutiny. A popular anti-environment bumper sticker for car windows proclaims that "the only truly wilderness[941] is between an environmentalist's ears." There is more to this statement than most environmentalists would admit, since wilderness as most people understand it is more of a concept than a reality. The idea of wild lands understood as “untouched” has been denied by many authors, including Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton, who points out that the so-called wild lands “have been inhabited and used by indigenous people for thousands of years”. [Langton, 1996, page 16].

Therefore, the difference between wilderness and non-wildness is false, and the same forces operate on both sides (a fact that humans ignore and endanger themselves. I am not denying that such a distinction is useful, in fact it is essential. . But it is also useful to realize that such a distinction is ultimately non-existent. Humans are subject to the same limits and processes as other creatures, and the idea that we are something apart negates that evidence.)

I am not suggesting that since the notion of 'wilderness' is based on a false duality, it should be sold to developers. Given the predatory nature of our relationship with the Earth, it is essential that these areas remain intact. What I want to emphasize here is that our relationship with these areas is limited, and therefore they should not be the only areas in which we look for a connection with the natural world.

The places where humans have impacted nature are vitally important because we have the ability to interact with them in ways that we cannot in the wild. It is our relationship with these places that I would like to discuss next.

Intermediate areas

Eshana has tested the hypothesis that “experience of natural environments is more beneficial for psychological health than experience of human-made environments” [Bragg, 1992, page 53]. This author has examined the responses of various study subjects to three types of environment: a city street, a suburban park, and “open woods and meadows with views of nearby wetlands and hills” [<em>Ibid</em >., page 70].

As the author points out, the results do not support the idea that the more natural the environment, the greater the psychological benefits:

An unexpected result was that the environment with an intermediate degree of “naturalness” (the suburban park) produced the most positive responses. The hypothesis that short-term psychological benefits increase as one moves down the gradient from “human-influenced environments to natural environments” did not hold [Ibid., page 80] .

I would say that one of the reasons the study subjects benefited more from contact with the park than from contact with wilderness[942] is that they were able to interact more fully with the park, or that at least they could see evidence of such interaction. Being actively involved is somehow more satisfying than just passive observation.

Since traditional Aboriginal Australians have an intimate interactive relationship with their environment, and since their culture encourages rather than hinders such relationships, it will be useful to consider their experience.

In the words of the great anthropologist, WE Stanner, Aboriginal people before the white encroachment did not move “in a landscape, but in a humanized space saturated with meaning” [Rose, 1996, page 18]. Their world was not a wilderness, in the sense that it was far from untouched by humans. Rather than worshiping the land from afar, Aboriginal people had a deeply intimate relationship with their country.

As Deborah Rose points out, pre-invasion Aboriginal people were not shy about having an impact on the land:

“ There is no place on this continent where the feet of aboriginal humanity have not preceded those of the settlers. Nor is there anywhere where the countryside was not once worked and kept in a productive state by the land management practices of Aboriginal people [Rose, 1996, page 18].

" It is not possible to say with certainty," says Rose, "that the land management practices of Aboriginal people, especially their meticulous use of fire, were not responsible for the long-term productivity and biodiversity of this continent." As well as management through the use of fire, the aborigines practiced selective harvesting and extensive organization of reserves, and also promoted the regeneration of plants and animals” [Ibíd., page 10].

The relationship went far beyond the merely practical. To use Stanner's expression, the field was "saturated with meanings" that involved much more than resource management. For traditional Aboriginal culture, “tribal land had sacred origins, sacred and dangerous places, sources of life and places of death” [Ibid., page 9]. The key aspects of this relationship, therefore, were management, intimacy, regular interaction, and sacredness. It is interesting to compare these with those factors identified as necessary for effective environmental education by Van Matre. I will deal with Van Matre's work a little further down.

Interaction with intermediate environments offers other advantages when it comes to strengthening our relationship with the Earth. There is no doubt that the wilderness experience can bring many people a deep connection that is otherwise unattainable. But few people can go to a wild place every week, and if everyone could, the huge numbers of visitors such places would receive would make them not so wild.

As Greenway [1995, p. 133] points out, “it is key to learn how to maintain, or integrate, knowledge gained in the wilderness when re-living in our 'culture'”. Intermediate environments could offer means to achieve this, and their accessibility is one of their greatest advantages. Cahalan [1995, page 217] points out that “producing food and cultivating the land can be fundamental aspects of the experience” of maintaining contact with natural processes.

I would now like to discuss childhood experiences of place, because these are one of the especially significant types of interaction.

Childhood connections to a place

The experiences of our childhood are of great importance for the development of a connection with concrete places. Thomashow [1995, page 12] argues that childhood memories of certain places need to be explored in order to “become aware of the connections we make with the land[943], awakening and maintaining those memories in our notion of the present”. Thomashow indicates that several theorists, including Joseph Chilton Pearce, Roger Hart, Edith Cobb, and Paul Shepard, believe that the period of childhood between the ages of nine and twelve is the most important in the formation of such connections. These childhood memories, says Thomashow, offer us an “idealized version of what it feels like to be attached to a place” [Ibid., page 12].

The importance of childhood connections in shaping our relationship to certain places, and thus to ecological concerns in general, is powerfully shown by Thomashow's observations of environmental activists from many countries with whom he worked during a period of more than fifteen years:

“ Despite the variety of international and cultural experiences, there is a striking common thematic pattern, they all tell a similar story. They have fond memories of a special place from childhood, formed through their connection to the land[944] through some kind of emotional experience, which is the basis of their attachment to the land or to their immediate neighborhood community. It is very common for these to be memories of play experiences, involving exploration, discovery, imagination, adventure, independence, and even danger. And what remains is the quality of the full descriptions of the vividly portrayed landscape that permeates his memories [Thomashow, page 9].

To see what conditions best promote the formation of childhood connections to certain places, I turn to Stephen Van Matre's writings on environmental education. Van Matre has written extensively about what it takes for children to experience the natural world in a way that is challenging and meaningful to them. Although environmental education and our development of connections to place are not identical processes, they do have much in common. Van Matre's work is therefore a valuable guide to what is needed for the early formation of important connections to place.

Overcoming taboos against touching things imposed by parents is one of the priorities, Van Matre. He has discovered that “many kids approach nature[945] as if they were encapsulated in plastic bubbles, isolated from contact with the stickiness of life by a series of prohibitions: Don't get dirty! Don't put that in your mouth! Do not wet yourself! Be careful not to damage the clothes! In short, life for many kids is something you look at but don't touch” [Van Matre, page 7].

One of Van Matre's premises is that “people learn better when they feel what they are learning” [Ibid., page 9]. I'm not sure if "feel" means "touch" or "experience an emotion" or both. It is probably no accident that the word "feel" has a double meaning. The connections between touching and experiencing emotions could be a productive research topic.

Solitude is highly valued by Van Matre as something that "promotes the acquisition of non-verbal skills such as waiting, observing and receiving. It sharpens awareness and reinforces the feeling of harmony with the world around us. It helps us understand what is happening to us, or simply gives us time to „be' and „be'[946]” [Ibid., page 9]. In our culture, solitude is often undervalued and hard to come by.

Collaboration is also important. As important as loneliness, according to Van Matre. He writes “people of all ages respond better if they can participate in something than if it is just shown to them”. Learning theorists have emphasized that self-directed learning is the most effective. Van Matre agrees: "The best learning experiences begin where the learner is, not where the teacher is, and it is the experience, not the teacher, that is the best teacher."

Another aspect of learning about the environment that Van Matre emphasizes is the importance of daily contact “with the elements of life” since it “refreshes our sensation of being and being[947] and renews our certainty that we are becoming part her[948]” [Ibid., page 9].

And finally, Van Matre sees that a magical sensation is indispensable. “In a good learning experience,” he says, “the medium should be the magic of discovery, wonder, and joy” [Ibid., page 9]. He doesn't try to define “magic”, neither will I. Whatever it is, I think it can be seen as an intrinsic quality of everything that exists. The magical sensation is despised by the most reductionist science, and finds its expression in the myths and sacredness that abound so much in indigenous cultures [...]



Bragg, E., 1992, “Short-Term Psychological Benefits of Natural Environments: Positive Moods and Mindfulness” in People and Physical Environment Research, no 39/40, January-April, 1992, University of Sydney.

Cahalan, W., 1995, “Ecological Groundedness in Gestalt Therapy” in Roszak, Gomes and Kramer (eds.), Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth; Healing the Mind, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco.

Greenway, R., “The Wilderness Effect and Ecopsychology' in Roszak, Gomes and Kramer (eds.) Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth; Healing the Mind, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco

Langton, M., “The European Construction of Wilderness” in Wilderness News, Summer 1995/6, The Wilderness Society, Hobart.

Quinn, D., Ishmael[949], Bantam/Turner, New York.

Rose, DB, 1996, “Nourishing Terrains: Australian Aboriginal Views of Landscape and Wilderness”, Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra.

Thomashow, M., 1995, “Ecological Identity”.

Swan, J., 1990, Sacred Places; How the Living Earth Seeks Our Friendship, Bear & Company, Santa Fe.

Van Matre, S., 1979, “Sunship Earth: An Earth Education Program; Getting to Know Your Place in Space”, American Camping Association, Martinsville

Deep Confusion In Intimate Places

(Some comments on the article “Intimate Places”. By AQ).

Indeed, this article addresses some issues that are enormously important to those of us who consider the autonomy of Wilderness our fundamental value and want to do what we can to defend it. Some examples of this would be: the influence of education/learning on the moral values of the individual, the influence of progressive ideologies on the development of the material factors of modern industrial society, the importance of science and rationality in the defense of wild Nature, whether or not wild ecosystems exist wherever human beings inhabit and the confusion between modifying the environment and managing it. However, the conclusions reached by Revington (or whoever wrote this article) could hardly be more wrong and misleading in most of these cases. If this article can be taken as a sample of the values and motivations of those individuals framed within the current "Deep Ecology", and taking into account that for many, within environmentalism, this is the ideological current that promotes more radical changes in favor of of wild nature, we're done. Let's look at some reasons why:

To begin with, the article is based on an idealistic (not materialistic) approach to reality. It seems to assume that it is ideas, thought... that generate the material circumstances under which individuals live. The conclusion that some of us reach when analyzing reality is just the opposite: that it is the material conditions that, in the long term and on a large scale, determine which values or ideas can be extended and which cannot.

It seems that for Revington the root of the problems that the natural world currently suffers lies in culture as an expression of human ideas and thought (despite his own definition of culture) and not in the industrial technological system as a physical entity. If it isn't (and I'm afraid it is), it should at least have been more clearly stated. It does not seem to take into account that said technological system has autonomous operating patterns, that is, independent of human interests. Nor that, precisely because of these autonomous operating patterns, certain ideas (some of which are very well pointed out by Revington in his article), have spread and become popular among the population of the techno-industrial society. Any social system generates an ideology that justifies it and favors its stability; and today's society is not exactly an exception. But, from there to consider that it is the ideas that generate the material circumstances, there is an inversion of causes and effects that should not be carried out if the large scales of time and space are taken into account.

Let's see it more clearly with an example: The author of Intimate Places (LI) states that "if we allow our busy lives to dictate the amount of time we can spend in natural places, then we will engage in hasty monologues instead of good conversations". This phrase gives rise to the idea that "everything is in the mind", that is, if we mentalize ourselves, we can dedicate the time we want to Nature despite living within the techno-industrial society. Nothing could be further from the truth: this society forces the individual in a thousand ways to dedicate a good part of his time to collaborating with it (for example, through a job) and, furthermore, today many of the innate needs and tendencies of the individual can be satisfied or developed more effectively (although it is not the truly adequate way) in the artificial environments created by the techno-industrial society than in the natural spaces that still remain (mainly because the latter are scarce and their use is increasingly restricted). Therefore, in practice, most individuals tend to spend most of their time in highly humanized places, whether or not they have values of respect for wild Nature. This paradoxical reality does not depend on the will of the individual, but is marked by the material circumstances that surround him and by his own biology.

Perhaps due to this idealistic approach, the author of LI seems to believe that all or most of the population of today's techno-industrial society can change their valuation of Wild Nature through psychological, propagandistic and legislative techniques (what the article refers to) . called “environmental education”). Here there would be another mistake: forgetting that the bases of human behavior (and with it of moral values) are innate, not cultural. Individuals have innate tendencies and capacities created by evolution by natural selection, that is, a nature. Therefore, psychological techniques, no matter how sophisticated they may be, cannot transform the individual's behavior in a lasting and effective way beyond certain limits set by our nature.

Those individuals who, throughout their lives, have never tended to value wild Nature and all that it entails (individual autonomy, effort, toughness, aggressiveness.) are hardly going to change their assessment by being subjected to some program of " environmental brainwashing. It may be that, through some kind of coercion (physical and/or psychological), a large part of the individuals in a society publicly manifested a "positive assessment of Wild Nature" and tried to behave in accordance with what society demanded of them. them for a mere matter of convenience. But, be that as it may, that would be far from being a sincere positive assessment of Wild Nature. There would be no true devotion to Wilderness (not to mention the freedom individuals would enjoy in a society that had to force them to "value Wilderness"). Therefore, a very powerful coercive apparatus would be necessary to ensure that said society was perpetuated over time. In other words: it would be necessary to maintain most of what has caused the most damage to wild Nature: the industrial technological system.

Even if we limit ourselves to the first stages of life (childhood and adolescence), moments in which, a priori, the individual is more innately open to making changes in their behavior, the scope of educational and propagandistic techniques remains limited. . Revington (relying on the studies of others he cites) seems to have found a connection between experiences in nature during childhood and environmental attitudes, but he forgets a scientific principle when it comes to proving something: relationship does not necessarily imply causality. Surely the reader will know many cases in which, having had an individual direct relationship with Nature during his childhood (excursions, camping, workshops in the field or in the mountains...) he has not subsequently developed values of respect towards nature. wild, not even to the rural world. In addition, from this supposed connection, the opposite conclusion could be drawn: individuals with environmentalist attitudes could have this tendency innately and, therefore, it is normal for them to show signs of it from childhood. But causality would not be proven in any of the cases. Therefore, based only on this supposed relationship between childhood experiences and environmental attitudes, Revington should not jump to the conclusion that education is key to developing values of respect for the natural and wild world. It may not even matter much.

Lovelock's quote is another example of this "forgetting" about human biology. It may be that some humans raised separately from members of the opposite sex had some more difficulty relating to each other as adults, but if Lovelock had taken more into account that the bases of human communication and sexuality are innate, he would not I would not have set such an example nor would I think in the same way about the values of respect for Nature (that these can be “learned” during childhood). If underestimating the influence of human biology on their ideas were something punctual, the errors in this regard by Lovelock and Revington would not go beyond the merely anecdotal. But unfortunately, from what I have seen so far, this is a constant within environmentalism (at least in Europe).

Indeed, the last sentence of Lovelock's quote and a few of Revington's statements in his article implicitly implicitly suggest that early humans, simply because they lived in more direct contact with Nature, possessed a heightened consciousness. ecological than civilized humans, which is, at least in some cases, more than questionable based on the available ethnographic and archaeological information. (I hope that the myth of the "primitive conscientious environmentalist" and, more generally, the idealization of primitive societies will be dealt with in greater depth in other texts on this page in the future.)

Another point worth mentioning in this article is the rejection that the author of LI seems to experience for science and rationality, something common within countercultural hippies. I have argued before that Revington had set aside a scientific rule (relationship does not necessarily imply causation) when drawing conclusions, and that he does not seem to take much into account either materialism or human biology in his arguments. And he goes so far as to affirm, right in the last sentence, that science is “reductionist” because it despises the “magical sensation”. It may be that scientific interpretations of reality do not always fully conform to it (among other things because knowledge always has limits), but some, like me, are convinced that science (the official one, not esoteric pseudosciences, “ hidden”, etc.) is the most effective means (the most realistic and reliable) available to us to understand the functioning of the techno-industrial society and develop a movement against it. In the same way that I am convinced that we cannot aspire to understand reality and effectively combat a social system as complex as the techno-industrial one by means of magic and spirits (no matter how much primitive societies used these means to try to understand reality ). The hippy-countercultural rejection of science and rationality is motivated more by its need to reject established culture (some of the scientific applications are a key element in the development of modern society) than by a true rational argumentative basis.

Another important aspect related to the above is the way of expressing yourself publicly. The author of LI may be simply using metaphors, poetry and other stylistic devices, but some of his expressions are pure metaphysics, more typical of a nutcase than a sane person: “conversing with Nature”, “getting in touch with your spirit”, “make love with a place”. Perhaps the author of LI is aware that these expressions are metaphors and does not believe them at face value, but he does not seem to be aware that on many occasions the same does not happen with the reader or listener: sometimes he literally believes in said words. expressions and feels identified with the words of those who express themselves in this way. For this reason, Revington and all those who intend to do something effective in favor of Wild Nature should think, before intervening publicly, what kind of people they want to attract with their speech and which ones to distance. Revington, with its rejection of science and rationality, its attachment to magic, and its metaphorical expressions is not exactly going to appeal to rational and serious individuals... but to hippies, leftists, kooks, and other people who an anti-science movement techno-industrial society should keep away from each other.

One of the key points of this article is the debate about whether or not wild ecosystems exist where human beings live and the confusion between modifying and managing the environment. The author of LI, it seems that trying to defend the importance of the wild, affirms that primitive cultures already managed the ecosystems they inhabited. This statement is sometimes used by those who defend technological development to argue that since all human societies manage their environment, there is nothing wrong with modern industrial civilization doing so. Therefore, it would be important to analyze whether Revington's statement is true and, on the other hand, whether the apparent logic used to justify technological development really is.

It is quite evident that the modifications that the techno-industrial society has generated in the ecosystems have a scale and intensity far superior to the modifications that could be carried out not only by primitive cultures, but also by any pre-industrial civilization. But, in addition, with respect to primitive societies and especially nomadic hunter-gatherer cultures, the difference is not only one of degree, but of quality. Can we speak of "environmental management" when there is neither voluntary action nor large-scale planning? Being a constituent element of an ecosystem (albeit influential and important) is not the same as managing large territories from the outside. For example, we know that the large African herbivores are largely responsible for the appearance of the African savannah, since with their activities they clear and open clearings in the ecosystem, prevent the growth of saplings, etc. Would it occur to someone with half a brain to say that large African herbivores manage their environment? Surely not to many, because we realize that having an impact on an ecosystem (even a notable one) is not the same as large-scale voluntary planning (transcending a multitude of ecological limits to which other species are subject), as as can a modern state forest service. Which of these two things are the modifications of the environment generated by primitive cultures more like? There may be some question as to whether early humans acted in exactly the same way as other animals, such as the large African herbivores in the example. But what is clear is that you have to have very little judgment or ideological motives (justify the management of ecosystems by the techno-industrial society) to call by the same name ("management") what they could do with their environment. primitive cultures and the tremendous and continuous (and planned in many cases) modifications in a large part of the ecosystems of planet Earth by modern industrial civilization. And this is true no matter how much some aborigines have become “academicians” and say that their ancestors already managed ecosystems. stupidity is not just a white man thing.

More importantly, regardless of whether or not there is any human way of life that can be fully integrated into wild ecosystems, of all existing human cultures, nomadic hunter-gatherer ways of life are those that, because of their simplicity and small size, , they may have less impact on wild ecosystems and may become more in tune with human nature. And, in fact, it usually has been. It is precisely for this reason that some of us take these ways of life, and not others, as the social ideal of reference.

In conclusion, a movement against the techno-industrial society that claims to be truly effective should be materialistic, scientific, rational, and keep away from its ideas and activities not only progressivism, but also humanism, leftism, and hippism. Revington in this article is not in most cases materialistic, scientific, or rational, and his ideas seem to be significantly influenced by some humanist values of civilization, especially by the so-called "counterculture." I have not read everything said by the defenders of "Deep Ecology" and, certainly, I share more values with this current than with the majority of European environmentalism (at least it is an ecocentric current, not like the majority of European environmentalism), without However, based on what I have seen so far (the principles listed by Arne Naess, an article by George Sessions, this one by Revington, and an article that turned out to be focused on self-help) I would say that the depths of "Deep Ecology" It is not its ecology, but its confusion.


It is not the first time that we have published an article on this page about postmodern attacks against the notion of the wild (see, for example, the articles "The Authentic Idea of Wild Nature" or "The wild, cyborgs and our future ecological"). Even so, we consider that the following text also deserves to be published and read.

The main peculiarity of this article in particular is its double approach, on the one hand theoretical-philosophical and on the other practical-political. The philosophical part basically focuses on exposing the intellectual dishonesty and anthropocentrism on which postmodern arguments are based that defend that "the wild" is a mere social construction, a cultural invention that does not exist in reality and has no value in reality. herself. Throughout the text, the author discusses and refutes, generally quite correctly, many of the arguments and fallacies that postmodern humanists often use to try to devalue and dismantle the notion of the wild as a fundamental value: the assumption of that everything is culturally and socially relative, except postmodernism itself, of course; as well as the underlying humanistic idea that the only thing important, the only thing valuable, and even the only thing that exists are human affairs, not Nature.

In the same way, the article shows how the postmodern position has serious political implications, since, in the words of the same author, “the constructivist point of view does not take scientific documentation on the biodiversity crisis seriously; diverts attention towards discourses about the environmental problem instead of examining the problem itself; and indirectly takes advantage of it and, therefore, supports the human colonization of the Earth”.

In addition, the article is also interesting because, albeit glancingly, it touches on some of the underlying philosophical and practical problems that are typical of perspectives that take the wild as a central value: the alleged human-Nature dualism; the value of science as a source of knowledge; the existence of an intrinsic value in Nature; etc. Those who claim to defend the autonomy of Wild Nature should be aware of them to avoid superficiality, inconsistency and theoretical naivety.


By Eileen Crist


The postmodern constructivist perspective on nature holds that cultural, economic, political, linguistic, scientific, and other practices shape the meanings of nature and <em>wildness</em. >. For constructivists, such practices are inescapably implicit in all perceptions and appraisals of the natural world. They assert that there are no unmediated representations of nature, since all of them are anchored in social contexts—contexts indelibly inscribed in the modes of knowledge that generate such representations.[202][203]

Constructivism considers it axiomatic that the intrinsic meaning of natural phenomena is non-existent and that it is human material and semiotic work that gives them meaning. Since interpretive and practical work is essentially social, constructivists hold that sociocultural factors—economic conditions, political circumstances, paradigms, interests, networks, discursive practices, and the like—can explain the emergence and character of beliefs. , including true beliefs, about nature. Given that all beliefs are explained by sociocultural factors, the constructivist position implies a certain degree of epistemological relativism —beliefs are not immutable or universal, but relative to the places and times in which they occur. In the words of Phil Macnaghten and John Urry, “there is no single 'nature', only natures. And those natures are not inherent to the physical world but are constructed discursively through economic, political and cultural processes”.[2]

This article is a critique of the way postmodern constructivism views nature. As Ian Hacking has pointed out, many things and ideas are said to have been socially constructed —from “gender” and “language”[1]“, to “quarks” and “reality”. Constructivism covers a wide and heterogeneous field of study. My intention, here, is not to talk about constructivism simply, but to specifically criticize its application to “nature” and “the wild”. By “postmodern constructivism,” I mean studies that show evidence of the following: emphasizing cultural ideas, narratives, power constellations, politics, and the like as the primary driving forces behind the creation of knowledge; reject that there are foundations for knowledge that transcend sociocultural contexts; the epistemological predilection for the relativization and pluralization of “knowledge” —underlining its contingency and diversity; and skepticism towards “canonical knowledge”[204]] and/or the “dominant narrative”[206].[3]

Although in principle the idea that knowledge is socio-historically relative seems trivially true, delving into the assumptions and implications of the "social construction of nature" reveals that it is intellectually narrow-minded and politically difficult to accept. Despite their predilection for uncovering the sociocultural roots of representations, “nature” and “wilderness” constructivists do not deconstruct their own rhetoric and underlying assumptions to consider what fuels the credibility that social constructivism has. gathers under the denomination “configuration of knowledge/power”[207].[4] I argue that the latest applications of social constructivism to environmental issues reflect the stubbornness of anthropocentrism and support the attempt to humanize the Earth. As an intellectual mirror of such trends, constructivism functions as an ideology—and is, as biologist Michael Soulé has pointed out, as dangerous to the goals of conservation, preservation, and restoration of natural systems as bulldozers and chainsaws. .[5]


In the review of the book Earth First! Environmental Apocalypse by George Sessions [http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/resenas/earth-first-environmental-apocalypse][(http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/resenas/earth-first-environmental -apocalypse)], reviewed and featured a brief history of Earth First! (EF!) in its beginnings. This time we include an article by one of its founders, Dave Foreman, written at a crucial time for that radical environmental group. This can help us better understand both the initial philosophy of EF! as the operating approaches that facilitated the replacement of the main and original ideas and objective of this group by leftist discourses and objectives. In fact, this article is, at bottom, a kind invitation to many leftists who had been involved in Earth First! leave this group. It must not have been of much use, since it was the author himself, along with many people related to him, who abandoned EF! three years after writing it.

We will leave for [https://sites.google.com/site/indomitismo/textos/crtica-de-la-civilizacin-y-del-sistema-tecnoindustrial/de-cmo-la-tierra-dej-de-ser-lo -first][another article]analysis of the process that led to EF! to be engulfed by leftism. Some of the clues, however, can already be found in Foreman's article. The EF! Initially, it suffered from an embarrassment of diversity and tolerance in its ranks. By the time some founding members like Foreman figured it out, it was too late. The refusal to maintain a well-structured and defined organization, the preponderance given to radical activism in the form of ecosabotage, the flirtations with neopaganism or the assumption that diversity was useful resulted in the erosion and substitution of the principles of this group summarized in the motto “Earth First!” (or "The Earth is the First!", precisely that means Earth First! in English). In the [https://sites.google.com/site/indomism/reviews/earth-first-environmental-apocalypse][review by George][https://sites.google.com/site/indomism/reviews/earth -first-environmental-apocalypse][Sessions]from the book EF!: Eniironmental Apocalypse [http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/resenas/earth-first-environmental-apocalypse][(http:/ /www.naturalezaindomita.com/resenas/earth-][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/resenas/earth-first-environmental-apocalypse][first-environmental-apocalypse)], we saw that the social justice faction had managed to make its “environmentalist” goals prevail, leaving aside the protection of wilderness areas and the defense of the ecological integrity of the Earth (which was the core of EF!'s philosophy at the beginning). Phew! From the beginning, it had its own newspaper in which these ideas were vindicated and explained, and that was not enough to preserve them. This lesson must be kept in mind.

As for the philosophy and positions exposed by Foreman, broken down into the 15 points of the article, much could be said. What were your successes? What are your faults? The depth of Deep Ecology, is it its confusion, as AQ wrote in its criticism of "Intimate Places" [http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/crtica-de-la-civilizacin-y-del-sistema- techno-industrial/profound-confusion-in-intimate-places][(http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/crtica-de-la-civilizacin-y-del-sistema-]

[http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/crtica-de-la-civilizacin-y-del-sistema-tecnoindustrial/confusin-profunda-en-lugares-ntimos][tecnoindustrial/confusion-profunda-en-lugares- intimate)]? Is it necessary to insist on the ethical positions of lifestyles and activism to achieve an effective opposition to the development of this civilization? What is the priority: conserve wild Nature or destroy the techno-industrial society?


By Dave Foreman

A hallmark of Earth First! since its inception has been the acceptance of diversity within our movement. Just as a diverse ecosystem is more stable, many of us have argued that a diverse social movement is stronger. However, while diversity can strengthen and stabilize our tribe, too much diversity can fracture and immobilize it. As in any action-oriented group, there needs to be basic agreement on certain issues of ideology, strategy, tactics, and style, otherwise any attempt to do something degenerates into disagreement on fundamentals. For example, I don't think anyone would argue that advocates of clearing old growth forests[673] or removing grizzly bears from Yellowstone[674] should be accepted into Earth First!. Those matters have been decided within our tribe. We could discuss how to preserve mature forests or grizzly bears, but not whether we should.

After seven years, I am proud of our diverse and courageous tribe. We have achieved a lot (although much more remains to be achieved). We have made old-growth forests and tropical rainforests matters of national concern, and have significantly helped create the issues of Biodiversity and Wilderness Restoration[675], as well as promoting the philosophy of Ecology Deep[676]. We have effectively introduced non-violent civil disobedience into the wilderness preservation repertoire. And we have restructured the conservation spectrum. Our diversity in skills, lifestyles, talents, personalities, and even ideas explains much of what we have accomplished. However, I am worried because, given the increase in our visibility, given the fact that we are a “hot” group, given that we attract a lot of new people, maybe Earth First! has become too diverse, so much so that there are disagreements over matters of philosophy and style that threaten to compromise the principles of Earth First! or make us powerless. There are very powerful attempts, both inside and outside of Earth First!, to moderate us, soften us up and make our views harmless. Much pressure is being directed at our biocentric philosophy, with calls for us to become more humanistic.

I think it is time to reassess where we have come from, where we are and where we are going. What are the defining characteristics of Earth First!? What is it that essentially makes us Earth First!?

In the following paragraphs I will express forcefully and clearly (at least I hope so) my response to the above questions. As the founder of Earth First!, as the editor of this newspaper, I obviously have very strong views on these issues. But, before presenting my point of view, let me explain that the following is not the "official" position of Earth First! (whatever that is). It is not etched in rock. I believe - and I emphasize the believe - that what I am about to present represents the prevailing consensus of the tribe of Earth First!

If this is the case, if the defining characteristics of Earth First! that I am stating are indeed those, so I suggest that those who have strongly disapproved of them find a place for their activism elsewhere. Start your own radical environmental group. This newspaper will be happy to announce the formation of such groups and facilitate initial communication between interested people. If some people break away from this tribe to form their own tribe, there is no need for bad feelings. There's more than enough room out there for a dozen militant environmental groups plus Earth First! And the problems we face in common run so deep that we should cooperate in a spirit of camaraderie wherever we can.

On the other hand, if I'm not in the mainstream of what is now the Earth First! movement, I want to know. I can assure you all that I will be happy to leave along with some other “eco-brutalists” (to use the invaluable term coined by Murray Bookchin[677]) and I will not hold any grudges. I just don't want to go to my tribe's annual meeting and listen to discussions in the workshops about whether or not there is a problem with overpopulation, or hear Ed being wildly accused

Abbey[678] of “racist” and “fascist”. I can tolerate and respect other points of view. I can cooperate on certain points with those who hold positions that differ from mine on other issues. I just expect that same tolerance and respect.

Before offering my thoughts on the parameters that unite Earth First!, I think it is useful to briefly consider its genesis and our relationship to other alternative movements in modern society.

Neither Earth First! nor we are part of the reformist environmental movement, the animal rights movement, the anarchist movement, the peace movement, the social justice movement, the anti-nuclear movement, the non-violence movement, of the Rainbow Tribe[679], of the neopagan movement, of the movement for the rights of indigenous people, of the Green movement or of the Left. We have varying degrees of affinity and coincide in part with all of them, but we are neither wholly contained in any of them nor do we contain any of them. We are the Earth First movement! As such, we are not even the entire radical environmental movement or the entire Deep Ecology movement. There is a lot of room for the radical wing of the Sierra Club[680] within the conservation cause, much more than Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd[681] and Earth First! can occupy. Yes Earth First! try to extend too much into the "radical environmental movement", we will fail to our regret.

We did not emerge from the anarchist movement or from the Left. EarthFirst! It came directly out of the public lands conservation movement—the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth[682], and The Wilderness Society[683]. It is the issues of public domains and wilderness[684] that have been central to us since our formation. Certainly people have come to Earth First! from other movements, some members of Earth First! have primary connections to those moves, and EF! cooperates with them on many issues, but we must remember where we came from and what our main trend has been.

In charting the future course of the Earth First! movement, in answering the question “where is Earth First! headed?”, let me elaborate on some general, albeit basic, parameters that I believe Earth First! and that differentiate us from other movements with which we share some things. Although I have already expressed these generalities in “Around the Campfire”[685] and in the Round River Gatherings[686] of 1987, it is necessary to discuss them in more detail to make my exposition intelligible and unambiguous. This is a healthy discussion, but it is a exhausting and distracting discussion. Let's solve it and continue with the authentic and close work.

I think the following points define "Earth First!":

- Putting the Earth first in all decisions, even ahead of human welfare if necessary. Our movement is called “Earth First!”, not “People First! ”. Sometimes what appears to be in the short-term interests of human beings as a whole, or a select group of humans or individuals, is detrimental in the short or long term to the health of the biosphere (and often even to the health of the biosphere). the real well-being of human beings in the long term). This is not to say that we should preserve natural diversity only if we can do so in such a way that it does not have a negative impact on the material “standard of living” of a group of human beings. It simply means that we should preserve natural diversity. Human beings have to adapt to the planet; it is supreme arrogance to expect the planet and everything on it to accommodate the trivial demands of humans. In everything we do, the primary consideration should be the long-term health and natural diversity of the Earth. This done, we can consider the welfare of humans. We should be kind, compassionate and care about other people, but the Earth comes first.

- The refusal to use human beings as the measure by which to value other beings. Individual human life is not the most important thing in the world. An individual human life has no more intrinsic value than that of a grizzly bear (in fact, some of us would argue that an individual grizzly life is more important than an individual human life because there are far fewer grizzlies). The human suffering resulting from famine and drought in Ethiopia is unfortunate, yes; but the destruction of other creatures and habitat there is even more regrettable. This leads directly to the next point.

- The enthusiastic adoption of the philosophy of Deep Ecology or Biocentrism. This simply and essentially means that all beings have an intrinsic value or inherent worth. Beings have value and live for themselves. Other beings (both animals and plants) and even so-called "inanimate" objects such as rivers and mountains do not exist for the convenience of human beings. The whole concept of "resources" is denied by this philosophy. We are in open opposition to the dominant philosophy of our time (which includes Judaism, Christianity, Islam, capitalism, Marxism, scientism, secular humanism, etc.) and that is expressed in Gifford Pinchot's comment[ 687] that there are only two things in the world — human beings and natural resources. Ours, on the other hand, is an ecological point of view that sees the Earth as a community, and recognizes heretical truths such as "disease" (malaria) and "pests" (mosquitoes) are not evil manifestations to defeat and destroy but which are vital and necessary components of a complex and exuberant biosphere.

- Understanding that Wild Nature[688] is the real world. The preservation of wild nature is the fundamental issue. “Wild nature” does not merely refer to the parks you hike in or the landscape. It is the natural world, the field for evolution, the cauldron from which humans emerged, the home of the others with whom we share this planet. Wild nature is the real world; it is our cities, our computers, our airplanes... our civilization of global commerce that are artificial and transient. The preservation of the wild and of natural diversity is the most important issue. Problems that only affect humans pale into insignificance. Of course, ecology teaches us that all things are connected, and as far as this is concerned, all other issues become subsets of the preservation of wilderness—for example, the prevention of nuclear war.

- The recognition that there are too many human beings on Earth. There are too many of us everywhere—in the United States, in Nigeria, in the cities, in the rural areas; with hoes and with tractors. Although there is obviously a bad and unscrupulous distribution of wealth and the resources necessary to meet the basic needs of humans, there are already too many of us (and our numbers continue to grow astronomically). Even if the inequitable distribution could be resolved, 5 billion, 7 billion, 11 billion human beings converting the natural world into material goods and human food would devastate the natural diversity built up in three and a half billion years.

I consider the population issue to be an absolute litmus test for Earth First!. It is so fundamental to the preservation of wilderness[689], to the practice of biocentrism, that a refusal to acknowledge the need to reduce human populations for the future clearly defines one as a humanist and places one out of bounds on Earth First!. I am so convinced of this point as an indicator of whether someone is anthropocentric or biocentric, whether their allegiance is to the Earth or to humanity, that I would rather see the Earth First! movement. torn to pieces to see him wasting his time discussing this. This does not mean that we cannot criticize the accumulation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, the misallocation of resources, and the corruption of multinational corporations and Third World military juntas alike, but we must realize that grizzly bears, tigers, elephants and rainforests are not compatible with a skyrocketing human population.

- The explicit questioning of, and even antipathy towards, “progress” and “technology”. Looking at human history, we can see that in our “ascension” to civilization we have lost more than what we have won. We can see that life in a hunter-gatherer society was generally healthier, happier, and more secure than our current lives as farmers, industrial workers, or executives. For every material "achievement" of progress, there are a dozen lost things of deep value and ineffable meaning. We can proudly accept the pejorative adjectives "Luddite" and "Neanderthal." (This does not mean that we should avoid all facets of technological civilization. We are part of it, yes, we use it; this does not mean that we cannot criticize it.)

- The refusal to accept rationality as the only way of thinking. In spiritual matters, there is room for great diversity within Earth First!, and nowhere is tolerance for diversity more necessary. But all of us can recognize that the linear, rational thinking of the logical left hemisphere of the brain[690][691] represents only a part of our brain, our thinking process and our consciousness. Rationality is an excellent and useful tool, but it is just that—a tool, a way of looking at things. Equally valid, perhaps ultimately more valid, is intuitive and instinctive knowledge. We can become more knowledgeable about fundamental truths by sitting quietly in a wild place than by reading books. Reading books, taking part in logical discourses, collecting facts and figures are necessary and important activities, but they are not the only ways to understand the world and our lives.

- The absence of the desire to gain credibility or “legitimacy” before the gang of thugs that run human civilization. Wanting to be accepted by the social environment in which you find yourself is a basic part of human nature . It hurts to be disqualified by the arbiters of opinion as "nuts", "terrorists", "crazy" or "extremists". However, we are not crazy, it just so happens that we are healthy humans in an insane human society in a healthy natural world. We don't have "credibility" for Senator James A. McClure or Secretary of the Interior Donald Hodel or MAXXAM20 President Charles Hurwitz—but they don't have credibility for us either! (We have your attention, though.) They are crazy destroying everything pure and beautiful. Why should we have any desire to "reason" with them? We do not share the same vision of the world or the same values.

The US system is very effective at winning back[692] and moderating dissidents by paying attention to them and then encouraging them to be “reasonable” so that their ideas are taken more seriously. Appearing on the evening news, on the front page of the newspaper, in a national magazine—all of these are methods used by the powerful to entice you to share their worldview and sit down at the negotiating table to seek some compromise. . The actions of Earth First! — both the bold and the comical — have garnered attention. If they are to get results, we must resist the siren songs of credibility, legitimacy and participation in decision-making in this society. We are failing the system, not reforming it.

- The effort to go beyond the hackneyed and exhausted dogmas of the left, the right and the center. These doctrines, whether they blame capitalism, communism or the devil for all the world's problems , they only represent mutually destructive quarrels between different factions of humanism. Yes, multinationals commit great evil (The Soviet Union is also a multinational); there is a great injustice in the world; the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer—but not all problems can be simplistically attributed to evil capitalists in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The members of Earth First! they are not left or right, we are not even facing each other. EarthFirst! should not be in the political struggle between humanist sects. We are involved in a totally different game.

- The unwillingness to place any political, ethnic or class group on a pedestal and make it immune to question. It is easy, of course, to recognize that white men in North America and northern Europe they have a disproportionate share of responsibility for the mess we are in; that middle- and upper-class First World consumers take an inordinate share of the world's "resources" and thus cause more destruction per capita than other people. But it does not follow from this that everyone else is innocent.

The Earth First! movement, for example, has a strong affinity with indigenous groups around the world. They clearly have a more direct and respectful relationship with the natural world. EarthFirst! it should support such groups in the common struggle where we can. Most Earth First! members, for example, support the Big Mountain Dine (Navajo)[693] against relocation, but this doesn't mean we should pretend sheep aren't causing serious overgrazing on the Navajo reservation. We could support the subsistence lifestyles of Alaska Natives, but should we be silent about the clearing of old-growth forests in Southeast Alaska by Native American corporations, the efforts of the Eskimo Doyon Corporation[694] of projecting oil exploration and development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge[695], or commercial native trapping to supply the New York fur market? I find it racist to condemn or forgive someone based on their ethnic background.

Similarly, we have no problem punishing Charles Hurwitz for destroying the last wild redwood forest[696], yet sometimes sympathizing with the enslaved loggers. Of course, Hitler deserves the highest condemnation, but the guy who was pushing the Jews into the showers was also doing wrong. Generally speaking, industrial workers share the blame for the destruction of the natural world. They may be slaves to great tycoons, but, on the whole, they are happy, merry slaves who share their masters' worldview: that the Earth is a buffet[697] of resources ready for the taking. In fact, sometimes it is the rude man, the tenacious peasant from the rural proletariat, who holds the most violent and destructive attitudes towards the natural world (and towards those who defend it). They are victims of an unfair economic system, yes, but that should not absolve them of what they do. (This doesn't stop some loggers from opposing the destruction of old-growth forests, some may even be from Earth First!, but it's simply not valid to excuse someone for where they are on the economic ladder.)

- A willingness to let our actions establish the finer points of our philosophy and the recognition that we really must act. It is possible to debate indefinitely the finer points of a dogma, to perceive that one has to understand every nuance before you can act. In fact, many political movements become nothing more than discussion groups where participants sit around mentally jerking off and never get to work on the fundamental issues at hand. Others argue that you have no right to be concerned about the environment or to do whatever it takes to preserve it until you lead a pure and harmless lifestyle. We will never understand everything, we will never be able to plan any campaign down to the last detail, none of us will ever transcend a polluting lifestyle—but we can act. We can act with courage, with determination, with all the deliberations we can reach, with a love of things wild and free. We can't be perfect, but we can perform. EarthFirst! it is not a living room tribe, passive and secondary. We are warriors. We are a group of warriors. We have a job to do.

- The recognition that we must change our personal lifestyles for ones more harmonious with natural diversity. Yes, we must avoid the age of excess. We must try to practice what we preach. But, to one degree or another, we are all captives of our economic system and cannot completely free ourselves. Arne Naess[698] points out that we cannot achieve a true deep ecology lifestyle, but it is the responsibility of each of us to start moving in that direction. There are contradictions—flying on a jet plane to help hang a banner at the World Bank in Washington, DC, to draw global attention to the plight of tropical rainforests; using a computer to produce copies for a newspaper printed on tree pulp[699] that pushes people to act; drive a truck along a forest track to access an area from which they are going to take wood, to protect it. We need to be aware of these contradictions, and do our best to limit our impact.

- The commitment to maintain a sense of humor and joy in life. Most radical activists are sullen, sanctimonious and humorless people. The members of Earth First! They are different. We do not rebel against the system because we are losers or unhappy. We are fighting for beauty, for life, for joy. We enjoy with delight a day in the wilderness[700], we smile at a flower, at a hummingbird. We laugh. We laugh at our opponents—and we laugh at ourselves.

- The awareness that we are animals. Human beings are primates, they are mammals, they are vertebrates, they are animals. The members of Earth First! they recognize their animality; we are not devotees of some New Age Teilhardian[701] eco-dreamer who says we must transcend our petty animal nature and take charge of our evolution to become higher moral beings. Instead, we believe we should get back in touch with our animality, to take pride in our sweat, our hormones, our tears, and our blood. We are fighting against the modern coercion that tries to turn us into dull and passionless androids. We do not live sanitized and logical lives; we smell, taste, see, hear and feel the Earth; we live with enthusiasm. We are animals.

- The acceptance of eco-sabotage as a legitimate tool in the preservation of natural diversity. No, not all members of Earth First! do ecosabotage, perhaps not even the majority, but there should be a reluctance to condemn the idea and general practice of ecosabotage. Check out some Earth First! T-shirts. There is a good chance that somewhere in it there is an allusion to sabotage[702]. The mystique and tradition of “night work” pervades our tribe, and with it the general acceptance that properly done eco-sabotage is a legitimate tool for wilderness defense by some individuals. I think this is also a litmus test. It separates us from other groups, and helps define what is specific about being an Earth First! member.

These are general guidelines. They are not the word of the goddess, they are not intended to be dogmatic. But all of them are fundamental to Earth First!, I believe, and have been fundamental to our tribe since its genesis in that Mexican lava field[703]. They are the ones that distinguish us from other groups, the ones that define us as an entity. There are a variety of options in all of them and many require a tolerance of extremes. No, you don't have to be a misanthrope singing "Fuck the human race!" around the campfire at the Round River Gathering, but you tolerate that honest sentiment. You don't have to sabotage something, or even encourage it, but you don't condemn that another member of Earth First! wreck a bulldozer. You may disagree with an essay in the Earth First! Journal that criticizes the notion of the “noble savage” or another that praises the disease[704], but you accept their themes as legitimate areas of research and discussion . I think it's about tolerance towards the above points, not necessarily 100% agreement with them, that marks the boundaries of Earth First!.

Being outside the mainstream of humanism, we are exposed to many attacks—both expected and unfair. We are very nervous. We are groping. But, in my opinion, the above points set the parameters of what the members of Earth First! are. They leave room for considerable diversity, but draw a limit.

From the beginning, I have believed in Earth First! as a grassroots and decentralized tribe. I'm glad to see her develop as she has. As I said before, I have no desire to dictate what Earth First! is, but I think these points represent the mainstream of Earth First!. If you vehemently disagree with them, I encourage you to get involved in another radical green group or start your own. There is considerable room for a diversity of groups defending the Earth. EarthFirst! You can cooperate with other groups, even when we disagree, as long as there is mutual respect and tolerance.

On the other hand (and I'm totally serious), if with these opinions I'm out of the mainstream of Earth First!, then please let me know and I'll be gone. I have no desire to embarrass good Earth activists if the above points are not considered crucial or detrimental to what they are trying to do. Yes Earth First! is no longer what I imagine it to be, so I will accept it and wish the new Earth First movement! hope everything goes well. But I don't feel like continually debating the above points within my tribe and will find a campfire somewhere else.

I apologize if my previous comments seem picky and moody. I honestly like almost everyone I've come across in the Earth First! movement. But in my seventeen years as a full-time wilderness activist[705], I have seen what the pressures of moderation, of recuperation[706], of “softening” can do to a cluster. If we soften our style, our approach, our message, our tactics, so as not to offend anyone, so as to attract more and more people to Earth First!, we will lose what makes us Earth First!. If we extract the spiciness, the spicy green chilies, from Earth First!, we will be a bland porridge with little content.

Let's listen to our critics, let's grow with that criticism, but let's not get rid of our biocentrism, nor lose the “Earth” nor the “First” nor the sign “!” of our name.[707]


The following text, like others that appear in Untamed Nature[1630], refutes in a quite clear, sensible and elegant way certain postmodern and humanist arguments that are often used against the concept of Wild Nature to try to ridicule their defense and thus theoretically justify their destruction and taming.

In any case, the author, as usual among conservationists, suffers from a certain idealism. Thus, he considers that “the main reason why we abuse the land ... is „because we consider it a commodity that belongs to us' instead of „a community to which we belong'” and insinuates that at least a good part of the The solution to the problem of its destruction and subjugation involves adopting as a society an ethic of moderation and self-limitation in relations with Nature. However, the former is rather a consequence and justification a posteriori of the abuse, not its main cause; and the latter is neither that simple to achieve nor, if possible, would be on its own very effective in conserving and restoring wilderness in the long term.

Another defect of this article is the conciliatory character that the author shows towards those who try to put or simply equate social justice with the defense of wild Nature. In reality, both ends are often not independent, but rather incompatible in the short or long term.


By Donald Worster[1631]

I live in northern Kansas, a part of the United States that is devoid of wilderness[1632]—no vast stretches of land hundreds of miles long that are not used to produce raw materials. This area was once a prairie wilderness that stretched as far north as Saskatchewan; now, we have less than 1 percent of the original tall grass prairie left, and most of the short grass prairie is gone as well.

Two years ago, it's true, Kansas finally got a protected prairie area. Fighting the Department of Agriculture[1633], the ranchers association, and former Senator Robert Dole (who was reluctant to spend $10 million on a new acquisition for the National Park System but didn't mind spending $1,000 millions of dollars on a plane so the National Guard could repel our enemies) was long and hard. Even now, with the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve[1634] made a legislative reality, a Texas businessman keeps his cattle there, on a lease, and anti-park forces insist that the cattle stay where you are; they demand that it be a monument to the meat industry rather than be returned to bison and pronghorn. In any case, they say, that land was never wild.[1635]

These kinds of claims are gaining support, albeit unintentionally, from some of my colleagues in environmental history, many of whom I fear have not spent enough time among those good people who say "work for a living." - members of the Department of Agriculture, for example - and do not sufficiently appreciate how hard it is to try to establish an ethic of environmental limitation and responsibility in the midst of fierce advocates of private property and the market. Otherwise, my colleagues would be a little more careful about the sensational headlines they promote, such as “Wild Nature is a Bankrupt Idea” [1636].

That is not the headline that William Cronon[1637] really wanted to see when he wrote the controversial essay “The Trouble with Wilderness, or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature”[1638] published in the book Uncommon Ground: Howard Reinventing Nature (1995). What he meant, I think, is that wilderness defenders have sometimes damaged their own cause with immature rhetoric that repels thoughtful people and lacks any kind of social compassion. You are right in this regard. The wilderness movement needs more self-scrutiny, it needs a greater commitment to social justice - and, above all, it needs the patience to read its critics more carefully. On the other hand, Cronon and some of the other authors of Uncommon Ground should take a dose of their own medicine. They have at times inflamed the discourse, bypassed the deepest ethical core of the movement, and created a few weak arguments of their own - arguments that require critical examination and unmasking. Therefore, in the hope of a debate that is more mutually respectful and fruitful than the one we have had so far, I review some of those arguments. Here is my list of the main mistakes made by some environmental historians about wild nature[1639].

Mistake #1: North America, we're told, was never a “wilderness”—not even parts of it.

Some revisionist historians now claim that ignorant Europeans, buoyed by their "virgin land" fantasies and racial prejudice, got it all wrong. The continent was not a wild land; it was a landscape completely domesticated and managed by the native peoples. It was the Indians, not low precipitation rates or high evaporation rates, that created a vast expanse of grassland stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, and they did so through continual burning. Herds of bison were herded as if they were domestic animals in a large meadow. They cultivated wild plants and made a garden of the place. All across the continent, they fully civilized this wasteland long before the white man came to it.

I respect Native American stewardship and would not detract from any of their considerable achievements, but these claims by historians are gross extrapolations from limited examples. Merely two million people scattered across what is now Canada and the United States, armed with primitive stone tools, could not really have “tamed” the entire continent.[1] Not even today's 300 million Americans and Canadians, armed with far more powerful technology, have yet fully tamed the continent; in the United States, following strict evaluation criteria, some 100 million acres[1640] of virtually pristine wilderness are under protection and even more unprotected, and in Canada areas without roads, towns, mines or factories they still dominate most of the north of the country.

Some historians further tell us that the Indians were driven from their domesticated homeland to create a wilderness for the white man. There certainly was mass dispossession, often bloody and ruthless. Yet if our national parks, wilderness areas[1641] and wildlife refuges were once the territories of Native Americans who shifted from tribal identity over time, so were the lands on which where our cities, farms, universities and even the very plots on which the houses we inhabit are built are located. What should we do about it now? Should we return all parks and wilderness areas[1642] to Native Americans? Should we open them up to subsistence hunting (by people probably armed with modern rifles and snowmobiles) or agriculture? If we do, we are logically obligated to allow Native Americans to take back our campuses, suburbs, and cornfields as well. However, I have not heard anyone seriously propose that the universities of Los Angeles or Stanford be returned to their "rightful owners." Why not? Why are parks and protected wilderness areas seen as presumed forms of expropriation while the vast portion of the country dedicated to modern economic uses is not really questioned? Obviously, Indian land claims are not what really matters in this case; what matters is discrediting preservationists.

A more sensible policy would be to find out if any of the 100 million acres of protected wilderness[1643] are currently violating valid treaty rights, and if they do, resolve it in court or return the land to its owners. corresponding owners, as would be done with any disputed land. However, I have not seen any historian actually undertake such a research project into land claims within the [ 1644] protected wilderness area system. Nor do I see any clear and defined proposals about where and how to alter the size, shape, or rules that govern our protected wilderness areas[1645]. Meanwhile, note that any American citizen, Indian or not, has free and equal access to the nation's[1646][1647] wilderness areas, but the same cannot be said for access to universities. or to residential areas.

Mistake n[o]2: Wilderness[XV111] is not something real but just a social construct dreamed up by wealthy white romantics.

Some of this oversimplified thinking goes back to Roderick Nash's book Wilderness and the American Mind, which (despite its many virtues) established a flawed narrative that environmental historians have plagiarized ever since. The now-widespread theory begins by speaking of an ancient and intense Judeo-Christian hostility to the wild, an anti-wildness[1648] culture of spectacular proportions and longevity. Such hostility supposedly reached a climax in Puritan New England, when every farmer frowned into the woods as he left home. The theory then shifts to a dramatic reversal of attitudes as wealthy, white, educated, secular, urban Americans became nature-loving romantics. Part of the thinly veiled moral of this tale is that ordinary people, without an education or income, have suffered severe cultural backwardness and cannot be counted on to bring about any significant environmental change. But a more complex reading of the past would suggest that the love of wilderness[1649] was not simply something “discovered” or “invented” by a few wealthy men with Harvard or Yale degrees at the end of a long dark age. .

If one assumes that typical theory, then it becomes very easy to turn the whole thing into a polemic against elitist snobs who seek refuge in the wilderness at the expense of peasants, workers, Indians, or the world's poor. Of course there were and are people like that. If the theory did not contain a kernel of truth at bottom, the revisionists would not get any kind of audience at all. It is, however, a tiny bit, not the whole complicated truth about what wild nature[1650] has meant to people throughout the ages or what drives them to protect it today.

Contrary to established theory, the love of nature (that is, of the wilderness) was not merely a "cultural construct" of Europe's romantic period. It has much older roots; it may even have roots in the very fabric of human feeling and consciousness, stretching back far into the evolutionary past, transcending any cultural patterns. More recent historians have been too quick to dismiss any deep remnant of humanity as "essentialist" and have been quick to reduce all thought and feeling to a mere product of the shifting tide of "culture." Nineteenth-century romanticism, with its glorification of the sublime, was indeed an important cultural expression, but it can also be understood as an attempt to recover and express those deeper sentiments which in all kinds of culture have linked the beauty of the natural world with a feeling of completeness and spirituality. There's no denying that the enthusiasm for America's wilderness was a cultural fad, but it was also inspired by that thirst for the natural world that goes beyond the cultural and persists across time and space. Ultimately, it fostered in the United States a spirit of frontier-born freedom that itself reflected cultural as well as biological needs. More importantly, that enthusiasm was shared equally by rich and poor.

Historians have tended to overlook the broad appeal that the wilderness movement has had for society, particularly during the 20th century. They like to tie him to the image of hot-headed, big-game gamer, and wealthy New Yorker Teddy Roosevelt, especially if they want to lampoon him a bit, and ignore all the men and women of humbler origins who, before and after him. , they played an important role in saving the wild lands. John Muir and Ed Abbey certainly attracted quite a bit of attention, although historians have rarely appreciated the fact that their origins were rural and their roots were not elitist. Nor have they placed much emphasis on the millions of [1651] wildlife enthusiasts who don't like to kill big animals, or get their chests out, and who don't order from the Eddie Bauer[1652] catalogue. And so, having left out of the “construction” of wild nature[1653] the people of the poorer class, the historians turn and proclaim: “Behold, wild nature[1654] has always been a fetish of the upper classes. And finally, with no little condescension and inconsistency, they decide that it is necessary to correct the "naive" and popular misinterpretation that the masses make of these matters.

Mistake #3: Wilderness preservation has been a distraction from addressing larger environmental issues.

What are these problems, specifically? The protection of less exalted beauty close to home, not just on the remote public lands of the West, we are told. The health and well-being of urban people, especially impoverished minorities, in the neighborhoods in which they live. The intelligent and effective use of the natural resources that provide our livelihoods. I recognize that, for an environmentalist, all these things are important problems to face. They are related to each other in many ways and should not be dissociated and rigidly compartmentalized. In fact, I don't know of any wilderness advocate who is so stubborn as to deny the existence, importance, or interconnectedness of these other environmental issues. There may be one, but I haven't met them. However, I have met people, and I will defend them here, who, based on deep moral conviction, believe that preserving the world's last wilderness is a higher moral obligation than cleaning up the Hudson River or preventing soil erosion. Someone who devotes his life to wilderness problems instead of those other problems is not necessarily misguided or immoral or in need of "re-education."

However, the main historical issue in this case is whether the wilderness movement has in fact significantly diminished Americans' interest in other environmental issues. It is often affirmed that yes, over and over again; Outside carefully protected wilderness areas, it is claimed, the countryside is a mess and its defenders' “obsession” with wilderness encourages many environmentalists to do nothing about it. Preserving wilderness is sometimes said to give Americans a green light to unscrupulously exploit other, less pristine environments. But where is the evidence that this has been so on a major scale? The main reason why we abuse the land, as Aldo Leopold told us long ago, is “because we consider it a commodity that belongs to us” instead of “a community to which we belong”. Wilderness protection by itself may not change that situation, but neither is it responsible for it.

Since the Wilderness Act[1655] was passed in 1964, the United States has seen an extraordinary increase in the number of people who call themselves environmentalists, and the issues they pursue range from preserving remaining and threatened wetlands from the construction of shopping malls to stopping discharges on Indian reservations, through ensuring that emissions from industrial chimneys are controlled. The movement has become increasingly diverse, inclusive and broad. Far from being a distraction, the example of wilderness activism may even have stimulated such a diversification of environmental consciousness to take place across the country!

I live in a place where the most immediate, pressing and practical need is to create agriculture that is less destructive to soil, water and biota, along with preventing real estate speculators from turning our towns into cultural and biological deserts. I am on the board of the Land Institute, which is trying to meet this important environmental need. However, I can still cherish the idea of a great unmanipulated wilderness for this continent in which the processes of evolution can continue to play out more or less as they have for millennia. Does my commitment to trying to save the Alaskan wilderness “separate” me from where I live? Some historians say yes, but people are more complex than that. Like millions of other Americans, there is a wide range of things that concern me, near and far. I can support the Library of Congress without losing interest in my local library.

We have a legacy of land misuse across the country. It has left us degraded forests, grasslands and cities, and that legacy requires deep reform along a broad front. Developing an ethic of care and moderation wherever we live and wherever we draw our resources - in that 95 percent of the nation's surface that is not protected as wilderness[1656] - is a clear and important need. How are we going to do it and move towards intelligent, fair and sensible use of the land beyond the protected wilderness areas[1657]? Our recent history does not suggest that we need to get rid of the wilderness “fetish” to achieve this, nor that we need to get rid of the main and most popular arguments made for preserving wilderness, which on the whole have worked quite well in the face of relentless opposition. .

Wilderness[1658] has been a symbol of freedom for many people, and they meant freedom in both a primordial and a cultural sense. Freedom, it must be recognized, can become another way of calling irresponsibility. However, almost always the preservation of the freedom of the wild lands in the United States has been closely linked to a moral principle of restraint that acts as a counterweight. In fact, this link between freedom and moderation may be the most important feature of the wilderness movement. Those 100 million acres exist not only as a place where evolution can continue on its own and where we humans can find refuge from our technological creations, but also as a place where we can learn the virtue of self-limitation: this far we drive, plow, mine and cut, but no further.

Ancient religions promoted moral restraint among their followers through the practice of paying tithes, a practice that has almost completely disappeared under the impact of the market revolution. However, the practice of tithing is too good an idea to let go. Without even realizing it, we have created in the form of protected wilderness areas[1659][] a new, more secular way of tithing old religions. We have set aside a small portion of the field as the part that we give back to the land that sustains us, the land that was here before any of us. We haven't paid a full tithe yet, but we're still working on it.

A place of self-restraint but also a place of freedom for all living things, protected wilderness areas[1660] have promoted, I believe, a broader ethic of environmental responsibility throughout this nation. Far from being an indefensible obsession, the preservation of the wilderness has been one of our noblest achievements as a people. Without getting too big about American exceptionalism, I will say that this is a model of virtuous performance for other societies to study and emulate. This is not to say that historians have been wrong to criticize the weaknesses of the wilderness movement. They have erred only when they have denigrated the movement as a whole, recklessly encouraged its enemies, and created bad historical arguments. We have to remember that the real danger we face as a nation is not loving the wilds too much but loving our purses more.


1. I am using the cautious but rigorous estimate by Douglas H. Ubelaker of the Smithsonian Institution, which appeared in his 1988 article “North American Indian Population Size, AD 1500 to 1985”, American Journal of Physical Anthropology</em > 77:291. He calculates an average density of eleven people per 100 square kilometers, with the lowest being two or three in the arctic and subarctic regions and the highest seventy-five in California. HF Dobyns' estimates in Their Number Become Thinned (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1983) are much higher and controversial.


The text that we present below is one more response[717] to the often dishonest postmodern critics against the concept of Wild Nature.

Much of what the author says is very accurate and timely, and this is what makes us consider this text worthy of publication. However, as usual, it is necessary to point out at least two of its weak points.

The main one is that the author (like quite a few other conservationists) is a Buddhist hippie whose countercultural ideas and attraction to "non-Western" (read "Eastern") philosophies unfortunately pervade his otherwise fairly insightful text. . The truth is, not all of us are as clear as he is that Buddhism or Hinduism are useful philosophical references when it comes to defending the notion of the wild or simply the existence of objective reality; nor that deep down they do not often cause more confusion and mental imbalances than those they intend to solve (especially among "Westerners" who adopt them to try to feel "different").

Given the above, it is not surprising that the author makes a call to "understand the pain and discomfort of working people everywhere", which has little to do with the theme of the text. Leftism often accompanies hippieism. However, the social question (that is, the problems related to social justice, to justice and equality in the relations between human groups and individuals) is, in general, something that is at least completely unrelated to the problem of destruction and subjugation. of wild nature by civilization. That, when it does not aggravate it with humanist and progressive proposals and goals. The fundamental values and goals of those who care about the social issue are often incompatible with those of those who care about wild Nature, although many of the latter, like the author, are not even aware of this.


By Gary Snyder[718]

I'm starting to get pissed off at the vicious arguments put forth by well-paid intellectuals who try to bring nature and the people who value it down, yet pretend to be smart and progressive.

The idea of nature as a "social construct" - a shared cultural projection that is viewed and shaped in the light of social values and priorities - if exposed fully to the bright light of philosophy, would seem like a better subset of the worldview. developed from Mahayana Buddhism or Advaita Vedanta, which claim (as only part of their strategy) that the universe is maya, or illusion. By stating this, Asian philosophers are not saying that the universe is ontologically devoid of any kind of reality. What they are saying is that, in general, our way of seeing the world is a biological (based on the particular qualities of the body-mind of our species), psychological (reflects subjective projections) and cultural construction. And, consequently, they suggest a way of examining one's own seeing, so that it sees whom it sees and thus that seeing is truer.

The current use of the expression “social construction”, however, cannot go deeper, since it is based on the logic of European science and the “Enlightenment”. This school of thought, in its search for some new kind of metanarrative, has been unable to examine its own narrative - which is the same Western view of nature as a source of resources that has been offered to humanity to use. As a spiritually (politically) empty sphere, this socially constructed nature would have no other reality than the quantification offered by economists and resource managers. This is in fact the ultimate commodification of nature, carried out by supposedly advanced theorists who prove to be simply the pinnacle of the “wise use” movement[719]. Deconstruction, done with a compassionate heart and with the intent to gain wisdom, turns Mahayana Buddhism into a logical and philosophical exercise that plumbs to the bottom of what is being deconstructed and surfaces with compassion for all beings. Deconstruction without compassion is self-aggrandizement.

So I understand the idea that wild nature[720] is a social construction; why shouldn't it be? What is more to the point, and which I cannot find in the writings of the anti-nature crowd, is the awareness that the wilderness is the place where the large and rich ecosystems are found, and therefore (among other things) a home for beings that cannot survive in any other type of habitat. Recreational use, spirituality, aesthetics - good for people - also make wilderness valuable, but are secondary to the importance of biodiversity. The protection of natural diversity is essential for the planetary health of all.

Some of these critical scholars construct, and then attack, the notion of “unspoiled wilderness”[721] and again this is nothing but pounding in cold iron. It is well known that humans and protohumans have lived virtually everywhere for hundreds of millennia. “Virgin” is just a relative term and, as much as the landscape may have been used by humans, until ninety years ago the planet still had vast stretches of wilderness that are now sadly shrinking. Much of the wilderness was also the territory of indigenous cultures that fit well into what was inhabited wilderness.

Attacks on nature and wild ecosystems[722] from ivory towers come at just the right time to bolster global exploiters, resurgent logging companies (here in California Pacific Lumber after the Charles Hurwitz lawsuits ) and those who would repeal the Endangered Species Law[723]. It seems as if there was an infamous alliance between capitalist materialists and Marxist idealists to attack a rural world that, they say, Marx considered idiotic and boring.

Heraclitus, the Stoics, the Buddhists, the scientists and the ordinary old and awake people all knew that everything in this world is ephemeral and unpredictable. Even the early ecologists working with the Clements succession[724] knew this! Now, however, a generation of resource biologists, suckled on the skim milk of Daniel Botkin's theorizing[725], are promoting what they think is a new paradigm that relegates the concept of climax to the dumping ground of ideas. . Certainly none of the early scientific ecologists ever doubted that disturbances come and go. It seems as if this specific case of harassment also appeared in time to support the logging companies and exploiters of the land. (Despite wind blows, vermin, fires, droughts, and landslides, many plant communities remained in essence for many millions of years before the age of man.)

It is a real shame that many scholars in the humanities and social sciences find it so difficult to accept the rise of "nature" as an intellectually serious field. Despite all the talk about "others" in theories around the world today, when faced with an authentic Other, the non-human world, the response of these anti-nature intellectual newcomers is to close ranks. and declare that nature is actually part of culture. Which may just be a ploy to maintain funding for their specialties.

Much of this rhetoric, if translated into human politics, would be like saying "African Americans are a social construct of whites." And then they could also claim that South Downtown Los Angeles is problem territory because it has been exaggerated by some white liberals, territory whose apparent moral problems are also illusory, and that what really needs to be done about African Americans it is to try to better understand how white writers and readers constructed them. However, when dealing with issues that concern their fellow humans, liberal critical theorists do not speak this way because they know what kind of response they will receive. In the case of nature, since they are still under the illusion that it is not really there, they allow themselves this moral and political superficiality.

Conservationists and ecologists have asked for it, in a way. We have not yet managed to communicate the importance of diversity. Many, if not most, citizens are really confused as to why such importance seems to be attached to owls or fish that until now had not even been heard of. Scientists have to be heard, but the writers and philosophers among us (myself included) should speak more clearly about our deep feelings about the value of the non-human. We need to keep cool, write clear prose, reject obscurity, and not intentionally exaggerate. And we need to understand the pain and discomfort of working people everywhere.

A Wild Area[726] is always a specific place, as it is there for the local creatures that live there. In some cases, a few humans will live in it as well. Such places are rare and must be rigorously defended. The Wild[727] is the process that surrounds us all, nature self-organizing: creating the vegetal zones, humans and their societies, all of them extremely resilient, beyond what we can imagine. Human societies create a multitude of dreams, notions and images about the nature of nature[728]. However, it is not impossible to get a fairly accurate picture of nature with a little first-hand experience - not very difficult, I would take these dubious professors for a walk outside, show them a bit of the spectacle of nature. disappearance of ecosystems and perhaps it would lead them to clean up a stream.

Presentation of “VALUE CHARACTER


In the first two decades of the 21st century, the idea has been gaining ground that the world has been transformed to such a degree by human beings that it can be considered that we live in a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene (the Age of Man). So far, this new term does not seem too problematic since it is apparently limited to denominating a situation (the profound influence of the human being in the current biosphere) without evaluating it. However, things are not as simple as it seems. In the first place, because many of those who have dedicated themselves to popularizing the term-concept of the Anthropocene (the self-styled "neoconservationists", "neoverdes" or "ecopragmatists") do not limit themselves to describing and naming the current situation of degradation of the biosphere, but, at the very least, they assume that the destruction and human domination of the Earth's ecosystems caused by the techno-industrial civilization is inevitable; that when they do not value it positively and defend it enthusiastically. So, to a large extent, they have monopolized the use of that term. And secondly, because the very concept of the Anthropocene is not merely descriptive and morally neutral, since at least it implies an overestimation of the real human influence on the biosphere; that is, of the real power of human societies to modify and influence the Earth's ecosystems. And not only that, if uncritically accepted as valid, the concept of the Anthropocene suggests the non-existence of the wild today, since, given its exaggerated nature, it falsely implies that there is no longer any place that is not not only influenced, but completely dominated by the human being. However, it is one thing to have affected in one way or another and to a greater or lesser extent the majority of the ecosystems and places in the Biosphere, which is bad enough, and another that they are under our control and that they no longer follow their own operating guidelines, but rather our management guidelines; that is to say, that they are no longer savages. Certainly, thanks to technological development and overpopulation, we have the power to destroy and greatly degrade many of Earth's ecosystems but, given their complexity, we do not have and will never have the power to fully control and direct their functioning.

Unfortunately, some of those who claim to value wild Nature and reject techno-industrial society have naively fallen into the trap of adopting and using the term-concept of the "Anthropocene" as if it were simply an innocuous way of naming the current state of the biosphere. . And so, by publicly adopting and uncritically using the term, they not only suggest an ideological affinity with neoconservationism that they don't really have, but they also give it scope. For this reason, we have considered it opportune to publish the following article (among others[a]).


By Ned Hettinger

There has been some hype recently about the idea that we are entering "the age of man." Popularized by a leading proponent of applying geoengineering to the planet

[a] See also “Beyond climate change” by Eileen Crist ([http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/crtica-de-la-civilizacin-y-del-sistema-tecnoindustrial/ms-all-de -la-crisis-del-clima][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/crtica-de-la-civilizacin-y-del-sistema-tecnoindustrial/ms-all-de-la-crisis-del- climate]) or “The Earth is not a garden” by Brandon Keim ([http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/la-tierra-no-es-un-jardn][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/la-tierra-no-es-un-jardn]), in Indomitable Nature.

b Translation of the chapter “Valuing the Naturalness in the „Anthropocene'”, from the book Keeping the Wild, edited by George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist and Tom Butler (Island Press, 2014). Translation by Último Reducto. N. as a response to climate change[1], “the Anthropocene” has proponents among environmental scientists, historians and philosophers, as well as in the press. Although it is a useful way of dramatizing the human impact on the planet, the concept is deeply insidious. And most importantly, it threatens the key environmental values of “naturalness”[c] (by which I mean the degree to which nature is uninfluenced by humans) and respect for nature. This essay is a critical appraisal of the Anthropocene notion, showing not only that it seriously exaggerates human influence on nature but also that it fosters inappropriate environmental politics and metaphysical and moral conclusions about humanity's role on the planet. Despite our dramatic impact on Earth, a substantial degree of "natural character" still remains; and growing human influence makes valuing the natural in environmental thinking and policy more important, not less.

Some geologists have been debating whether the human impact on Earth is significant enough to warrant designating a new epoch with a name relative to us: the Anthropocene. It is unquestionable that humans are a dominant species that affects nature on a global scale. Humans currently consume 30 to 40 percent of net primary production[d], use more than half of surface freshwater, and fix more nitrogen than all other terrestrial sources combined.[2] Human beings rival major geological forces in our propensity to move soil and rock from one place to another.[3] Overfishing has had massive effects on marine life; our dams control the flow of water in most major rivers; and non-native species are homogenizing Earth's ecosystems with the help of humans. Our contribution to greenhouse gases is expected to increase the planet's temperature by between 2°C and 5°C, affecting the climate and thus organisms on a global scale.[4] Human-caused extinctions are said to exceed 100 to 1,000 times the background extinction rate.[5] One study concluded that less than 20 percent of the land surface has escaped direct human influence.[6] It seems very likely that we are altering the planet on a scale comparable to the major events that marked changes in geological ages in the past.

However, the idea that we now live in “the age of man” has gone well beyond the concrete geological claim that the fossil record thousands of years from now will show a distinctive trace of human influence. Some proponents of the Anthropocene concept interpret the facts about human influence as justifications for general metaphysical and ethical claims about how we should conceive of the human relationship with nature. Our impact, they argue, is now so pervasive that traditional environmental ideals of preserving and respecting nature are outdated. Today, the natural character has either disappeared or is so tenuous that the desires to preserve, restore and value it are impossible dreams. The human virtues of humility and restraint towards the natural world are no longer possible or desirable and we need to come to terms with and adapt to a humanized world. Whether we like it or not, we have been forced to play the role of planetary managers and we have to manipulate nature according to our values and ideals. Instead of lamenting or resisting this new order, we should celebrate “the age of man”, because it offers us hope for a world in which humans take their responsibilities seriously and free themselves from restrictions based on misguided desire. to preserve a virgin nature that has long since disappeared.

[c] “Naturalness” in the original. It would literally translate as “naturalness”, but because today in Spanish “naturalness” is practically never used to refer to anything other than human behavior (and certainly never to refer to the degree to which ecosystems are not are affected by human beings, which is what the author refers to), in this text it has been translated as “natural character”, in almost all occasions. Cases where this term has been translated otherwise are explicitly indicated by footnotes. N. from t.

[d] Net primary production is the amount of total energy fixed by photosynthesis minus the energy consumed by respiration in autotrophic organisms. Broadly speaking, it can be considered that it is the amount of biomass produced by plants. N. from t.

A recent op-ed in the New York Times titled “Hope in the Age of Man” illustrates this troubling moral and metaphysical perspective.[7] Written by environmental professionals, it argues that "given the enormous alteration of the earth carried out by humanity" our time "well deserves to be considered the age of man." The authors criticize those who worry that the designation "Anthropocene" will give people the false impression that no place on Earth is natural anymore. They suggest that the importance given by conservation biologists to the protection of remaining relatively wild ecosystems is due to the fantasy of “an untouched natural paradise” and the pernicious and misanthropic “ideal of pristine wild ecosystems”. They end the article with the absurd Promethean statement that "this is the land we have created" and, therefore, we should "manage it with love and intelligence", "designing ecosystems" to establish "new glories".

Philosophers have also been seduced by the concept of the Anthropocene and have been led down similar paths. I will focus here on certain writings by Allen Thompson, an environmental philosopher at Oregon State University. Thompson claims to have found a way to “love global warming”.[8] He argues that the anxiety we currently feel in response to our new and “overwhelming responsibility toward the prosperity of life on Earth… bodes well for humanity”[9] and should inspire us with “radical hope” in that we can find a new kind of “environmental goodness…distinct from the autonomy of nature”[10].

Like other proponents of the age of man, Thompson exaggerates the degree to which humans have influenced nature. At some point he says that "we now know that the fundamental conditions of the biosphere are something for which, collectively, we are responsible."[11] However, it is certain that we are not responsible for the existence of sunlight, gravity, or water; neither of the photosynthetic capacity of plants, of the biological process of predation, nor of the chemical bonds between molecules; nor, more generally, the diversity of life on the planet nor its spectacular geology! The fact that we have influenced some of these conditions of life, and in some cases significantly, is something very different from our being "responsible" for them. Proposing that human beings have an obligation, for example, not to destroy the beauty or biodiversity of a mountain by removing its top is not the same as saying that we are responsible for the beauty of the mountain or its biodiversity. On the contrary, nature is responsible for these values, not human beings. Even in cases where we should restore these conditions by making them more suitable for the biosphere (perhaps by cleaning a river of pollutants), we cannot claim to be responsible for the river's ability to support life, even if we are responsible for having degraded it and have responsibility to clean it up.

A sympathetic reading of Thompson's spiel about "responsibility for the fundamental conditions of the biosphere" is that he is simply positing a negative duty to prevent further undermining of the naturally occurring basic conditions for life on the planet that do not exist. is posing the responsibility for the creation of them. However, Thompson, I believe, has more than just that in mind. His language suggests a metaphysical affirmation of the power and importance of human beings on the planet. He writes: “There was a time when the planet was bigger than us, but it is no longer”.[12] However, the reason given for this new importance of human beings - that "there is no corner of the globe, nor feature of our biosphere, that escapes the influence of human activity"[13] - is completely insufficient to justify such a metaphor. It is undoubtedly true that human beings have (and have long had) a greater causal impact on the planet than any other species taken separately. Human influence may be so massive that future geologists will see our impact in the geological record. However, this is a very different thing from saying that the human causal influence on Earth is greater than the non-human causal contributions due

[e] “Pristine wilderness” in the original. N. from t. to the combination of geological, chemical, physical and biological forces. Human beings are a fundamental force in shaping the planet, but we are only one among many.

Like other proponents of the Anthropocene, Thompson finds in the "age of man" an increase in the authority of humans in regards to our relationship with the planet. He states that “whether we accept it or not, we humans now shoulder the responsibility of planetary stewardship.”[14] Note that what Thompson rejects here is not only Leopold's view of our place as "mere members and citizens" in the natural world, but also various other conceptions of the relationship of human beings to nature: we are not caretakers. or restorers of the Earth, nor those in charge of cleaning up the mess we have caused, nor repentant ones who try to restore what we have destroyed, nor healers of a wounded Earth. Instead we are managers - we are in control - of this place. We humans are the bosses. Instead of developing our human capacities for “gratitude, wonder, respect, and restraint”[15] when it comes to nature, we should be taking control and running the place. Instead of honoring the Earth, human beings, “as adoptive parents”, need to “enable” the “prosperity” of life.[16] However, as many have pointed out, the Earth does not need us and the non-human world as a whole would be much better off without us. Our responsibility to nature is not primarily to enable nature, but to stop disabling it. Our responsibility towards the planet is not to control and manage it, but - at least in many respects - to reduce our control and impact.

For Thompson and other of his proponents, the Anthropocene means that traditional environmentalism, which places the value of natural character at its core, is dead. "My analysis supports the idea that environmentalism in the future ... will give significantly less place to valuing the good of nature's autonomy."[17] I think the opposite is guaranteed. It is true that there is a diminishing amount of nature[f] on the planet and, therefore, there is less of it left that we can value. However, it is also true that what remains has become even more valuable. If one starts from the assumption that nature's autonomy from humanity is valuable, and one takes into account that humans control more and more aspects of the natural world -thus reducing its natural character and making its autonomy increasingly more and more rare-, then the nature[g] that remains increases in value. Rarity is a property that increases the value of those things previously considered good. Furthermore, if natural character is a value, then the more it is compromised by human control and domination, the more (not less) important it is to take steps to restore it, as well as protect what remains of it.

The natural character that persists in nature altered or impacted by human beings is a very important object of assessment. Unless one ignores a central point held by proponents of the natural - that naturalness comes in degrees - and accepts the discredited notion that for something to be natural it must be utterly virgin, certain aspects of nature can be natural (ie relatively autonomous from humans) and can be valued as such even when they have been significantly influenced by humans. Take urban parks as an example: although they have been significantly shaped by humans, they retain a lot of natural character, and such parks are valued by those who enjoy them due (in large part) to that natural character. For example, they would be much less valued if the trees were made of plastic and the birds were genetically modified.

A central strategy of the proponents of the Anthropocene is to accuse their opponents of assuming the outdated idea of a pristine nature. According to this way of seeing things, nature must be virgin and immaculate to really be nature. As a result, either we have reached the end of nature (a la McKibben)[18] or we are mired in profound ignorance about human influence in general. For the most part, this tactic attacks a straw man:

[f] “Naturalness” in the original. N. from t. [g] Idem. <em>N. Advocates of an environmentalism that prioritizes respect for the autonomy of the natural world are well aware of the disappearance of pristine nature, however this does not undermine their commitment to respect for, and -when possible- the empowerment or restoration of the autonomy of nature.

Ironically, proponents of the Anthropocene themselves often draw on the idea of nature as untouched and use it to resort to the false dichotomy: either nature is untouched or it is created (or tamed) by human beings. Let us consider a few comments expressed by proponents of the Anthropocene today: “An interesting way of looking at nature now, in the Anthropocene, is that nature is something we create...There is really nothing around us that is not there. been touched by us. And if there is something that has not been touched by us, that is mostly the result of a decision ... Nature is something that you have to nurture yourself, just your garden”;[19] and “There really is no such thing as a nature unsullied by people. On the contrary, ours is a world of domesticated nature, albeit to varying degrees, from national parks to megalopolises with their skyscrapers.”[20]

So while the Anthropocene proponents criticize McKibben's ideal of a pristine wilderness (which led McKibben to the ludicrous conclusion that "we now live in a self-made world"[21]), they come to the same conclusion! and, to a great extent, for the same reasons! However, as we have explained, there is still a substantial amount of nature[h] left and it is possible and desirable to value that nature[1778][1779] reduced. There is still a lot of nature that defenders of traditional environmentalism based on “natural character” can value and defend.

Furthermore, proponents of the Anthropocene ignore that human-impacted natural systems have the potential to undo humanization and that there is a real possibility that a greater degree of naturalness will return to them.[22] That restoration, rewilding[j] and simply letting nature[k] recover on its own are desirable environmental policies (although certainly not the only environmental goals) is something that the promoters of the Anthropocene seem to reject. Note that it is not necessary for nature to return to its original reference state or trajectory in order for the natural character to be increased; the reduction of human control and influence on the course of nature is enough. Even if, as proponents of the Anthropocene insist, it is true that “there is no going back”, this does not mean that the only way forward is a fully managed future increasingly devoid of nature[l]. While letting nature run its own course along a path that we do not determine is in itself clearly a “management decision”, this does not show that that path is controlled or impacted by humans.

By way of conclusion, I see the recent focus on the age of man as the latest incarnation of human hubris. He betrays himself as guilty of not appreciating the profound role non-human nature continues to play on Earth and of arrogantly overvaluing human role and authority. Not only does it ignore an absolutely crucial value in properly respecting nature, but it leads us astray in environmental policy. It will make us underestimate the importance of preserving, restoring and rewilding nature and it will also make us promote the invention of ecosystems and geoengineering. Furthermore, by promoting the idea that we live on a planet that has already been domesticated, there is a risk that, as a consequence, monetary and public support for conservation will appear futile and cease.[23] We should not become comfortable with the

Anthropocene, as some have suggested, but rather combat it. This comfort does not represent the virtue of reconciliation, but the vice of capitulation.


1. P. Crutzen, “Geology of Mankind: The Anthropocene,” Nature 415 (2002): 23.

2. P. Vitousek, H. Mooney, J. Lubchenco, and J. Melillo, “Human Domination of Earth's Ecosystems,” Science 277, no. 5325 (1997): 494-99.[m]

3. R. Monasterky, “Eathmovers: Humans Take Their Place Alongside Wind, Water, and Ice,” Science News 146 (1994): 432-33.

4. J. Zalasiewicz, M. Williams, W. Steffen, and P. Crutzen, “The New World of the Anthropocene,” Environmental Science & Technology 44, no 7 (2010): 2228-31 .

5. Ibid.

6. P. Kareiva, S. Watts, R. McDonald, and T. Boucher, “Domesticated Nature; Shaping Landscapes and Ecosystems for Human Welfare”, Science 316, no. 5833 (2007): 1866-69.


7. E. Marris, P. Kareiva, J. Mascaro, and E. Ellis, “Hope in Age of Man,” op-ed, New York Times December 7, 2011. [http:/ /www.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/opinion/the-age-of-man-is-not-a-disaster.html][http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/ opinion/the-age-of-man-is-not-a-disaster.html].

8. A. Thompson, “Responsibility for the End of Nature: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Global Warming”, Ethics and the Environment 79, no 1 (2009): 79- 99.

9. A. Thompson, “Responsibility for the End of Nature: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Global Warming,” p. 97.

10. A. Thompson, “Radical Hope for Living Well in a Warmer World,” Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23, no. 1 (2010): 43-55.

11. A. Thompson, “Responsibility for the End of Nature: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Global Warming,” p. 96.

12. A. Thompson, “Responsibility for the End of Nature: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Global Warming,” p. 97.



15 .H. Rolston III, A New Environmental Ethics: The Next Millennium for Life on Earth (New York: Routledge, 2012), 46.

16. Thompson, “Responsibility for the End of Nature: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Global Warming”, p. 97.

17 .A. Thompson, "Radical Hope for Living Well in a Warmer World," p. 54.

18.B. McKibben, The End of Nature (New York: Doubleday, 1989).[n]

19 .E. Ellis, (video interview), “Erle Ellis on the Anthropocene”, The Economist, Multimedia Library accessed February 2012.

[m] There is a translation into Spanish: “Human domination of the Earth's ecosystems”, in Naturaleza Indómita. [http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/la-dominacin-humana-de-los-ecosistemas-de-la-tierra][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/la-dominacin-humana- of-the-ecosystems-of-the-earth]. N. from t.

[n] There is an edition in Spanish: The end of nature. Editions B, 1990. T.N.

20. P. Kareiva, S. Watts, R. McDonald, and T. Boucher, “Domesticated Nature; Shaping Landscapes and Ecosystems for Human Welfare”, Science 316, no. 5833 (2007): 1866-69.


21.B. McKibben, The End of Nature, 85.

22 .N. Hettinger and B. Throop, “Refocusing Ecocentrism: De-emphasizing Stability and Defending Wildness,” Environmental Ethics 21, no. 1 (Spring 1999): 3-21.

23 .T. Caro, J. Darwin, T. Forrester, C. Ledeoux-Bloom and C. Wells, “Conservation in the Anthropocene”, Conservation Biology 26, n°1 (2011): 185-88.

Presentation of "WILD NATURE: WHAT AND WHY?"

The following text, like many of those included in this section, tries to refute, quite successfully, the typical attacks on the concept of Wild Nature. From its reading, the intelligent reader will be able to extract important ideas and conclusions about what the wildness of ecosystems really consists of. And this information may help you not to fall into errors and naivety when referring to wild Nature, as well as not to be fooled by the fallacies of those who try to make us believe that the wild neither exists nor is it a value that should be defend.

Likewise, a very interesting idea mentioned in the text is what the author calls “landscape amnesia” (what others call “shifting ecological baseline syndrome”). As true wilderness areas disappear, people tend to gradually accept and take as normal or desirable (ecological references) environments that are really nothing more than, at best, degraded states of what was once there was and what actually should be. This has a lot to do, for example, with the way in which many ecologists and similar people tend to pose the ecological ideal in Europe (a continent for the most part intensely humanized for many centuries): a “green” rural or urban world, with a "nature" mostly domesticated and largely dependent on human beings and their culture. When the only thing that is known and that surrounds one, apart from the streets and buildings of towns and cities, are farmland, secondary forests, meadows, forestry plantations and cattle pastures, it is easy to fall into assuming that this is the true nature. It takes a conscious effort and quite a bit of ecological knowledge to realize that authentic (ie wild) Nature is something else: what was there before all that domestication and degradation.

On the other hand, as is customary among conservationists, the author focuses on defending the goal of legal preservation of wild Nature. However, although this strategy may be necessary and relatively effective in the short term, it will not serve in the long term to protect wild ecosystems from the siege to which they will inevitably be subjected, sooner or later, by the techno-industrial society. And, precisely, the conservation problems or deficiencies that the author himself recognizes and mentions in this text are proof of the above, examples of why and how legal conservation will not manage to protect the wild in the long term. The solution to the conflict between wild nature and techno-industrial society must be another, different from the legal preservation of protected areas and the deceitful search for a balance between two parties that are actually irreconcilable.


By Howie Wolke[a]

A few years ago, I led a group through the wilderness of northern Alaska's Brooks Range during the early fall caribou migration. I believe that if I had twenty lives I would never again experience something so primal, so simple and rudimentary and so completely and unequivocally wild. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it filled my eye more

[a] Translation of the chapter “Wilderness: What and Why?”, from the book Keeping the Wild, edited by George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist and Tom Butler (Island Press, 2014). Translation by Último Reducto. N. from t.

[b] “The wilds” in the original. N. t. than anything else. Perhaps that expedition - into one of the last remaining terrestrial wildernesses on Earth - is my personal measuring stick, my personal quintessence of what constitutes wilderness among all my wilderness experiences throughout my life. . The tundra was a rainbow with autumn fur. Fresh snow covered the peaks and periodically the valleys as well. Animals were everywhere, thousands of them, moving through valleys, across mountain passes, over divides, over ridges. The wolves chased the caribou. A grizzly bear feeding on a carcass temporarily blocked our route through a narrow pass. It was a week I will never forget, a week in an ancient world that elsewhere is fast being engulfed by the terrifying technophilia caused by the 21st century nature deficit.

Some claim that wilderness[d] is defined by our perception, which in turn is determined by our circumstances and experiences. For example, a person who has never been to the Brooks Range and instead has spent most of his life confined to large cities with little exposure to wilderness might consider a forest on a farm or a park to be “wilderness.” small state park criss-crossed by tracks; or even a cornfield, though this seems to stretch the relativity theory of wild[e] nature to the point of patent absurdity. According to this line of thought, the wild[f], like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

However, those who believe that perception defines the wild[g] are completely wrong. In our culture, wilderness[h] is a very distinct and definable entity and can be viewed at two complementary levels. First, from a legal point of view, the Wilderness Act[1242] of 1964 defines wilderness quite clearly. A declared wilderness is an “undeveloped” and “primal” area, a wild piece of public land with no civilized overtones that is managed so that it remains wild. Section 2c of the Wilderness Act defines a wilderness area as "unencumbered" in the sense of "unlimited" or "unrestricted." It further defines wilderness as "undeveloped federal land area that retains its original character and influence, without permanent human settlement or improvement." The law also generally prohibits road construction and resource extraction such as logging or mining. It also sets a general guideline of 5,000 acres[j] as the minimum size for a wilderness area. What's more, it restricts all mechanical devices, from mountain bikes and hunting carts[k] to loud, smoking, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles, to non-wilderness areas.

Primarily drafted by the late Howard Zahniser, the Wilderness Act creates a National Wilderness Preservation System (SNPTS) on federally managed public lands. Wilderness is managed by four federal land management agencies: the US Forest Service[l], the National Park Service[m], the US Fish and Wildlife Service[ n] and the Department of Land Management[o]. To declare a wilderness protected, the United States Congress must enact a statute and the president must sign it. Also, according to the Wilderness Act, the SNPTS must be uniformly managed as a single system.

In addition to seeing wilderness[p] as a legal entity, we also have a closely related cultural view steeped in mystery and romance and influenced by our history, which certainly includes the hostile view of wilderness[q] that was especially prevalent during the early days of colonization. Today, our cultural view of the wild[r] is generally positive. The cultural view of wilderness[1244][1245] today is heavily influenced by the Wilderness Act, which means that when people simply talk about wilderness, without referring to legal definitions, It speaks of a wilderness that is large, wild, and untapped, where nature rules. And that certainly does not refer to a forestry plantation or a cornfield.

In short, then, the wilderness is nature with all its magic and lack of predictability. Not only do they lack roads, motors, pavement and buildings, but they come loaded with unknown wonders and challenges that at least some human beings increasingly crave in today's increasingly controlled and confined world. Unfettered wilderness, by definition, includes fire and insects, predators and prey, as well as the dynamic unpredictability of wilderness, existing in its own way and in its own right, with utter disregard for preference, convenience and human comfort. And also by human perception. As the etymological roots of the word “wilderness” indicate, it is about “land with its own will”[t] and the “home of wild beasts”[u]. They are also the ancestral home of everything we know in this world and even spawned civilization, although I'm not convinced that the latter was a good thing.

Neither the Wilderness Act nor our more general cultural perception of wilderness[v] requires wild landscapes[w] to be pristine. The authors of the Wilderness Act wisely recognized that, even in 1964, there were no landscapes left that completely escaped the imprint of humanity. Consider acid rain, global air pollution, and the man-made climate crisis. That is why they defined wilderness areas as those that “appear overall to have been mainly affected by the forces of nature being in them <em>significantly< /em> immeasurable trace of the works of man” [my italics]. In fact, those who cite the pervasive impacts of humanity to wrongly proclaim that wild nature[x] no longer exists are unable to understand the difference between wild and unspoiled. Absolutely unspoiled wilderness may be history, but there's still plenty of wildness left on this troubled planet[y]. As the burgeoning human population continues its evil growth within the shrinking domain of wilderness habitats, the value of wilderness—and of protecting wilderness—is increasing.

So the wilderness is not just any undeveloped, undeveloped landscape. They are not merely a blank space on the map. Because inside that blank space could be all kinds of harmful human activities that have long been destroying the essence of wilderness: gas and oil pipelines, power lines, water lines, wastelands blighted by overgrazing, and scars caused by off-road vehicles. , for instance. No, the wilderness is not just a place that lacks development. They are primitive places that have not been spoiled, sacred places in their own right. They may not be entirely pristine, but they are still functional storehouses for evolutionary processes; by far the best left. The wilderness designation is a statement addressed to those who would otherwise keep the industrial behemoth advancing: Do not touch! This place is special!

Wilderness declaration is not simply a political strategy to prevent bulldozers from encroaching on wilderness. This is a valid use of our wilderness legislation, yes, but when we see wilderness solely - or even primarily - as a deterrent to industry and motors, we miss all the important things that actually make a difference. the wild areas of other less extraordinary places. Some of those things include tangible physical attributes like native fauna and flora, clean water, and minimal noise pollution. However, in many ways, the intangible values of wilderness areas are equally important in differentiating them from other landscapes. Amazement and challenge are two of them. For many of us, the simple knowledge that some landscapes are beyond our control provides a breath of sanity. Solitude and the feeling of connection with other forms of life are also maximized in the wilderness.

Wilderness[aa] also offers us some defense against the collective disease of landscape amnesia. I started using this expression in the early 1980s while writing in an educational journal about wilderness and roadless areas. It began to occur to me that as we tame nature, each new generation becomes less aware of what constitutes a healthy landscape as many of the components of that landscape gradually disappear. In the same way that someone who watches the proverbial frog inside the pot of water slowly approach the boiling point without ever noticing the point at which the frog goes from being alive to being dead, society does not realize that the surrounding landscape disappears until it is too late.

For example, few individuals today remember that the extensive and healthy cottonwood forests of Virginia were commonplace in floodplains throughout the West. So today's generations see our empty floodplains as "normal." Therefore, there is no pressure to restore that ecosystem. This principle applies to wilderness areas. These zones keep at least some untouched, wild, natural areas for people to see. We do not forget what we can still see with our own eyes. When we keep those areas wild, there is less risk of us succumbing to wilderness amnesia[bb] and forgetting what the real wilderness is like.

What sets wilderness areas apart is their dynamic character; they are always flowing, one year or decade or century is never the same as the next, they never stop, and they are completely unconstrained—despite the relentless attempts of humans to control almost everything. Natural processes such as wildfires, floods, predation, and native insects can (or should) shape wilderness landscapes just as they have in the past.

It has been said that wild nature[cc] cannot be created; that it can only be protected where it still exists; and there is some truth in it. However, there is also a large gray area. Although most of the new protected wilderness units are made up of relatively untouched, roadless areas, the United States Congress is free to declare any area of federal land, including lands that have been impacted, as wilderness. human activities in the past, such as logging and road construction or the use of off-road vehicles. In fact, Congress has declared such lands as wilderness numerous times. Once declared, government agencies are legally bound by the Wilderness Act to manage such land as wilderness. Normally time and the elements do the rest. For example, most of the wilderness in the eastern United States

[aa] “Wilderness” in the original. N. from t.

[bb] “Wilderness amnesia” in the original. N. from t.

[cc] “Wilderness” in the original. N. from t.

The United States once suffered severe logging and were criss-crossed with roads and tracks. They have now recovered much of their former wild character.

Perhaps the section of the Wilderness Act that has been most overlooked is the one that deals with the care of declared areas. The Wilderness Act directs managers to keep wilderness areas “untouched” and for “the preservation of their wilderness character”. This means that the law prohibits the degradation of protected wilderness areas”. Therefore, one would assume that once an area is declared a wilderness, all would be well, at least in that little corner of the world. However, one would be wrong.

This is because, despite the poetic and pragmatic genius of the Wilderness Act, land managers routinely ignore the law and thus hardly any SNPTS units deliver on the promise of untouched wilderness. obstacles[dd]. To be fair, wilderness managers from government agencies are often under tremendous pressure - often at the local level - to ignore abuses. Sometimes their budgets are simply not enough to get the job done. On the other hand, we citizens pay our officials to enforce the law. When they fail to adequately maintain the character of the wilderness, they violate both the law and the public trust.

Throughout the SNPTS, degradation is rampant. Invasions of exotic plants, predator control by state wildlife managers (yes, in wilderness areas!), eroding multi-lane horseback riding tracks, trampled lake shores, swimming pools Bulldozer water storage facilities, the proliferation of construction and use of motorized equipment, overgrazing by livestock, and illegal entry by motor vehicles are just a few of the current problems. Many of these problems seem minor taken individually, but taken together they add up to the decay of the system, constituting a plethora of small but growing grievances that I call "creeping degradation," even though some of these examples appear to be moving forward. at full speed, not little by little. External influences, such as climate change and chemical pollution, are adding to the problems of wilderness[ee] as we head into the challenging, and perhaps even daunting, decades ahead.

Apart from wilderness, both understood as a cultural idea and taken as legal entities, there is another dichotomy relating to them. It is the dichotomy of declared wilderness versus “lower case” wilderness. America's public lands include perhaps a couple hundred million acres of undeveloped, largely roadless wilderness that—so far—lacks government protection. These “roadless areas” constitute “ lowercase” or “de facto” wilderness. This is the stark reality of the early 21st century: Given the growing human population and its search for resources to exploit in nearly every remaining nook and cranny of the Earth, we are fast approaching the day when the only remaining significant natural habitats will be those that we choose to protect - either as wilderness or as other (lower) categories of protected lands. Within not long, most other sizable natural areas will be gone.

In order to get as many road-free areas added to the SNPTS as possible, some wilderness advocacy groups support special conditions on new wilderness projects to placate those who oppose such areas. Examples include conditions that enforce rights to graze cattle in wilderness areas, allow ATVs and helicopters to circulate, authorize[ff] incompatible uses such as dams and other water projects, declare exemptions from regulations to commercial operators, as well as many other cases. So we legalized overgrazing, the use of ATVs by ranchers and

[dd] “Untrammeled wildness” in the original. N. from t.

[ee] “The wilds” in the original. N. from t.

[ff] "Grandfather" in the original. It refers to the so-called "grandfather clauses" (literally "grandfather clauses") according to which certain individuals or groups are exempt from complying with a new regulation for having certain "acquired rights " prior to the new regulations. N. wildlife managers, overzealous fire management, and destructive new water projects - just to mention a few of the incompatible activities that are sometimes allowed in declared protected wilderness areas. These and similar activities strip both the wilderness system and the idea of wilderness[hh] of their wilderness[gg] character. And when we allow the idea of wilderness[ii] to degrade, it is inevitable that society will gradually accept as “wilderness” spaces that are less wild than they were in the past. Once again it is the disease of amnesia of the landscape or amnesia of wild nature[jj].

An equally huge threat to wilderness is the recent trend to create new wilderness areas with borders that are drawn to exclude any potential or detectable conflict, also to appease opposition. So we have small, fragmented “wild” areas, sometimes with borders dominated by amoeba-shaped borders surrounding small nuclei of habitat. Or large otherwise continuous roadless areas are transformed into small fragmented “wild”[kk] units because Congress approves motor vehicle roads through them. These trends alarm conservation biologists who are concerned with biological diversity and the protection of entire ecosystems. If we can't sue and work for true wilderness, we'll never get it. That's for sure.

To some, especially those who identify engines or resource extraction with freedom, the designation of protected wilderness areas seems restrictive. In reality, however, the wilderness has more to do with freedom than any other landscape. I mean the freedom to roam and, yes, the freedom to be wrong, because where else could we be so immediately aware of the physical consequences of our decisions? Freedom, challenge and adventure go together and the wilderness offers ample doses of each - "Should I try to cross this way?" "Can I avoid that bear by taking a detour?" "Is there a big storm approaching or not?" When we enter the wild lands we leave behind all the securities. We are faced with the unknown. Things often don't go as planned. Wild nature[1246][1247] is rudimentary and fundamental in ways that we have largely lost to culture. This loss, by the way, weakens us. Wild nature[mm] strengthens us.

Freedom. In the wilderness we are free to hunt, fish, hike, creep, slide, swim, ride horseback, canoe or raft, cross-country ski, view wildlife, study nature, photograph, and contemplate anything that might arouse our interest. We are free to follow our spiritual values, whatever they may be, without any pressure from the official authorities of organized church or state. And we're generally free to do any of these things for as long as we want. The wilderness is also the best environment for the little-practiced but vitally important activity of doing absolutely nothing - I mean nothing at all, except perhaps watching the clouds float by over some wonderful wilderness[nn].

Wilderness[oo] offers an essential antidote to the growing civilized excesses of urbanization, pollution, technology and popular culture. Wildlands provide clean water and control flooding, and act as a storehouse for clean air. They provide many tons of healthy meat, as our healthiest fish and game populations are associated with the wild (who says “landscape doesn't feed”?). And wilderness reduces the need to create politically and socially contentious lists of threatened species. When we protect habitat, most species thrive.

By giving nature a respite from human manipulation, wilderness supports the evolutionary process. They help maintain connectivity between the population centers of large, wide-ranging animals - especially large carnivores. This protects genetic diversity and increases the resilience of faunal populations, which are so important for the ecosystem. We are beginning to understand that without large carnivores, most natural ecosystems spiral into biological loss and depletion.

Wilderness is also our primary reference environment. In other words, they are the metaphorical ruler by which we measure the health of all human-altered landscapes. How could we ever make smart decisions in forestry or agriculture, for example, if there was no benchmark to compare against? Of course, wilderness areas act as authentic landmarks only if we allow them to be wild and keep them unfettered.

Wild nature[pp] also has to do with humility. It is a reminder that we don't know everything and that we never will. In the wilderness[qq] we are part of something much bigger than our civilization and ourselves. It pushes us beyond the ego and that, I think, can only lead to good things. Perhaps above all else, wilderness is a recognition that non-human life forms and the landscapes that support them have intrinsic value, simply because they exist, regardless of their multiple benefits to the environment. human species. Intrinsic value is a difficult concept for some to grasp, especially when it comes to life or non-human habitats. So, no, I cannot absolutely prove the validity of the idea of the intrinsic value of wilderness[rr] (any more than I can prove the intrinsic value of my grandmother); its validity depends on the basic values that one has and on the cultivation of receptivity and the ability to listen. Few of those who spend much time in nature[1248] will deny this.

The wilderness is emphatically not primarily about entertainment, although that is certainly one of its many assets. Nor with the “me first” attitude of those who metaphorically see nature as a cake that has to be divided among different groups of users. It has to do with selflessness, putting our egos aside and doing what is best for the earth. It has to do with the whole, not with fragments. After all, protected wilderness areas - despite their problems - are still the healthiest landscapes with the cleanest waters and tend to support the healthiest wildlife populations, especially for many species that have become rare. in or have been removed from places that are less wild.

Having earned a living as a nature guide/monitor[tt] for thirty-five years, I have had the great fortune to experience first-hand many wild places throughout western North America and sometimes far beyond. If I had to sum up what I've learned in one succinct sentence, it would probably be this: Wild nature[uu] is all about moderation. As Howard Zahniser put it, managers of wilderness must be "keepers, not gardeners." When in doubt, leave them alone. Because if we fail to temper our manipulative impulses in the wilderness, where else on Earth will we ever find untrammeled land?

Ultimately, when we fail to protect, maintain and restore true wilderness, we lose the opportunity to pass on to our children and grandchildren - and to future generations of non-human life - the irreplaceable wonders of a world that is fast becoming a mere weak I remember a much better time. Fortunately, we still have the opportunity to both properly declare and protect a considerable amount of once-enormous wilderness[vv]. Let's not miss this opportunity. We need to protect as much as possible and keep it wild.

[vv] Idem. N. of the t.


By Dave Foreman

University of Wisconsin geographer William M. Denevan is a leading critic of what he calls "The Virgin Nature Myth[b]." He states that “the 16th century Native American landscape was a humanized landscape almost everywhere. The populations were large.”[1] Arturo-Gomez-Pompa and Andrea Kaus echo this statement: “Scientific findings indicate that virtually every part of the globe, from boreal forests to the humid tropics, has been inhabited, modified, or managed throughout our past. human.”[2] J. Baird Callicott similarly asserts that “the idea of the wilderness[c] is regrettably ethnocentric. It overlooks the historical presence and effects that Aboriginal peoples had on virtually every ecosystem in the world.”[3]

How much truth is there in these theoretical assertions? What do the research and facts really tell us? Some questions we should ask ourselves about the Myth of Virgin Nature are:

- How big was the native population?

- How widespread was the native population?

- How extensive were the impacts on the native population?

- Do ecosystems recover from human impact?

- And, finally, is the Myth of Virgin Nature necessary for the Idea of Wilderness Protected Areas[d]?

Having explored these questions, I will second University of Oregon geographers Cathy Whitlock and Margaret Knox who say: “It is not surprising that assigning a significant role to primitive peoples is a popular concept today among those who defend the active management of both wilderness areas and exploited land[e].”[4] In fact, ranching apologist Dan Dagget calls for ranching in the drylands of the West and ultimately domesticating the wilderness because he believes that American Indians had already domesticated the land before North America was born. occupied by white settlers.[5] Michael Soulé points out that right-wing anti-conservationists in the United States argue that "since the West is no longer wilderness, there should be no regulatory constraints on the pursuit of short-term profit maximization on public lands," and that social environmentalists leftists claim that the Amazon rainforest was created

[a] Translation of the chapter “The Myth of the Humanized Pre-Columbian Landscape”, from the book Keeping the Wild , edited by George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist and Tom Butler (Island Press, 2014). Translation by Último Reducto. N. from t.

[b] “The Pristine Myth” in the original. N. from t.

[c] “Wilderness” in the original. The term “wilderness” refers to lands with little or no humanization. In this text it will be translated as “wild lands” or “wild areas”, unless explicitly stated otherwise. N. from t.

[d] “Wildernes Areas” in the original. Here it will be translated as “wilderness protected areas” unless otherwise indicated. N. from t.

[e] “Commodity lands” in the original. N. of the t. by the Indians and, therefore, this justifies “later material remodeling”.[6] The political and ecological implications of the “humans-have-always-been-everywhere” perspective are chillingly clear.

How many native population were there?

Denevan has suggested a total population of 53.9 million for the New World in 1492: “3.8 million for North America, 17.2 million for Mexico, 5.6 million for Central America, 3 million for the Caribbean, 15.7 million for the Andes and 8.6 million for the lowlands of South America.”[7] Others have supposed that there were as many as 8 million people living north of the Rio Grande. However, Douglas H. Uberlaker of the Smithsonian Institution believes it was only 2 million.[8] Denevan's edited anthology, The Native Population of the Americas in 1492, shows only how diverse the estimates are, how questionable the evidence behind them is, and how ideology influences they. Denevan openly acknowledges that his estimates are simply the result of multiplying Uberlaker's by two, which he considers too conservative.[9] Although I believe that Uberlaker's population estimates are more accurate, I will use Denevan's here so that I am not so easily accused of underestimating the actual population.

How widespread was the native population?

Certainly nearly 23 million people in Mexico and Central America would make for a large and often dense population. However, for North America north of the Rio Grande, the Denevan estimate is merely 3.8 million. Keep in mind that the combined population of Canada and the United States today is over 330 million. Even taking Denevan's calculations for granted, the pre-Columbian population would be little more than 1 percent of the current one. Furthermore, these nearly 4 million people were also not spread evenly across the landscape. There were large regions that were rarely visited by human beings - still less had permanent settlements - due to the inhospitable environment, the small total human population at the time, its uneven distribution, its limited technology, the lack of horses and the continuous wars and attacks. Archeology supports my position. In addition, some areas, such as the Colorado Plateau in the present-day Southwestern United States, and the greater Yucatan area of Central America, had been depopulated centuries before Columbus' arrival due to drought and farmers overrunning the carrying capacity of the land, and afterwards its wildness character had largely recovered.

University of Wisconsin geographer Thomas Vale, after carefully considering various population estimates, wisely concludes that "much of the area of the West [of the present-day United States] was only lightly inhabited." In order to find more evidence to support his position, Vale uses archaeology, ethnology, ecology and paleoecology both to estimate the actual area used by the natives north of the Rio Grande for their settlements and for agriculture and to calculate how much land was affected by other activities, such as vegetation modification and logging. It shows that, to a great extent, there were immense areas that were not affected by the Indians.[10]

And as for the stronghold of the wilderness in the contiguous United States today—the Rocky Mountains—William Baker, professor of geography at the University of Wyoming, estimates that “the population in the Rockies themselves in AD 1500 it could have been approximately 32,000 inhabitants.”[11] This is a smaller population than the city of Missoula, Montana. That population, scattered throughout the Rockies, was far from crowding the region, at worst.

Seen on the large time scale of the 500 billion years of complex animal life on Earth, human presence has been for an extraordinarily short time and our impact until very recently was scattered and slight.[1602][] What happened during the immensity of the times prior to our appearance? Postmodern deconstructionists and their supposed political rivals, free-market theorists, seem to believe that nothing happened—or at least nothing that matters. I have come to suspect that such self-centered humanists are really incapable of imagining a time or place without the presence of human beings. They are hard-core social constructionists and can be adamant enemies of nature protection except where it directly benefits people and where what is being protected is one of those Disneyland-type parks with hordes of visitors everywhere.

How extensive were the impacts of the native peoples?

What was the level of impact that indigenous peoples had in America? The obvious answer is that no one knows for sure. Until recently, it was widely believed that the natives of northern Mexico had little effect on the landscape. This is what the Puritans of New England claimed in order to justify their appropriation of land they considered "unused" by the Indians.[1603] The pendulum has swung to the other extreme in recent years, claiming that even the tiniest populations transformed pre-Columbian ecosystems - especially through fire. The “Myth of the Virgin America” has been replaced by the “Myth of the Humanized Landscape”.[1604]

The question to be discussed is not whether the natives touched the land, but to clarify to what extent and where. Even if certain populated and cultivated places were not self-regulating land[f] due to burning, agriculture and other native uses, it cannot be inferred from this that the same was true everywhere. Does the fact that Los Angeles is paved mean that the entire surface of the United States is paved? Are we to consider the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in Montana a man-made landscape, just because most of Illinois is a man-made landscape? Of course not. Those early explorers and later settlers who, based on the wild lands they found, extrapolated that all of America was a wild land before the arrival of the Europeans are imitated today by the deconstructors who, starting from some specific sites modified by the natives extrapolate that all America was domesticated by the Indians. Both notions are unfounded - and stupid.

The first wave of expert hunters to arrive in the Americas some thirteen thousand years ago rapidly caused the extinction of dozens of species of large mammals unaccustomed to such a predator. The Pleistocene-Holocene extinction had profound effects that may still be reverberating across American ecosystems.[1605] In certain regions of pre-Columbian America, the high density of human population and intensive agriculture caused serious degradation of ecosystems and the extermination of wildlife. However, it is preposterous to say that between 2 and 4 million people had completely domesticated the territory north of the Rio Grande. According to University of Kansas historian Donald Worster, “Two million people scattered across what is now Canada and the United States, armed with primitive stone tools, could not really have 'tamed' the entire continent. Not even today's 300 million Americans and Canadians, armed with far more powerful technology, have fully tamed the continent yet.”[16]

A key piece in the myth of the domesticated landscape is that the natives lit fires throughout North America. More than ten years ago, however, Reed Noss, one of the leading experts on North American ecosystems and a former editor of the journal Conservation Biology, pointed out that fires caused by lightning best explained the presence of vegetation adapted to fire than the fires set by the Indians.[17] Ecologist Craig Allen of the US Geological Survey[g] confirms this for northern New Mexico:

Every 5 to 20 years there were widespread fires everywhere ponderosa pines were growing[h], with somewhat lesser frequencies, on the order of every 15 to 40 years , in forests composed of stone pine[1606][1607] and juniper[j] at lower altitudes as well as in mixed coniferous forests at higher altitudes . ... Given our dry spring weather and frequent thunderstorms, lightning is believed to have caused the vast majority of these fires. This idea is supported by the records of about 4,000 lightning-caused fires that were documented between 1909 and 1996 by the Jemez Mountains firefighting operation, and by the more than 16,000 lightning strikes recorded in the Jemez region by a lightning detection system between 1985 and 1994.[18]

Forest ecologist, paleoecologist and director of the Harvard Forest at Harvard University David Foster has also tested claims that New England Indians created the vegetation patterns of that region by burning. He says that “the paleoecological record offers no support for such views and, when supplemented by other historical data, instead presents a very different picture of the overall landscape. Sites studied in the central Massachusetts highlands have recorded fires and associated vegetation dynamics, but they are separated by intervals of centuries or millennia...In the Berkshires and northern Vermont highlands, even lower fire frequency.”[19] Foster adds that “the charcoal record does not support the idea of extensive and frequent management of the land through the use of fire by Native Americans [in New England].”[20]

It is perhaps Thomas Vale who has most carefully scrutinized the claims about the humanized pre-Columbian landscape. "The desire to imagine humanized landscapes in pre-European times derives from social ideologies," he writes, "not from a careful analysis of ecological data."[21] I think Vale has hit the nail on the head when it comes to understanding the postmodern barrage against wild nature as a whole[k]. It is social ideology that fires those weapons, not examination of ecological facts. Social ideology is also what drives the defenders of commercial logging and extensive cattle ranching who promote the Myth of the Humanized Landscape in order to justify exploitation.

Using archaeology, history, ecology, and logic, Vale examines claims about a humanized landscape for a particular place—Yosemite National Park—in her article, "The Myth of the Humanized Landscape." He suggests that a place can be said to be “natural” or that it is “in the wild”[1608][1609] if in it the fundamental characteristics of the vegetation, fauna, orography, soil, hydrology and climate are those that result from non-human natural processes and whether these conditions exist whether or not humans are present.”[22] Michael Soulé similarly argues: “To claim that Homo sapiens has produced or invented forests ignores the basic taxonomic integrity of biogeographical units: species today still have geographic distributions determined primarily by tolerances. ecological conditions, geological history, and climate, rather than human activities.”[23]

Vale explains that claims about a humanized pre-European Yosemite should not be applied beyond the relatively populated Yosemite Valley or encompass the entire area occupied by the national park, and that, even so, slight modifications of vegetation or use of plants does not mean that the valley was completely humanized in native times. Finally, consider the exaggerated claims made about burning by the Indians. He says, “Further examination should ask the extent to which human-induced fires were in addition to, or rather substituted for, natural fires and, furthermore, whether any of the fires set by American Indians transformed the landscape into another different from the one that would have existed without those burnings.”[24] After weighing what science knows today about fire frequency and behavior in Yosemite, he finds that "these fire frequencies vary over time, with fires closely following weather conditions - a a sign that it is natural factors, not human beings, that determine the frequency of fires.”[25] According to University of Georgia geographer Albert J. Parker, an expert on coniferous forest disturbance, “the predominance of evidence from fire-prone ecosystems … suggests that fuel accumulation patterns are much more influential than the ignition source in regulating the frequency and spatial extent of fires.”[26]

Vale also reviews studies from other regions of the United States to learn how widespread the severe human-caused impacts were. He comes to the following conclusion:

The general idea, therefore, is that the pre-European landscape of the United States was not monolithically humanized, it was not a “managed landscape, much of whose appearance and ecology [were] the product of human presence” (Flores 1997 ). Rather, it was a mosaic composed, at various scales, of parts wild and parts humanized. The American natural wilderness -primarily environments 27

shaped by nature- existed in fact.[27]

Vale's edited anthology, Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape, makes its case based on careful analysis and evidence spanning the entire western United States. His collaborators, who include several of the world's foremost biological geographers and fire ecologists, debunk the romantic (and, as they show, imperialistic) idea that the Indians carried out widespread burning. The regions studied in the book are the Rocky Mountains, the northern part of the region between the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range,[m] the Southwest Lowlands, the Northwest Coast[n], the forests of the Sierra Nevada and the California Chaparral. His book is essential to fully understanding the question of whether Indians had already domesticated the United States by the time Europeans colonized the region. Anyone who wants to deal intelligently with the problem of the virgin and the humanized (or the pristine and the profaned, as Soulé calls it) needs to read this book. The authors know what they are talking about; Wilderness deconstructionists[0] - both those on the left and those on the right - who promote the idea of a humanized pre-European landscape are very wrong.

Throughout the West, these experts show that it was lightning-caused fires, not man-made fires, that dominated the fire regime. Advocates of Indian burning base much of their argument on historical accounts. However, William Baker, Craig Allen, and the other authors of Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape show that early observers largely missed that lightning caused fires. For example, Aldo Leopold wrote in 1920, “As the early settlers[p] knew well, the Indians burned the forests with the deliberate intent of confusing and concentrating game so that it would be easier to hunt them.”[1610] Leopold's former settlers did not know what they were talking about, and Leopold remained unclear about the real ecological role of fire throughout his life. Historian Stephen Pyne, widely regarded in the United States as a fire expert and someone who has written much good work, repeats the same misconception, asserting that the most widespread use of fire by the Indians was probably burning to facilitate burning. hunt. Fire and landscape change ecologist Craig Allen, however, counters that “in the Southwest, the idea that hunting fires had a landscape-scale impact rests on grounds that lack the substance of minimal documentation...primary evidence of large-scale burning to facilitate hunting is virtually non-existent in the Southwest and the foundations on which it rests are weak.”[1611] Pyne, Charles Kay, and other believers in native pyromania have uncritically relied on a few unsubstantiated claims made by former Leopold colonists and have created a history and prehistory of fire that is ecologically inconsistent.

Although he writes specifically about the Southwest, what Allen says neatly sums up the situation for the entire West: “Modern claims of extensive Aboriginal burning of Southwest landscapes have been shown to be based on gross exaggerated generalizations and uncritical acceptance of a few historical reports on localized uses of fire.”[1612] Before the Spanish conquest and colonization in the early 17th century, what is now New Mexico was heavily populated by the Pueblo Indians. Allen, who probably understands the paleoecology and current ecology of this region better than anyone, shows that even here[q] the fires were caused by lightning. For example, the Jemez Mountains west of Santa Fe have an extensive network of automated lightning detection devices. This system “recorded 165,117 cloud-to-ground discharges ... during the period 1985-1994.”[1613] This amount does not surprise me in the least since I have been close to being reached on more than one occasion. (One of the best meals of my life was under a Jemez spruce during a terrible lightning storm - my wife, Nancy, roasted some freshly picked boletus in olive oil on our camp stove while we waited for it to clear. ). In the Sierra Nevada, a lightning detection network “recorded that lightning struck the Yosemite National Park region approximately 2,000 times a year during the six-year period between 1985 and 1990 (65 strikes per 100 km [2] per year )”. [1614]

Although many of those who claim that the Indians tamed the West are well-meaning liberals and pro-social justice, there is also a darker side to this myth. As Craig Allen points out, “perhaps the late 19th century prejudice that Indians set a lot of fires was also related to the 'Manifest Destiny' mentality that sought to justify the expulsion of some tribes from their native forest lands”.[ 1615]

According to Pyne, "Both lightning and people created the elastic pattern that defined the fire regime." Fire ecologists Tom Swetnam and CH Baisan counter this, saying, "We argue that even if humans had never crossed the land bridge between Asia and North America, historical fire regimes in most Southwestern forests would have remained similar in many respects to the fire regimes we have documented.”[1616] And Allen sums up his exhaustive research (much of which was done on the ground, unlike that of the proponents of Indian burning) as follows: “Numerous lines of evidence from this region overwhelmingly suggest that in AD 1850, as in AD 1580, most mountain landscapes were „natural' and „wild' in terms of fire regimes and associated vegetation patterns.”[1617][1617]

What is really driving this debate? Albert Parker makes it clear:

Discord over the role of indigenous humans in shaping the landscape is motivated by contrasts in the academic roots and ideological affinities of the leading voices in this debate... Evidence refuting that indigenous Aboriginal humans played a pervasive role in shaping the Sierra Nevada landscape comes primarily from physical and biological scientists, foresters, and fire ecologists who have studied late Quaternary paleoenvironments, pre-contact fire regimes, Europeans and the geography of lightning and fires caused by lightning. Their evidence is primarily physical and, taken together, offers a logical and consistent history of the links between climate, vegetation, and fire, which have worked to structure the Sierra landscape over the last twenty thousand years. years, or more, mostly without being significantly altered by humans. Evidence in favor of the idea that humans had domesticated the Sierra landscapes comes mainly from experts in human geography and cultural anthropologists...most of the evidence presented in support of this position is ethnographic, based on interviews with elders who lived in the past or present and who descended from the tribal communities of the Sierra.[36]

Parker further notes that this troop feels "a strong need to atone for past sins of aggression and transgression, both cultural and environmental," and has a "political agenda" to "put the Sierra back in the hands of the people." natives, who, in the image of the Noble Savage, were excellent stewards of the land. And he concludes that "nostalgia and political agendas are not valid substitutes for evidence."[37] Amen.

Do ecosystems recover from human impact?

According to Arturo Gomez-Pompa and Andrea Kaus: “New evidence from the Mayan region suggests that the apparently natural forests that we are trying to protect from our version of civilization sustained high human population densities and were managed by past civilizations. .. [T]he Maya population of southeastern Mexico may have ranged from 150 to 500 inhabitants per km[1618] at the end of the Classic Period, in sharp contrast to current population densities of between 4.5 and 28.1 inhabitants per km[2] in the same region. . These civilizations of the past seem to have managed the forests to obtain food, fibers, wood, fuel, resins and medicines.”[38]

Part of this is probably true, but the rest of the story, pertinently overlooked by Gomez-Pompa and Kaus, is that the highly overpopulated Mayan civilization grossly overexploited the jungles, and when the drought hit, that bellicose, totalitarian civilization collapsed. .[39] For the thousand years since, however, those forests have been recovering. This ecological reality also explains the differences in population density. Jared Diamond discusses the fall of the Mayan civilization in his book, Collapse. He says, “It is estimated that the population of central Petén at the height of the Classic Maya period ranged between 3,000,000 and 14,000,000 people, but only about 30,000 people remained when the Spanish arrived.”[40] In other words, the population was reduced by more than 99 percent. These population figures show that the Mayan collapse was due neither to the diseases brought by the Spanish nor to the Spanish conquest, but to the way in which the Mayans "managed" their forests and, because of this, they were not able to overcome the drought Gomez-Pompa and Kauz base their claims on social ideology, not ecological facts.

There is a New Wilderness Myth that is common in the writings of wilderness deconstructionists[t]: once the earth is touched in any way by humans, its wildness evaporates[u] and no longer exists. can be restored; therefore, there is no need to protect it from further exploitation by humans. This is the Forest Service's idea of an outdated false idea of purity, which this agency used after the passage of the Wilderness Act[1619][1620][1621][1622][1623] to try to minimize the amount of land protected as wilderness (I discuss this in more depth in Taming the Wilderness[w]). Michael Soulé warns us about this "metaphor for the virgin", "because virginity, like pregnancy, knows no degrees" and is an excuse, therefore, "to justify subsequent material remodeling" of the wilderness.[ 41] Soulé calls this the pristine- desecrated dichotomy. To cite just one example, a free market theorist used the notion of impure vs. the virgin[1624] to defend the softening of the Endangered Species Law[y].[42]

So, in answer to the question, ecosystems can often recover from human-caused impacts over certain periods of time, depending on the level of impact. This resilience[z] should never be used as a justification for further encroachment into wilderness, but rather provides a valid foundation for concepts of recovery and rewilding[aa] of wilderness.

And finally, is the Myth of Wilderness important to the Idea of Protected Wilderness Areas?

" The pristine vision," according to Denevan,[43] "is largely an invention of the romantic and primitivist writers of the nineteenth century." I kind of agree, but I don't think what Denevan calls a "pristine vision" had much to do with the idea of wilderness[bb] that led to the creation of the National Wilderness Preservation System[ cc] nor with the motivations of pro-wilderness conservationists in the last eighty-odd years. In 1925, Aldo Leopold noted that "the idea of Wilderness Areas was born after, not before, the normal course of commercial exploitation had begun."[44] So, the father of wilderness protection[dd] made it clear that his idea of wilderness protection[ee] was something new, coming after “motor cars” started encroaching on national forests after the First World War. It has little to do with the "Myth of the Virgin" of "the romantic and primitivist writers of the nineteenth century."

Nor does the New Myth of the Virgin have anything to do with the protection of wilderness[ff] today. Places do not need to be pristine to be declared protected wilderness areas[gg]; the Wilderness Act[hh] has never required a wilderness state.[45] Leopold cleverly explained that “in any practical program, the unit areas sought to be preserved perforce vary greatly in size and degree of wilderness” [my italics].[46] Senator Frank Church of Idaho was the group leader in 1964, when the Wilderness Act was passed. Ten years later, when the Forest Service “tried to make us believe that no land that had ever been impacted by humans in the past could be considered wilderness, now or ever,” Church responded: “Nothing could be more contrary to the meaning and purpose of the Wilderness Act.”[47]

The definition of wilderness in the Wilderness Act fully acknowledges that there are few, if any, places that have not been affected by human influence. The Law does not require that the proposed areas have not been touched by humans. And, time and time again, conservationists have had to counter arguments against wild nature[ii] based on lack of purity. Today, the National System for the Preservation of Wilderness Areas has more than 600 areas, totaling more than 107 million acres[jj]. Most of these wilderness areas[kk] were declared protected despite objections from opponents that they were not pure enough.

William Cronon is among those who seem to have misunderstood the Wilderness Act, writing in the early 1990s, "If one sticks to the federal government's definition, there are no wilderness areas in Wisconsin."[48] False, False, False, False, False, False - six times False: At the time Cronon wrote this, Wisconsin actually had five protected wilderness areas in national forests and one in a wildlife refuge: the Islands Wisconsin, Blackjack Springs, Headwaters, Porcupine Lake, Rainbow Lake, and Whisker Lake. They total 44,170 acres. (In 1978, I testified before Congress on behalf of the Wilderness Society on behalf of the Blackjack Springs and Whisker Lake areas.) All meet the federal government's definition of wilderness and have therefore been declared protected wilderness areas. And conservationists have proposed that additional[1625] wilderness areas in Wisconsin be protected; as Cronon wrote, Congress was establishing the Gaylord Nelson National Protected Wilderness Area on the Apostle Islands Lake Shore[mm]. The idea of protected wilderness areas contained in the 1964 Wilderness Act stems from experience-based conservation management rules[nn] rather than a romantic ideal. I explore the myth of wilderness purity further in Rewilding North America and in my forthcoming book Taming the Wilderness[oo].

Neither of the two conceptualizations of the "myth of the virgin" -one: that America was virgin before the arrival of Europeans and the other: that only pristine areas can be taken into account when declaring protected wilderness areas- has much to do with the idea of a protected wild area[pp]. I hope I have made the falsity of this myth clear enough so that no one else will ever think of using it again![qq]

I will end this essay with a few words of wisdom from Thomas Vale:

At the time of European contact there were natural wildernesses and pristine landscapes... They weren't everywhere, that's for sure, but there were places where they were; They existed in some places. To many people this conclusion will not seem novel, but it will be rejected by those who see 'wildernessrr ' as a politically incorrect attack on social justice or a strategically stupid ideal to achieve the goals of conservation, or by those who claim that 'nature' is merely a socially constructed category, an artifice of the human mind and language.[49]


1. WM Denevan, “The Pristine myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers (1992): 369-385.

2. A. Gomez-Pompa and A. Kaus, “Taming the Wilderness Myth,” BioScience 42, no. 4 (April 1992): 271-279.

3. J. Baird Callicott, “The Wilderness Idea Revisited: The Sustainable Development Alternative,” The Environmental Professional 13 (1991): 240.

4. C. Whitlock and MA Knox, “Prehistoric Burning in the Pacific Northwest: Human Versus Climatic Influences” in Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape, ed. TR Vale (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2002), 222-223.

5. D. Dagget, Gardeners of Eden: Rediscovering Our Importance to Nature (Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 2005). I don't know how they managed to do this without the quasi-divine cattle, which Dagget and his ranching friends hold sacred.

6. ME Soulé, “The Social Siege of Nature” in Reinventing Nature: Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction, ed. ME Soulé and G. Lease (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1995), 155-156.

7. Denevan, “The Pristine Myth,” 370.

8. DH Uberlaker, “North American Indian Population Size, AD 1500 to 1985,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 77 (1988): 291.

9. WM Denevan, ed. Introduction to The Native Population of the Americas in 1942, 2[a] ed. (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), p. xx.

10. TR Vale, “The Pre-European Landscape of the United States: Pristine or Humanized?” in Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape, ed. TR Vale (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2002), 10-31.

11. WR Baker, “Indians and Fire in the Rocky Mountains: The Wilderness Hypothesis Renewed,” in Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape, ed. TR Vale (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2002), 50.

12. D. Foreman, Rewilding North America: A Vision for Conservation in the 21[st] Century (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2004), 25-44.

13. W. Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York: Hill & Wang, 1983), 56.

14. TR Vale, “The Myth of the Humanized Landscape: An Example from Yosemite National Park,” Natural Areas Journal 18, no. 3 (1998): 231-236; this article was later published under the same title in Wild Earth, Fall 1999, pp. 34-40.

15. J. Donlan, HW Greene, J. Berger, CE Bock, JH Bock, DA Burney, JA Estes, D. Foreman, Paul S. Martin, Gary W. Roemer, Felisa A. Smith, and Michael E. Soulé, “ Re-wilding North America,” Nature 436 (Aug. 18, 2005): 913-914. (The original title of this article was “Pleistocene Rewilding” but unfortunately the editors of Nature changed the title; see also CJ Donlon et al., “Pleistocene Rewilding: An optimistic Agenda for Twenty-first Century Conservation”, The American Naturalist 168 [2006]: 660-681); C. Barlow, The Ghosts of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms (New York: Basic Books, 2000); PS Martin and DA Burney, “Bring back the Elephants!”, Wild Earth, Spring 1999, pp. 57-64; P. Martin, Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005).

16. D. Worster, “The Wilderness of History”[1627], Wild Earth, Fall 1997, p. 10; Worster writes, “I am using the cautious but rigorous estimate by Douglas H. Ubelaker of the Smithsonian Institution, which appeared in his 1988 paper „North american Indian Population Size, AD 1500 to 1985', <em>American Journal of Physical Anthropology</ em> 77: 291”.

17. R. Noss, “Wilderness: Now More than Ever”[tt], Wild Earth, Winter 1994/1995, pgs. 60-63.

18. CD Allen, “Where Have All the Grasslands Gone? Fires and Vegetation Change in Northern New Mexico”, The Quivira Coalition Newsletter, May 1998.

19. DR Foster, “New England's Forest Primeval”, Wild Earth, Spring 2001, pgs. 42-43.

20. D. Foster, “Wild Earth Interview” Interview by Jamie Sayen, Wild Earth, Spring 2001, p. 35.

21. Vale, “The Myth of the Humanized Landscape,” 231.

22. Vale, “The Myth of the Humanized Landscape,” 232.

23. ME Soulé, “The Social Siege of Nature” in Reinventing Nature: Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction, ed. ME Soulé and G. Lease (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1995), 157. In a personal email to me, Soulé says that his “statement can be applied to all types of species, except those that have been almost totally eliminated by human trade or transport (including large mammals and other exploited species; as well as many alien species). However, numerically, species whose geographic distribution is not determined by biogeography or ecology are in the minority.

24. Ok, “The Myth of the Humanized Landscape”, 232.

25. Ok, “The Myth of the Humanized Landscape”, 233.

26. AJ Parker, “Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: Evaluating the Ecological Impact of Burning by Native Americans,” in Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape, 255-256.

27. TR Vale, “The Myth of the Humanized Landscape,” 234, referring to D. Flores, “The West that Was, and the West that Can Be,” High Country News 29, no. 15 (1997): 1 and 67.

28. CD Allen, “Lots of Lightning and Plenty People: An Ecological History of Fire in the Upland Southwest,” in Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape, 162.

29. Allen, “Lots of Lightning and Plenty People: An Ecological History of Fire in the Upland Southwest,” 162-163.

30. Allen, “Lots of Lightning and Plenty People: An Ecological History of Fire in the Upland Southwest,” 145.

31. Allen, “Lots of Lightning and Plenty People: An Ecological History of Fire in the Upland Southwest,” 146.

32. Parker, “Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: Evaluating the Ecological Impact of Burning by Native Americans,” 254.

33. Allen, “Lots of Lightning and Plenty People: An Ecological History of Fire in the Upland Southwest,” 170-171.

34. Allen, “Lots of Lightning and Plenty People: An Ecological History of Fire in the Upland Southwest,” 180.

35. Allen, “Lots of Lightning and Plenty People: An Ecological History of Fire in the Upland Southwest,” 180.

36. Parker, “Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: Evaluating the Ecological Impact of Burning by Native Americans,” 258-59.

37. Parker, “Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: Evaluating the Ecological Impact of Burning by Native Americans,” 259.

38. Gomez-Pompa and Kaus, “Taming the Wilderness Myth,” 274.

39. J. Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (New York: Viking, 2005)[uu]; SA LeBlanc and K. Register, Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003); and R. Wright, A Short History of Progress (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2005).

[uu] There is a Spanish translation: Colapse, Random House Mondadori, 2006. N. of t.

40. Diamond, Collapse, 175.

41. Soulé, “The Social Siege of Nature”, 155-156.

42. RT Simmons, “Nature Undisturbed: The Myth behind the Endangered Species Act”, PERC reports, March 2005, 2-5.

43. Denevan, “The Pristine Myth,” 369.

44. A. Leopold, “The Last Stand of the Wilderness” American Forests and Forest Life 31, no. 382 (October 1925): 603.

45. The spring 2001 issue of Wild Earth, devoted to the theme of the “Wild, Wild East”[vv], should have served to definitively clear up the confusion about wilderness. Particularly noteworthy are: JM Turner, "Wilderness East: Reclaiming History," pp. 19-26; DW Scott, “Eastern Wilderness Areas Act: What's in a Name?”, p. 24; and DW Scott, “Congress's Practical Criteria for Designating Wilderness,” pp. 28-32. See also Scott's technical memo to Sally Millar, "What Lanas Qualify for Wilderness Designation: A Review of the Wilderness Act and Congressional Precedents," July 23, 2001, distributed by the United States Wilderness Campaign. United[ww]. This memo shatters the myth of the virginity of protected wilderness areas. Scout's latest book also deals very effectively with this topic: see D. Scout, The Enduring Wilderness: Protecting Our Natural Heritage through the Wilderness Act (Golden CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2004).

46. A. Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949), 189.[1628][1629]

47. F. Churh, “The Wilderness Act Applies to the East,” Congressional Record-Senate, January 16, 1973, 737.

48. W. Cronon, “Landscape and Home: Environmental Traditions in Wisconsin,” limited reprint, originally published in Wisconsin Magazine of History 74 (Winter 1990-1991).

49. TR Vale, “Reflections,” in Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape, p. 300.


The following is a debate between a critic of the Wilderness concept (John B. Callicott) and one of its defenders (Reed F. Noss). Callicott's arguments are very much the typical arguments postmodern humanists make against the wild. With the peculiarity, however, that this author, unlike other critics of the concept of the wild and as paradoxical as it may seem, really appreciates wild Nature, although he prefers to use the term "biodiversity" erroneously to describe the wild ( Biodiversity and wildness do not always go together and it is enough to visit at least some of the European "biodiversity reserves", which Callicott takes and proposes as a reference for protected areas, to realize this; it is possible that in said visit the reader sees in the reserve more surface area made up of industrialized, urbanized, or dedicated to forestry, agriculture, and ranching areas than truly wilderness areas). Some of Callicott's fallacious arguments are quite elaborate (some even seem true and reasonable) and therefore, even if we do not agree with them, we believe that they are worth making known to help intelligent readers avoid falling into simplistic notions. and naive about wild Nature.

For his part, Noss correctly answers most of Callicott's fallacies, although, not surprisingly, he also falls into the typical errors of conservationists, already pointed out in other parts of Wild Nature (see, for example, the Introduction to the section of texts about Wild nature and ecocentric theory [http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica][-http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza -][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica][salvaie-y-teora-ecocntríca-] or the presentation of “Ecological forest exploitation or protection?” - [ http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/explotacin-forestal-ecolgica-o-proteccin][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y -ecocentric- theory/exploitation-][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/explotacin-forestal-ecolgica-o-proteccin][forestal -ecological-o-protection-]).


By J. Baird Callicott[102]

I recently gave a talk at a symposium in Bozeman, Montana, in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act[103] of 1964. I was preceded on the podium by a well-spoken rancher educated at Amherst College, Chase Hibbard, who described himself as a typical redneck[104] at this gathering of believers in the idea of wilderness[105]. He declared his love for wild and free beings and his dedication to the stewardship of the lands, private and public, on which cattle graze. He urged us all to seek consensus and find a balance between the preservation of wild ecosystems and economic needs.

When it was my turn to speak, trying to be the skunk at the garden party - a little simile I borrowed (without any attribution) from a text by Dave Foreman that appeared in Wild Earth - I began by saying that Mr. Hibbard was a typical redneck. So in one fell swoop I endeared myself to the audience - people can't hate a self-proclaimed skunk - and put them on notice that I might have something disturbing to say. There are two debates about the value of wilderness, I said below. One, which we had just heard about, the one between the preservation of wild ecosystems and the "jobs" (and, I pointed out, the economic benefits, which were undoubtedly the most important to Mr. Hibbard, who did not work for a salary, although he never mentioned it in his speech). The other debate - within the conservation community, not between conservationists and cowboys - is about the value of the idea of wild ecosystems for the conservation of biological diversity.

As a devoted conservationist and environmentalist, I believe we need to reexamine the commonly accepted idea of wilderness, as defined by the Wilderness Act, “an area where the land and its community of life are free from human-imposed fetters, where man it is nothing more than a visitor who does not remain”. I want to stress that my intention is not to discredit areas declared “wild areas”[106] in order to make them more vulnerable to development pressures. On the contrary, we need to multiply and expand those areas. What I am criticizing here is rather the concept of wilderness, that is, how we conceive of the areas we call wilderness. I do so in the hope of reinforcing conservation efforts by helping to base conservation policy on a sound environmental philosophy.

After the existence of an "environmental crisis" was widely recognized in the late 1960s, the benchmark for environmental quality was the ideal of wilderness virginity, untouched nature. Consequently, the new generation of ecologists believed that the best way to preserve nature, if not the only way, was to exclude all human economic activities from representative ecosystems and declare them wilderness protected areas[107]. In them, some primary forests could remain standing, wildlife could have some habitat, etc. In effect, we try to achieve environmental preservation by dividing the planet into zones where destructive human economic activities - such as cattle grazing, mining, logging, agriculture, mechanized recreation, industry and real estate development - would be permitted and areas from which such activities would be excluded. Several recent and not-so-recent discoveries are upending this simple philosophy of nature conservation by preserving wilderness areas.

First, on a practical level, environmentalists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as John Muir, did not articulate the original rationale for wilderness preservation in terms of biological conservation. Rather, they emphasized the ways in which wild ecosystems meet human aesthetic, psychological, and spiritual needs. Wilderness, in short, was originally thought of as a psychospiritual resource. Beautiful, quiet and lonely places are often too remote, rugged, barren or arid for farming, logging or even mining. Hence, one of the first criteria for identifying suitable areas for national parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, long before the Wilderness Act of 1964 and public recognition of the environmental crisis, was their uselessness for virtually any other purpose. Therefore, as Dave Foreman points out with characteristic candor, much of the declared wilderness is “rock and ice”, great for “admiring the scenery and enjoying the solitude” but not so good for biological conservation.

Second, at the political level, the philosophy of nature conservation by preserving wild ecosystems is defensive and ultimately a losing strategy. The areas in which exploitation is permitted greatly exceed in number and size the areas from which exploitation is excluded. In the continental United States (except Alaska) the area of paved land is greater than that protected in declared wilderness areas. Less than 5 percent of the contiguous forty-eight states enjoy wilderness status, declared or de facto. As the human population and economy grows, the pressure on these diverse wilderness areas becomes ever greater. In the temperate United States, protected wilderness areas[108], national parks, and designated conservation areas have become small islands in the midst of a rising tide of cities, suburbs, farms, ranches, interstate highways and brushwood. And all of them are being seriously compromised by human recreational use and colonization by exotic species. Large wilderness areas have receded into subarctic and arctic latitudes. Even these remote areas are being threatened by logging, hydroelectric schemes, oil exploration and other industrial encroachments, not to mention the threats posed by global warming and exposure to intensely high levels of ultraviolet radiation. The idea of wilderness, hopefully and enthusiastically popularized by John Muir's celebrated books at the end of the 19th century, has been made obsolete, here at the end of the 20th century, with the pessimism and despair of Bill McKibben's recent bestseller, The End of Nature[109]. McKibben's theses need not be expounded here by me as their title says it all.[110]

Third, internationally, the wilderness idea is uniquely American and not a universalizable approach to conservation. However, the environmental crisis and, in particular, the erosion of biodiversity have a global reach. Therefore, we need a philosophy of conservation that is universalizable. In Western Europe, conservation through wilderness preservation makes no sense. In India, Africa, and South America, American-style national parks have been created by forcibly evicting resident peoples, with tragic consequences. The Ik, for example, were hunter-gatherers who had lived sustainably since time immemorial in the remote Kidepo Valley of northeastern Uganda. In 1962 they were moved to create the Kidepo National Park, an area where the community of life would henceforth be free from the shackles imposed by man, where man would be a visitor who does not stay. When the Ik were forced to settle in densely populated villages outside the park and farm, their culture disintegrated and they degenerated into that parody of human beings made famous by Colin Turnbull.

Fourth, historically, we are beginning to realize that the idea of wilderness is an ethnocentric concept. The Europeans came to what they called the “new world” and since it did not resemble the humanized landscape they had left behind in the “old world”, they thought it was a virgin wilderness[111], on which , as David Brower said, had never been placed on the hands of man. However, the western hemisphere was full of Indians when Columbus stumbled across it. In 1492 the only continental-sized wilderness in the world was Antarctica. The native inhabitants of North and South America, moreover, were not passive inhabitants of forests, prairies, and deserts; they actively managed their land - mainly through fire. Some paleoecologists believe that without burning by Indians, the vast and biologically diverse grasslands of North and South America would not have existed, that instead the American hinterlands would have been covered with scrub. Some believe that the North American forests would not have been as rich and diverse without the pyrotechnology of the Indians.

By the 17th century, when English colonists began to settle the east coast of North America, the native peoples had suffered the greatest demographic meltdown in human history. Their populations were reduced by perhaps 90 percent due to the ravages of Old World diseases, which had spread throughout the hemisphere transmitted first from settlers to Indians and then among Indians themselves. So the Pilgrims found a wilderness[112] relatively desolate and empty, they lamented themselves, but it was, ironically, a wilderness[113] artificial - despite the fact that this combination of words seems like an oxymoron. Europeans inadvertently created the wilderness of the New World lands[114] through unintended but totally devastating biological warfare against the indigenous inhabitants.

Fifth, at the level of theoretical ecology, there was a time when ecosystems were believed to remain stable unless disturbed, and if disturbed they would eventually return to their stable state, called a climax community. Today it is considered that being unstable and constantly changing, rather than being something exceptional, is its normal state. Therefore, whether we humans interfere with them or not, ecosystems will undergo a metamorphosis. However, the preservation of wilderness has often meant freezing the image of the previous status quo, keeping things as they were when “white men” first entered the scene. Thus, the wilderness ideal, interpreted in this way, represents a conservation goal that, paradoxically, could only be achieved through intense management effort to keep things as they were. , defying the dynamism inherent in nature.

Sixth, on a philosophical level, the idea of wilderness perpetuates the pre-Darwinian myth that "man" exists apart from nature. Our oldest and most influential cultural traditions have taught us that human beings were created exclusively in the image of God, or that we were uniquely somehow endowed with divine rationality. Consequently, both we and all the essentially supernatural products of our minds were intended to exist apart from and over-against nature. For purist wilderness advocates, encountering any human artifact (except their own) in a wilderness setting[115] spoils their experience of unspoiled wilderness. However, Darwin spread the unpleasant news that our self-exalted human existence is a mere accident of natural selection, no less than that of any other great mammal. We are one of only five living species of great apes. We are, to be frank, only great apes - very precocious ones, to be sure, but apes nonetheless. And everything we do - from bowling or bungee jumping to writing The Iliad or building spaceships (or eco-typing, no doubt) - is monkey business. For many people, the news brought by Darwin was bad news because it seemed to demean us and undermine our noble claims and aspirations. However, I think it was good news. If we are part of nature, then we have a place and role in nature no less legitimate than any other creature - no less than elephants, whales, or redwoods. And what we can do to and in nature - the transformations we impose on the environment - is in principle no better or worse than what elephants, whales, or redwoods can do.

And I say "in principle" since I certainly do not wish to give anyone the impression that I believe that, by the mere fact that we are as natural as all other organisms, everything we do in and to nature-every change we impose on environment- will be good. Most human change is certainly not good. In fact, most of what we do in and out of nature is very destructive.

However, other species, too, can have both beneficial and detrimental effects on the rest of nature. If there were 6 billion elephants on the planet instead of 6 billion people (or, remembering that a full-grown elephant is more than a hundred times heavier than a full-grown human, if there were as much elephant biomass as the current human biomass), the Planet Earth would still be in the midst of an ecological crisis. Elephants, in other words, can also be very destructive members of their biotic communities. On the other hand, the biomass of bees and other plant pollinating insects is probably greater than human biomass (I don't know, I'm not a biologist) and the bee population certainly far exceeds the human population, but the ecological effect of all those bees is undoubtedly beneficial. So if the ecological impact of bee and elephant activities can be both good and bad, why can't the ecological impact of human activities be both good and bad? Measured by the wilderness yardstick, all human impact is bad, not because humans are inherently bad but because humans are not part of nature—or so the wilderness idea takes for granted.

Personally, I hope that those of us wealthy Americans who so desire can continue to enjoy the luxury of respectfully and reverently visiting wilderness areas. In my opinion, the greatest value of the Wilderness Act of 1964 is ethical. It formally recognizes a human commitment to humility, tolerance, and self-control. However, we need to find an alternative to the idea of wilderness as the centerpiece of a philosophy of the conservation of nature. Fortunately, we don't need to look very far. We find the appropriate alternative in the concept of biosphere reserves, a concept that emerged in Europe, focused on the tropics and has been approved by the United Nations. Therefore, it has a genuinely international validity. Moreover, biosphere reserves are not selected based on their landscape quality or because they are not useful for anything else, but on the basis of their ecological quality. Said reserves, aimed at preserving biological diversity and ecosystem health, should be designed to house not only charismatic megafauna - bears, wolves, bison and the like - but also the entire spectrum of indigenous species, both invertebrates and vertebrates, both plants like animals.

An invasive human management policy - through, say, controlled burning or carefully planned selective hunting - is cognitively dissonant[116] with respect to the idea of wilderness areas, but not with respect to the idea of wildlife reserves. the biosphere. In fact, one of the significant differences between the old idea of wilderness areas and the new concept of biosphere reserves is an acceptance of compatible human residences and activities in and around reserves. If Kidepo National Park had been conceived as the Kidepo Biosphere Reserve (although, of course, to think that it could really have been that way is an anachronism), the Ik and their culture could have been part of what was preserved. Looking to the future, the idea of a restored Great American Plains—the Bison Commons envisioned by Frank and Deborah Popper[117]—suffered from the outset such violent opposition because it was originally launched uncritically on the model of the wild areas. This idea is becoming more politically acceptable, even attractive, as residents of the chosen regions see an opportunity to remain in them, without having to leave them, exchanging cultivation and extensive ranching for various ways of sustainably exploiting bison, the wapiti[118], the deer and the American antelope[18]. Just as I envision Bison Commons, private herds of cattle and sheep would be wiped out throughout the arid and semi-arid West. Once domestic livestock are gone, native vegetation could re-occupy the territory. And with the fences taken down, the native ungulates could roam free and wild. Former ranchers and farmers could keep a forty-acre tract as their home[119] and form management cooperatives to divvy up selective hunting rights, perhaps in proportion to how much land each contributed to the common ground. If the Blackfeet, the Arapahoe, the Cheyenne, and the Lakota could exploit the unowned herds of elk and bison without endangering biodiversity, why shouldn't contemporary residents of the same region?

The idea of biosphere reserves can be the centerpiece of a coherent and universalizable conservation philosophy. The idea of wilderness is one of two parts of an “either/or” dichotomy: either an area is devoted to settlement and destructive economic exploitation by humans , or it is preserved in its pristine state as a wilderness area. In other words, classic wilderness advocates like Roderick Nash envisioned no alternative to wilderness preservation as a counter to industrial civilization. As long as industrial civilization stayed on its side of the fence, it was not questioned.

The concept of core-buffer-corridor zones of the Wildlands Project[121] is based on the new paradigm of biosphere reserves. However, in my opinion, the authors of the 1992 “Wildlands Project Mission Statement” still concede too much to industrial civilization as we know it when they write, “The intense human activity associated with civilization - agriculture, industrial production, centers urban areas - could continue outside buffer zones”. Complementing the idea of a biodiversity reserve in a sound philosophy of nature conservation are the ideas of appropriate technology and sustainable livelihoods - if by “sustainable livelihood” we mean the human economic activity that does not compromise ecological health and integrity. Solar alternatives to hydropower and fossil fuels should be intensively explored. Alternatives to industrial agriculture should be promoted through policy changes. Urban sprawl should be controlled through better planning and stricter zoning. Timber stocks should be harvested ecologically and sustainably, as currently mandated by the new Forest Service policy on national forests. Etcetera etcetera. Therefore, part of biological conservation could be integrated into economic activities in areas not declared biodiversity reserves (such as buffer zones and corridors), in the same way that certain economic activities could be integrated into biological conservation in declared areas.

I was struck by the way the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem[122] seemed to be an overpowering presence in Bozeman's collective consciousness. Almost every speaker at the symposium mentioned it. Some lived in it. A few spoke only of him. As it coincided with my Easter holidays[123], I reserved some of the following days for trekking. The park attracted me like a magnet. I rented a car and drove up Paradise Valley to the north entrance. So I wandered on foot through the valley of the Yellowstone River and the Lamar and Gardiner, two of its tributaries.

Tired of the long, bleak Wisconsin winter and with my cross-country skis at home, I never got anywhere near the wildest parts[124]. Climbing up McMinn Bench near Mount Everts, I could see the park's headquarters village in the vicinity of Mammoth Hot Springs, the village of Gardiner further north, US 89 heading south into the Norris Geyser Basin, and US 212, which is kept open all winter as far east as Cooke City, Montana. However, the difference between inside and outside the park boundaries was like the difference between day and night. Inside, the office settlement, the roads, the camping areas all had strictly clear borders. And there were no fences. Outside, the gateway town had a long string of gas stations, motels, flea markets, and stalls all along the highway. New-looking houses were scattered here and there on the nearby crags. Even though I normally walked through a mixture of mud and wapiti dung, the park seemed clean. Beyond, the landscape seemed battered and untidy.

Both outside and inside the park I saw elk, mule[125] and whitetail[126] deer and pronghorn[127]. Inside the park I saw quite a few bison. At closer range, evidence of elk overpopulation was ubiquitous: aspens[128] were absent, there was a browse line down to elk eye level in the Douglas firs[129] and whitebark pines[130], animal trails crisscrossed the slopes about every fifty feet[131] of elevation, riverbanks were bare and eroded and everywhere he stepped, he stepped on wapiti droppings.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (containing Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Bridger-Teton, Targhee, Gallatin, Custer, Caribou, and Beaverhead National Forests and three wildlife refuges, as well as land owned by the Department of Land[132], state and private) is the largest relatively intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states. The park is on the UNESCO list of Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites. What the Yellowstone Biosphere Reserve lacks is a well-thought-out buffer zone policy and well-articulated corridors to connect it to the Bitteroot, Bob Marshall, Glacier and Cascade core habitats. I have no personal experience of potential corridors, but Paradise Valley is an ideal candidate for a buffer zone on the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park. Under the new ecosystem management ordinance, the Forest Service should manage its “multiple-use” forests as buffer zones for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Until now, the forest service has extended road building and allowed sloughing on their land, especially in the Targhee and Gallatin National Forests, “treatments” incompatible with managing biosphere reserve buffer zones. Livestock grazing is allowed on nearly half of the ecosystem's public lands, including (incredibly) designated wilderness areas in national forests and parts of Grand Teton National Park. Still, what hope can we have that the absolutely essential winter habitat for ungulates that make up many of Paradise Valley's private properties will be managed as a buffer zone?

Let's look at what is happening in the valley today. With the first can of cold beer I'd had in three days perched on the seat between my legs, my left hand on the wheel and my right taking notes as I drove from Gardiner to Livingston, this is what I saw:

Immediately beyond the park boundaries a large amount of cleared land on the foothills between the Yellowstone River Valley and the mountains has been purchased by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for the purpose of serving as winter refuge. However, some enterprising businessman has dug a gravel quarry visible practically from the park gate and a stone's throw from the river. As I was driving, a bulldozer was pushing loose rock through a cloud of dust.

The next conspicuous mark of man on the landscape is the former alpine ranch, Royal Teton Ranch, owned by the late Malcolm Forbes, who must not have known that the views from his lodge overlooked the Gallatin Range, not the Teton Range. Forbes, in his last rite of worshiping Mammon[133], sold his Montana estate for a handsome sum to the doomsday sect Church Universal and Triumphant. Right on the banks of the river, the hard core of the sect lives in a ramshackle town (and the rest in places like Livingston and Bozeman). Further back, on the slopes of the Gallatin Range, they have built bomb shelters, whose fuel storage tanks were found to be leaking diesel. As he drove at sunset, the cult's cows drank at the Yellowstone and trampled its banks. The former Forbes property just so happens to have geothermal “resources” and I saw steam coming out near the little settlement. The “church” plans to exploit these resources, putting the park's geysers in danger of depletion.

Then, off to the side of the road and away from the river, I passed a “wapití farm”, a dilapidated house and some broken-down sheds next to a small grassless corral surrounded by a high fence. I was told that game wardens had ended up trapping the cunning owner as he lured hungry wild elk to his premises at night. He then sold them as captive-bred animals.

Entering Yankee Jim Canyon was a small relief from this wounded world. Most of the canyon belongs to the Gallatin National Forest. In the canyon, the mountains on both sides of the valley come closer together and the river flows fast through a narrow gorge.

To the north, below the breath of Yankee Jim, the valley widens, bordered on the east by the Absaroka Range and on the west by the Gallatin. Once again, ownership is mostly private. Ranches. Cattle. I didn't stay around long enough to know if the Paradise Valley ranchers were conscientious stewards of the land, like Mr. Hibbard, or not. However, what I could see through the windshield at sixty miles per hour[134] was the meaning of “entangled”[135] - caught or caught in, or as if in, a net; tangled up; impeded or hindered; confined, according to my dictionary. The valley was "locked," hindered and impeded by a network of fences.

Interspersed with the ranches, near a thick dot on the road map called Emigrant and on to Livingston, are little riverside farms with mansions built on them, owned by wealthy people from elsewhere who found their little piece of paradise on the banks of the river. Yellowstone River. Two miles east of Emigrant, in a large bend in the river, is Chico, a place with hot springs. I didn't stop there as I had just taken an au naturel dip in the park.

To accommodate the itinerant pilgrims in the valley, further down the road someone was readjusting the riverbanks with a bulldozer and building a “camping area” for RVs. The facilities were finished. Just when I passed by, they were building the entrances.

As I got closer to Livingston, the gentrification of the waterfront became more intense. The mountains on either side closed in on each other again until they reached the north end of Paradise Valley, near a place called the Allen Spur. I kept rolling through this town - little by little. The highway is lined with modest houses along the river, lumberyards, gas stations, 7-Elevens[136], motels, fast-food restaurants, vacant lots littered with junk—the typical hodgepodge of development not planned fully bare, Anywhere, USA

And what could the valley become? On a Bison Communal Land. Or, more precisely, in a Common Land of Ungulates.

Most cults end up self-destructing - Branch Davidian was a particularly spectacular example. The Church Universal and Triumphant is hopefully no exception to the rule. Then the federal government will be able to do what it has tried before, buy the old Forbes property and turn it over to wildlife.

If the government thought it couldn't afford to pay Forbes' asking price, it would probably cringe at the thought of buying all of Paradise Valley, much of which may not even be for sale. So what can be done? Convincing ranchers to tear down their fences, the most pervasive presence that encumbers the land; get rid of cattle and invite elk, bison, antelope and deer inside. The coyotes would keep the ground squirrels at bay; black-footed ferrets[137] would limit the prairie dog population; gray wolves and cougars would weed out the large old, diseased, and less fit herbivores, leaving ranchers to pick the best of the free herds. Wealthy people should love looking out their windows and seeing wild animals free, instead of their neighbors' fenced-in cattle. And tourists might pay even more money to park a Winnebago[138] in the middle of “free nature”—as Arne Naess calls this proper mix of people and wildlife—rather than right next to another attraction. side of the road.

However, how to avoid the tragedy of the commons[139]? Through cooperation. Paradise Valley is well defined and demarcated. A cooperative of ranchers could hire their own expert wildlife ecologists and, in collaboration with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and Park Service, set their own sustainable harvest quotas.

After my talk at the Wildlands Symposium[140], I asked Chase Hibbard what he thought of my proposal to switch from cattle ranching to commercial hunting of native ungulates. He was against her. categorically. I asked him why, since market analysis suggests that such a program would be more economically attractive than cattle ranching. “You know, business is business. Or are cattle a religion in Montana? “Yes”, he replied, “it is”. (This symposium was full of surprises). And he went on to deliver the usual string of bullshit[141] about how cattle are part of what makes the West the West (in Hollywood-mediated American minds), and how his family has been raising cattle there for a long time. “A long time!” I wanted to say, but stopped—a moment in the trajectory of the true history and future of the West, which belongs to the bison and those whose livelihood was once centered, and it may soon be again, in these shaggy symbols of the semi-arid highlands of North America and in the other native herbivores.

Thinking back on this exchange of views, I came to the conclusion that cattle were not the true object of worship in the Western rancher religion. Private property is. Other than the Church Universal and Triumphant, Paradise Valley is no home for the new worshipers of Baal[142]. No, the ranchers' theologian is John Locke[143]. As I envision the Paradise Valley Commons—a key part of the Greater Yellowstone Biosphere Reserve's Buffer Zone—“true” private property will remain in private hands. It is privately owned “animal units” that would disappear, along with fences, one of whose purposes is to mark property boundaries and separate private herds from each other.

Would this be such an anti-American thing? Not if we think more broadly, in historical terms. That's more or less the way the Indians - and if anyone can say he's a real American it's them - did it. Each group had a territory over which they claimed and asserted their property rights. But the animals were their own masters. And if, to sound closer, we have to limit ourselves to the short-term scale of Euro-American history, traditionally, pelagic fishermen have owned their own boats and gear, but the fish went where they wanted, without anyone would possess So the precedent and paradigm of an Ungulate Commons should perhaps be marine fisheries rather than terrestrial ranches. With one big difference: a network of North American Ungulate Common Lands would be much less prone to overharvesting, as the stocks are made up of large, conspicuous specimens that are fairly easy to count and fall under national jurisdictions (those of the United States). United States, Canada and Mexico, today, for better or worse, coordinated by NAFTA[144]).

The concept of conservation through biosphere reserves includes another zone that is often less commented on, the transition zone. Here too, the key is appropriate technologies and sustainable economies. Starting in Livingston and going east, the mountains of Montana give way to the high plains of Montana. The Great Plains region is already moving in the direction of the Bison Commons. The fences are still standing, but several large ranches - most famously owned by Ted Turner - are trading cattle for bison. Although bison are certainly less easy to manage and more difficult to contain, they require less care than cattle, so they are becoming an increasingly attractive alternative for imaginative high plains entrepreneurs with enough land. And many Indian groups are showing a keen interest in repopulating reservation lands with bison herds, with the added incentive of bison's place in their histories, cultures and religions.


By Reed F. Noss[145]

J. Baird Callicott's article "Criticism and Alternative to the Wilderness Idea" is peculiar. It's well-written, scholarly, and definitely thought-provoking. However, it also causes a fair amount of frustration, at least for me. Many of us involved in the conservation movement have worked hard for years to promote ecological and evolutionary understanding as a logical foundation for the conservation of the earth (land in Aldo Leopold's sense of the term, including air, soil, water and biota), although always linked to the aesthetic and ethical appreciation of wild beings and places for themselves. Following Leopold, we have tried to unite the brain and the heart, rationality and intuition, in the fight to defend wild nature. Yet now comes Callicott, a renowned environmental ethicist, a student of Leopold's ideas, and an outspoken lover of the wild[146], launching an attack on the concept of wilderness. This is just the latest in a series of articles in which Callicott dismisses the idea of wilderness as anachronistic, ecologically uninformed, ethnocentric, historically naive, and politically counterproductive. I think Callicott is completely wrong and I'm going to try to show you why.

First, I must emphasize that I agree with much of Callicott's essay. His progressive interpretations of biosphere reserves, buffer zones, transition zones, sustainable livelihoods and ecological stewardship are all in the same vein as what I and the many others affiliated with the Wildlands Project have supported. and proposed. Yet Callicott presents all of these integrative concepts as alternatives to wilderness protection, as things conservationists should spend their time on instead of defending wilderness. To support his view that the wilderness idea no longer has value, Callicott constructs a straw man from a wilderness idea (essentially based on the Wilderness Act of 1964) that is thirty years out of date. No one I know today thinks about wilderness in the way that Callicott describes. Anyone with a bit of brain knows that the boundaries of wilderness areas are permeable, that ecosystems are dynamic entities, that humans are ultimately part of nature (although one might doubt whether we are not an evil part) and that ecological management is essential in most modern wilderness areas if we are to maintain biodiversity and ecological integrity. “Letting nature take its course” in small, isolated reserves with increasing numbers of exotic species and uncontrolled herbivores is passively watching while an accident victim bleeds to death.

Callicott asserts that "several recent and not-so-recent discoveries are upending this simple philosophy of conserving nature by preserving wilderness areas." And he goes on to offer various arguments in favor of his thesis that the ideal of wilderness is no longer useful. I agree that "untouched" wilderness areas in human-dominated landscapes often have minimal ecological value. But they still have some value, for example, serving as reference sites (albeit imperfect) for restoration and management experiences and as micro-refuges for species sensitive to human disturbance. It is an exaggeration to say that wilderness preservation has failed. In fact, judging by the recent evidence available in most of the continent, one could more easily conclude that it is the management of multiple uses that has failed. Multiple-use areas, which make up the vast majority of public lands, have been much more degraded than virtually any of our protected wilderness areas[147] (Callicott himself offers several examples from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem) . Highways criss-cross everywhere, the last old growth forests are being planked, cows chew their cud and shit as they make their way through public pasture lands, and “ecosystem management” propaganda is used to justify maintaining status. quo under a new guise. This evidence only reinforces the idea that we need more - not less - land area off limits to intense human exploitation. The more the landscape in general is degraded, the more valuable true wilderness areas become, despite the fact that they are increasingly difficult to protect.

Callicott is absolutely right that in his day biological conservation was not one of the main reasons for declaring wilderness areas protected. The skewed location of lands declared protected wild areas - areas of low economic value are protected, except for recreation and tourism, instead of more productive and biodiverse areas - is well known. This distorted and unecological approach to wilderness protection has been repeatedly denounced in both technical conservation writing and popular conservation literature. Modern conservation programs, from conventional government projects such as the National Agency for Biological Research's Gap Analysis[148] to cutting-edge attempts such as the Wildlands Project, are attempting to correct this imbalance and account for better the full spectrum of biodiversity in protected areas. On this issue, Callicott's criticisms of the wilderness movement are dishonest; We have learned and we have matured. We will no longer tolerate the sacrifice of productive wilderness in exchange for a few chunks of rock and ice. Callicott's claim that wilderness preservation is purely “defensive” is simply a reflection of the attacks on wilderness[149] everywhere. Of course we are defensive. If we didn't defend the last remaining wilderness[150], they would soon be gone. And still we lose most of the battles; if we surrendered, before long there would be nothing left. Be that as it may, the wilderness defense movement today is not merely defensive. In fact, the Wildlands Project aims to overcome defensive and desperate attempts and move from saying what should not be done to saying what should be done to restore entire ecosystems in all regions.

Callicott devotes quite a bit of space in his essay to the problem of excluding humans from wilderness when humans are actually part of nature. I know of no more difficult philosophical problem than the question "what is natural." Damn me if I know. However, Callicott does not contribute much to the resolution of this matter either. I agree that it was a mistake to extend the standard US model of national parks to developing countries and exclude indigenous hunter-gatherer cultures from those areas. The idea that wilderness can include all primates except the Homo genus is ridiculous. However, it is not ridiculous to prevent people leading wasteful, subsidized, unsustainable, industrial lifestyles (including Callicott and myself) from permanently inhabiting protected wilderness areas[151]. Even excluding “native” peoples from some reservations is not ridiculous when these people acquire firearms, snowmobiles, ATVs, bulldozers, and modern medicine. It is not the exclusion of these reserves that separates us from nature; it is our culture and our ways of life, which had already separated us from it long before we started declaring wilderness areas protected. Yes, the Darwinian revolution united us intellectually with nature; But we've been trying our best to emotionally and physically separate ourselves from nature since Neolithic times (at least).

The problem with our distance from nature may lie in the increasing preponderance of cultural evolution over biological evolution in the last millennia of our history. This split between the cultural and the biological also requires that we take steps to protect wilderness[152] and other species from exploitation by humans if they are to survive. The adaptations of most species are determined by biological evolution acting through natural selection. Except for bacteria and some species of invertebrates that have very short “generations”, biological evolution is much slower than cultural evolution, taking hundreds or thousands of years to express itself. Through cultural evolution, humans can respond much faster than most other species to environmental change. Since most environmental change today is human-made, we have created a situation in which our short-term survival is much more assured than that of less adaptable species. Some of those species are extremely sensitive to human activities. As I understand it, the environmental ethic, as Leopold, Callicott and others have called it, obliges us to protect those species that depend on wilderness as they are sensitive to persecution and siege by humans. . I hasten to say that few species "depend" on wilderness because they prefer wilderness to human-occupied land; rather, they need the wilderness because humans exterminate them everywhere else. The absence of roads defines the wilderness. Where there are roads or other means of access for humans, large carnivores and other species vulnerable to human persecution will normally not be able to survive.

Callicott rightly criticizes the idea of wilderness as landscapes that are "unmanaged" at all. I disagree with some modern wilderness advocates in emphasizing that most protected wilderness areas[153] today must be actively managed if they are to maintain the “natural” conditions for which they exist. they were declared protected (see my book, co-authored with Allen Cooperrider, Saving Nature's Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity, Island Press, 1994). Certainly the Native Americans managed the ecosystems in which they lived, mainly through the use of fire. I think there is clear evidence that up to a certain level of management, Homo sapiens can be a true “key species” in the most positive sense; that we can enrich the diversity of habitats and species in the landscape. We can play a role similar to that of beavers, prairie dogs, bison, woodpeckers or burrowing turtles[154], providing the habitats many other species depend on. Above a certain threshold, however, biodiversity enhancement turns into biodiversity destruction. Diversification becomes homogenization. The man who was part of nature goes to war with nature. We get too devilishly smart for our own good. I don't think human management or technology is inherently bad; but once we have crossed the threshold, we become a tumor instead of being a vital part of the ecosystem. Once again this transformation constitutes another reason to establish protected wilderness areas[155] and protect them from human encroachment. These wilderness areas may need to be managed, but the most positive management will usually be protection from overuse by people, restoration of structures and processes damaged by past human activities, and management of disturbance ( for example, artificial burning[156]) to replace natural processes that have been altered.

Callicott's Wilderness Strawman reaches its zenith with the assertion that “the preservation (italics his) of wilderness has often meant freezing the image of the prior status quo, keeping things the way they were when 'white men' first came on the scene”. Although logically consistent, such an interpretation of the wilderness ideal is stupid. No ecologist interprets wilderness in the sense of static, pristine climax with which Callicott caricatures it. In any case, throwing away knowledge of the pre-European historical state of North American landscapes would be just as stupid. These pre-colonization ecosystems developed over thousands and even millions of years of evolution of the species that made them up without significant human intervention [except for the possible role of human hunters in eliminating many of the large mammals. North Americans between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago]. It is true that the environment in which these communities developed was dynamic, but the pace and magnitude of change were nothing like those experienced today. As ecologists Steward Pickett, Tom Parker and Peggy Fiedler point out (in Conservation Biology, edited by PL Fiedler and SK Jain, Chapman and Hall 1991) in relation to the “new paradigm of ecology”, the The knowledge that nature is essentially a changing mosaic in continuous flux should not be misconstrued to suggest that human-generated changes are not something to worry about. On the contrary, “the changes generated by the human being must be restricted because nature has functional, historical and evolutionary limits. Nature has a range of modes of being, but there is a limit to these modes, and therefore human changes must be within those limits.

Yes, many North American ecosystems were managed by burning by Indians for perhaps as long as 10,000 years; but in most cases, the Indians did not create new ecosystems. They simply maintained and expanded the grasslands and savannahs that developed naturally during climatic periods when fire frequency was high. Furthermore, the importance of the fires set by the Indians is often exaggerated. As many ecologists have pointed out, the natural frequency of storms in some regions, such as the coastal plain of the southeastern United States, is more than sufficient to explain the dominance of pyrophytic vegetation there. In any case, Native Americans, in most cases (leaving aside the megafaunal extinctions of the late Pleistocene), clearly acted more within the functional, historical, and evolutionary limits of their ecosystems than Europeans, who transformed the most of the North American continent in less than 200 years. The modern idea of wilderness, as conceived in the Wildlands Project, does not say that humans are apart from nature. It simply says, along the same lines as Leopold's land ethic, that we need to place restrictions on our actions. We need to stay within the limits set by the evolutionary histories of the landscapes we inhabit. Until we manage to reduce our numbers and humbly walk everywhere, let us do the latter at least within the wilderness[157] that we have left.

Callicott presents the biosphere reserve model as an alternative to protected wilderness areas[158]. I agree that the biosphere reserve model is useful - we [the Wildlands Project] base our wilderness network proposals on an extension of that model. Biosphere reserves are not, however, an alternative to protected wilderness areas[159]. In fact, protected wilderness areas[160] are the central part of the biosphere reserve model: the core areas. Without a core of wilderness, a biosphere reserve would not be able to fulfill its function of maintaining the full range of native species and natural processes. A core wilderness area may still require ecological management, especially if it is too small to care for itself (less than several million acres). A healthy long-term goal is to rebuild core areas (ideally there should be at least one in each ecoregion) large enough to be essentially self-managing, areas that don't require our constant care and vigilance. Those true wilderness areas will have a lot to teach us about how we might live in harmony with nature in the buffer zones.

Callicott's alleged dichotomy of “either an area is dedicated to settlement and destructive economic exploitation by humans, or it is preserved in its pristine state as wilderness” is false. The reserve network model applied by the Wildlands Project recognizes a gradient from wilderness to developed land, but promotes continued movement toward the wild end of the gradient over time as the scale and intensity of activities increase. humans decline. And human activities must decline if we want the Earth to have any future. Callicott's idea of “sustainable livelihoods” is fully consistent with this model. However, how are we to know how to manage resources sustainably (while sustaining all native species and ecological processes) without wild areas to serve as benchmarks and models? How are we going to show restraint in our stewardship of resources within the landscape as a whole if we don't have enough respect to leave large areas of wilderness undeveloped for their own good?

We don't need alternatives to wilderness. Rather, we need to incorporate the wilderness ideal into a broader vision of reclaimed yet dynamic landscapes in which wilderness dominates, but is complemented by true civilization. As Ed Abbey said, a society worthy of being called a civilization is one that recognizes the value of leaving much of its land to the wild[161]. In these days of frivolous “ecosystem management,” we need the wilderness ideal more than ever. We need it to have a 'database of normality', as Leopold called it, to provide us with benchmark sites against which we can compare more intensively managed lands. We need it to inspire us, to put our lives on the line, to humble us. And, more importantly, the bears need it too.


The following text, like several others published in Wild Nature (such as: "Against the social construction of wild nature" by Eileen Crist -

[http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/contra-la-construccin-social-de-la-naturaleza][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/ wild-nature-and-ecocentric-theory/against-the- nature][social-construction-of-nature-] or “The authentic idea of Wild Nature” by Dave Foreman [http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica /la-autntica-idea-de-la-naturaleza-salvaje][-http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/la-]

[http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/la-autntica-idea-de-la-naturaleza-salvaje][autentica-idea-de-la-naturaleza-salvaje-]), is yet another refutation of certain humanist arguments against the concept of Wild Nature.

The author, following the line of most conservationists, commits the same typical errors: idealism and ignorance of the functioning of the factors that really influence the development of human social systems (proposes as the ultimate goal the establishment of an "environmentally friendly" society). harmonious”, without taking into account that it is simply impossible to plan and direct the future development of a society); focus on the legal protection of Nature (although it is clear that, in the long term, legal protection is not going to be enough to save what remains of wild Nature); and forget that there is a different option from legal protection in the short term and the idealistic defense of ecologically "harmonious" utopias in the long term: the elimination of the techno-industrial society.

To all this should be added the idealistic unrealism involved in the proposal that today's primitive peoples continue to live in a totally primitive way in protected natural spaces. It is completely true that no matter how "aboriginal", "native" or "indigenous" their ancestors were and no matter how much they try to keep alive some of their cultural traditions, the vast majority of descendants who live today in the occupied areas Traditionally, their people lead a modern and industrial way of life that does not differ in any essential way from that of the rest of the human population that occupies other more developed areas of the planet. And therefore, its ecological impact is similar to that of any other human being today. However logical and desirable the proposal to restrict human residence in protected areas to people with a traditional way of life, without modern technology and with low population densities may seem, it will not work. And, to a large extent, it will not work because the natives themselves who have already had contact with modern society (which are already the vast majority today) will not want to live in primitive or traditional conditions. Tell an Eskimo, for example, that in order to continue living in the protected area traditionally occupied by his tribe, he will have to give up rifles, snowmobiles, or outboard motors (not to mention houses with electricity and heat, the TV, medical assistance, packaged food or state subsidies). It will simply send them to hell! So, in reality, if you want to legally protect an area, there are only two realistic options: kick these people out of that protected area (with all the social and ethical problems that this entails) or let them stay (with all the negative impact). and the ecological problems that this entails).

However, these theoretical defects of the author do not affect the validity of his refutations of the philosophical arguments against the concept of Wild Nature, and this is the reason why we consider this text worthy of publication.


By Ken Wu[375]

During the 1990s, the tremendous development of the environmental movement has been accompanied by many changes within the movement, many for the better but some for the worse. Among the changes for the worse is the growing tendency among activists to play down the need to establish parks and protected areas. Many of these individuals and groups are either fighting wilderness destruction in a vacuum[376], that is, with no clear alternative to such destruction, or are promoting “green logging” [378] and other supposedly benign and ecological forms of resource extraction. I hope I can show you here that anything other than a call for the protection of priority wilderness areas is detrimental to indigenous biodiversity. I will examine the main arguments against establishing parks that some environmentalists make and the strategic consequences of not defending parks.

A rebuttal to some of the main arguments against parks

Much of the lack of support for protected areas can be attributed to ignorance. Many activists simply do not have an overview of the state of North America's threatened ecosystems and are unaware that the ecosystems that are healthiest and safest from environmental destruction are parks and protected areas. Therefore, they do not understand the importance of acting in favor of legal protection, instead of in favor of mere moratoriums on destruction, which usually end up being annulled later.

However, what needs to be more vigorously contested are the philosophical critiques of parks and protected areas, as the development of such environmental arguments against wilderness[379] is on the rise, as exemplified by the essay by William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness”[380], in the recent anthology Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature. Dave Foreman, David Johns, George Wuerthner, Mike Matz and Reed Noss have already responded to many of the criticisms of the concept of wilderness and protected wilderness[381] in the Wildlands Project anthology[382], Place of the Wild, as well as Wild Earth, so there is no need for me to repeat their rebuttals. However, I would like to add a few thoughts of my own, as I believe it is crucial that such misguided criticism of parks (the most common designation for protected wilderness[383] in Canada) be refuted once and for all. before they gain more weight in the movement. The environmental arguments against protected areas, and my responses, are as follows:

1. The concepts of park and protected wilderness area[384] separate human beings from nature when, in fact, human beings are part of nature. Parks therefore reinforce the man/nature dualism of Western civilization.

Of all the arguments against protected areas, this is the one that takes the cake for being thoughtless and clearly illogical. That human society should be in harmony with nature does not mean that it is in harmony with her - we are very far from it, hence the global environmental crisis. There is a difference between what should be and what is. Certainly, industrial society, with its cars, factories, DDT and shopping malls, is not one with nature and it is not by using the expression wildlands that we are somehow creating a dualism; that dualism already existed. There is a huge difference between a parking area and a meadow, between a clear-cut area and primary forest. Human civilization had already separated itself from nature, from the wilderness; what needs to be done is to bring human beings back into harmony with nature by developing an environmentally harmonious society and protecting nature in the wilds of parks while the industrial society still exists. Wilderness defenders did not create the human/nature dualism; agriculture, technology, and industrial society did so by destroying nature and thereby creating an obvious separation between the wilderness and human society. We have to recognize this dichotomy between wild nature and civilization if we want to overcome it. Creating parks, protecting the nature that people are supposed to be a part of, is the most important step in transcending that dualism.

2. What is needed is “ecological logging” and environmentally harmonious lifestyles and practices, not more parks. It is not human beings per se that are to blame, but rather the ways in which we live that are destructive.

Ok ! Hunter-gatherer lifestyles have allowed the ecosystems in which they occur to remain more or less intact. It could be said that such ways of life are environmentally harmonious. However, organic logging, permaculture and organic farming, with their use of today's advanced technologies and today's human overpopulation, have little to do with hunter-gatherer ways of life.

In ecological forestry, a large number of trees are extracted and used to produce wood, depending on the annual growth of the forest. This collides with the small number of trees that the hunter-gatherers cut down (when they cut any) to make a raft or build their house. Indeed, where slash-and-burn agriculture is also practiced in addition to hunting and gathering, as in many tropical indigenous cultures, many more trees are removed. This may indicate the beginning of a mainly agricultural way of life for these peoples, which will certainly be destructive, as all agriculture is. Agriculture is the destruction of the native organisms of an area and their replacement by one or a few species useful to humans.

In these mainly hunter-gatherer societies, however, clearings occupy only tiny fractions of the forest cover, which are quickly reclaimed by the forest when small cleared plots are abandoned after a couple of years. . By contrast, through selective felling and commercial thinning, which are far more practical possibilities than ecological logging in an industrial society, trees can be harvested in quantities that far exceed annual growth, at which point the internal conditions of the forest are degraded. In addition to the removal of trees, the problems of road construction, habitat fragmentation, soil compaction, erosion, damage to watercourses and the introduction of exotic species increase even with the practice of extraction. selective logging[385]. Nor should the indigenous custom of burning down patches of forest to provide better grazing for the ungulates they hunted be used to justify alternative forestry practices. More and more studies are revealing differences between logged and burned areas (Noss 1993), such as soil chemistry, successional species composition, and the presence of defoliation gradients in burned but not overgrown areas. felled. Clearly wilderness and areas used for logging are not the same thing. Ecological logging may be necessary in areas not suitable for protection, but such practices are not appropriate everywhere and do not replicate natural processes.

Some opponents of protected areas cite the example of indigenous peoples who lived in harmony with nature to deny the need for protected areas where human residence is prohibited. Okay, so let's protect areas where native hunter-gatherer tribes are included and protected. Most wilderness advocates would support indigenous hunter-gatherers continuing to live in protected wilderness[386] as long as those native peoples possessed traditional technologies and population levels (as is the case of some tribes in the tropical zones of Africa, Asia and South America). In contrast, few protected area advocates would support native peoples with industrial technologies and larger populations extracting resources in protected areas, especially for commercial purposes. This is where ecocentric ecologists often diverge from more anthropocentric ecologists, who support Native peoples using chainsaws, bulldozers, rifles, steel traps, and snowmobiles to extract resources from proposed protected areas. Support for native hunter-gatherer lifestyles does not invalidate the need to protect those areas. Rather, it is a justification for protecting those areas worthy of protection that contain hunter-gatherers.

Proponents of native sovereignty may question the notion of native peoples living in parks controlled by colonial governments, both here in North America and elsewhere in the world. Native sovereignty may be a legitimate right; however, in the meantime, until current governments are pressured to accept native sovereignty or are deposed, it does neither the environment nor native peoples any good to have multinationals destroying wilderness. Parks are the best way to avoid it in today's society.

3. <em>The crucial task is to change society to be environmentally harmonious, not to create more parks that exist alongside the consumer society without questioning its fundamental basis. Industrial society will eventually destroy protected areas anyway through pollution (depletion of the ozone layer, greenhouse effect, acid rain, etc.) and opening park boundaries in times of resource scarcity.</em >

This is a criticism used by both reformers and radicals. Its two main problems are that it confuses means with ends and that it is strategically flawed. First, from an ecocentric perspective, the continued existence of the Earth's natural biodiversity as a whole is the most important goal. To achieve this goal, we must advocate both, the protection of this biodiversity in wilderness parks - a concrete means that is also identical to the end - and the establishment of an environmentally harmonious society so that pollution and population growth do not destroy protected areas and the rest of nature. Therefore, when new environmental laws are required to regulate logging practices or curb pollution or, more fundamentally, when working to dismantle industrial society, this is done to ensure the long-term security of protected areas and of all species, including humans. However, critics of protected areas, believing that the main task is the survival of the human species, see no reason to protect wild lands; a world with the basic necessities for survival - clean water, air and soil, and renewable agriculture - assured is all that is needed to guarantee human existence. The existence of the vast array of global biodiversity in functioning ecosystems (some species may be stored in gene banks) is not, for the most part, a necessity for human survival; the view of the Earth as a garden, as Roderick Nash (1982) critically calls it, is considered sufficient.

For some critics, the reform or replacement of industrial society is the crucial task to ensure human existence, while the protection of wilderness is simply a means of "saving the planet", meaning ensuring non-human existence. Such people have mistaken the means of creating a green society for the purpose of securing wilderness.[387]

In addition to being anthropocentric, his critique is strategically weak. If, as many of the confused critics of the parks claim, you have to change society first even though protecting more wilderness[388] is a great thing, then by the time the revolution succeeds it will be too late for most. of the areas and wild species. Right now, most parks and wilderness areas[389] in the United States and Canada are surrounded by agricultural fields, clearcut areas, and urban areas. If it weren't for the protective measures, these natural areas would have been destroyed long ago.

4. Our parks have failed miserably to stop the loss of biodiversity. Most of the parks, which are too small to begin with, are situated in high-altitude areas composed of ice and rock that are unsuitable for other uses by humans, while the most productive and diverse ecosystems at lower altitudes are largely left unprotected. In addition, the parks have been subjected to industrial tourism, which has destroyed much of their biotic integrity.

As George Wuerthner (1994) has pointed out, "Just because our current reservation system doesn't work as well as it should, doesn't mean it doesn't work." Just because our parks are too small to support healthy populations of all species doesn't mean we shouldn't defend the parks; it means we must fight for bigger parks, like the one proposed in the Northern Rocky Mountain Ecosystem Protection Act.[390] Just because parks are rarely established in old-growth forests or grasslands doesn't mean we should stop advocating for parks; it means that we must work so that primary forests and grasslands are protected. For example, here in British Columbia, tremendous public pressure for old-growth forests to be protected has resulted in recent years in substantial tracts of magnificent low-lying old-growth forests being protected: the forests of the valleys of the Carmanah, Megin, Stein, Khutzeymateen, Boise, Kitlope, Mehatl, Skagit, Clendenning, and Niagara, as well as South Moresby. These are not marginal lands for human use; the value of its wood is millions of dollars. Just because some parks contain ski resorts, are grazed by cattle, and are logged doesn't mean the parks are useless; it means we have to fight ski resorts, cattle and logging in parks.

Furthermore, to say that the parks have failed is to accept a very narrow and uninformed view of the protection of ecosystems. Alpine and subalpine ecosystems, which possess their own unique species, which are in their own right just as important as the endemic species of primary forests, have been reasonably well protected. All other ecosystems partially protected by the parks - including small and medium-sized pieces of productive and economically valuable land - also represent partial victories. Park creation is a process in which all protected areas to date are victories while more and larger parks still need to be created to complete an ecologically viable system of protected areas.

Ultimately, if one believes that nature has intrinsic value and that humans cannot improve it, then there is really no valid option but to leave the wilderness as it is and protect it from further disturbance by humans; this is the definition of a protected area, or what is often called a “park”. Some people have problems with the word park, since it has the connotation that wild nature[391] is there for the recreation of human beings; OK, so let's call them "ecological reserves" or "wilderness reserves." But not defending the protection of a threatened ecosystem just because we don't like its name and therefore allow it to be cut down or destroyed by open-pit mining, is a crime.

5. Nature needs human management to stay healthy. For example, exotic species often need to be controlled, artificial burning must be done[392] in isolated habitats, predators must sometimes be controlled to allow populations of endangered species to recover and new individuals must be introduced into small, isolated populations to avoid inbreeding. Therefore, since nature must be managed, ultimately, there is nothing wrong with managing a landscape through selective logging, controlled grazing or limited agriculture.

This argument is made by some conservation biologists and land managers who perceive that active management of some wilderness areas is necessary to maintain their natural character. Humans have so disrupted populations and natural processes that human intervention is often needed to correct past mistakes. However, the difference between correcting and managing human-induced failures of nature and managing nature itself is enormous. Parks can still be defended even if the areas in question need such remedial management; however, their status as protected areas should imply a prohibition on managing nature itself. Unfortunately, some people lump both the management of human error and the management of nature together under the general concept of "management" and support "alternative" forms of raw material extraction instead of full protection, thinking that such activities are not fundamentally different from artificial burning or removal of alien species.


The following article, like much of the others published in Wild Nature, is written by an American author and is based primarily on US data and context. However, as we have noted elsewhere (see introduction to the section of texts on Wild nature and ecocentric theory -

[http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica-]), it It does not prevent a large part of its content and the ideas that are raised in it from having universal validity. In fact, the debate about the Anthropocene, which has caused such a stir in recent years among American conservationists, is not something so new to European readers concerned about the state of the wild: the discourse of the defenders of the Anthropocene, focused on the human and favorable to the total domestication of Nature, it is not really different from the one that the vast majority of European environmentalism has been promoting since its inception. In Western Europe, natural spaces with little or no humanization have been, for many centuries, much scarcer and smaller than in the United States or other parts of the world. This, coupled with the absence in a large part of European countries (especially those of Latin origin) of a culture that values the wild and, with it, of a non-humanist environmentalism, has resulted in European ecologists, in the Most of the time, they defend an ecological ideal that represents a humanized and degraded Nature, subjected to human management and exploitation and in which, often, human culture and its products end up being considered even more important than the natural environment in Yes. In the United States and other countries (such as Canada, for example), this has largely not been the case, at least until recently. Thus, when the promoters of the Anthropocene appeared, there was a strong reaction from many of the abundant conservationists who always took the wild as their main reference. And, precisely because of the existing analogies between the discourse of the current defenders of the Anthropocene and that of most of European environmentalism, it is important to know these reactions, since to a great extent they also serve to question a good part of the assumptions and anthropocentric goals of the latter. This is the reason why we believe it is worth publishing this text.

Regarding the defects of the article, we have already pointed out that the fact of considering as priority goals the legal preservation of wild natural spaces and the intentional limitation of the human population will not be able to conserve wild nature in the long term, due to the constant and growing pressure that, as long as the techno-industrial society continues to exist, will inevitably continue to be exerted on Nature (see in Indomitable Nature, for example, the presentation of “Wild Nature: what and why?” -

[http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/naturaleza-salvaje-qu-y-por-qu][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza- wild-and-ecocentric- theory/wild- nature-] -and-why-] with respect to the goal of legal preservation of ecosystems).

We have also criticized the idealism that affects a large part of conservationists and that negatively influences their ability to correctly identify the causes of the destruction of Nature and, therefore, to act effectively on them (see, for example, the introduction to the text section on wild nature and ecocentric theory - [http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje- y-teora-ecocntrica-] or the presentation of “The wild lands of history” [http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/las-tierras-salvajes-de- the-history][-http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/las-tierras-salvajes- of-history][wild-and-ecocentric-theory/the-wild-lands-of-history-], in Untamed Nature).

It only remains to point out the clumsy choice, in our opinion, of the expression “productive ecosystems” (“working ecosystems” in English) to refer to wild ecosystems, since it can create confusion in readers when discriminating between it and Similar expressions, and with a totally opposite meaning, used by the promoters of the Anthropocene, such as "productive landscapes" or "productive forests" ("working landscapes" and "working forests" respectively). Therefore, we ask readers to pay special attention to this detail when reading the article.


By George Wuerthner

Words influence the way we think about things. We use euphemisms to hide or modify the perception of what might otherwise produce negative reactions if we used more honest terminology. Saying “collateral damage ” , for example, sounds more innocuous than announcing the death of civilians; of non-combatant women, men and children. "Coercive interrogation," to take another example of alternative language, became a convenient phrase for the Bush administration, when it had clearly stated that "this administration does not torture people." In George Orwell's 1984, the Ministry of Peace waged war.

George Lakoff, author of Don't Think of an Elephant, suggests that conservatives and industry have spent decades defining ideas and carefully choosing catchy language to best present them. One of the most insidious terms used to promote a pro-development agenda is productive landscapes[b] and its derivatives, such as “productive ranches”[c], “productive forests”[d], “ productive lands”[e] or “productive rivers”[f] (with hydroelectric dams). The latest sequel to “productive landscape” is “productive wild ecosystem”[g], a term used to describe extensive domestic cattle ranching operations in the southwestern United States.[1] Extractive industries have successfully cornered the values debate through the frequent use of the phrase “productive landscapes”, positively interpreting land that is logged, grazed, cultivated or otherwise modified by humans.

The expression “productive landscapes” was coined by the New England logging industry, seeking to give a more pleasant image to the destruction and ruin that it caused for the natural landscape and to counteract the, then popular and much more accurate, classification of cleared land. such as “Paper Mills” or “Paper Colonies”. The notion of productive landscapes was adopted to deal with the negative connotations of "factories" and "colonies" in the minds of the public, with the former hinting at smokestacks and the latter evoking imperialism.

For example, the brochure “Keeping Maine's Forest”[h], published by an assemblage of logging companies and unidentified conservation and environmental groups, touts the virtues of the “productive forest” for its ability to provide timber and environmental values. The brochure says: “Maine's Forests have long been productive forests, producing lumber for ships and buildings, pulp for paper, firewood and biomass for heating and electricity. Maine's Forests support thousands of jobs for

[a] Translation of the chapter “Why the Working Landscape Isn't Working”, from the book Keeping the Wild, edited by George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist and Tom Butler (Island Press, 2014). Translation by Último Reducto. N. from t.

[b] “Working landscapes” in the original. Literally, it would mean "worker landscapes", "work landscapes" or "labour landscapes" and refers to those landscapes that produce a benefit for human beings through their modification and management. However, trying to find an expression that would sound better in Spanish while preserving the original meaning of “landscapes put to work”, in this text it has been translated as “productive landscapes” on all occasions. N. from t.

[c] “Working ranches” in the original. N. from t.

[d] “Working forests” in the original. N. from t.

[e] “Working lands” in the original. N. from t.

[f] “Working rivers” in the original. N. from t.

[g] “Working wilderness” in the original. N. from t.

[h] “Conserving the Maine Forest.” N. Maine citizens and contribute billions of dollars to the state's economy - all while providing critical environmental services such as water quality, wildlife habitat and the setting of carbon.”[2]

Subsequently, the expression “productive landscape”[1263][1264] has been widely adopted throughout the United States and is used to describe economic activities based on the exploitation of natural resources, including agriculture[3], livestock extensive[4] and logging[5]. In fact, a Google search returns 70 million results for the term working landscape alone, not including working forests, working ranches, <em >working farms</em> or other variations on the theme.

Surprisingly, the expression “productive landscapes” has been adopted by many members of the environmental movement or by people with conservation leanings – despite the fact that “productive landscapes” denotes and heralds the domestication of natural systems. In particular, proponents of the “Anthropocene” idea – the assumption that humans control the Earth today and should manage it intelligently – have embraced the phrase “productive landscape” as a centerpiece of their conservation agenda. .[6] Even the chief scientist of The Nature Conservancy[j] says that the goal of conservation is no longer "to preserve the wild, but to tame nature more wisely."[7]

The concept of productive landscapes is reminiscent of the puritanical American work ethic. The implicit message of productive landscapes is that these lands - controlled, modified, tamed and used for so-called human productive purposes - are somehow more valuable, more functional, than natural lands. In fact, there is often the idea that if we do not manage the land, it will degrade. For example, the Working Forest website suggests that the greatest threat to America's forests is lack of management: “Rich countries like the United States love their forests so much that they are killing a lot of them by not actively managing them”[k].[8] Another comment, posted online by the Idaho Forest Products Commission under the topic title “Working Forests,” echoes that same attitude: “Harvesting is also an essential part of good management that can improve forest health. and maintain the growth of our forests.”[9]

It would be another matter if advocates of so-called productive landscapes merely said that the lands are still capable of providing limited conservation value if used for human purposes, but advocates of productive landscapes often defend them as desirable alternatives and/or “superior” to natural landscapes.[10] In a video recently aired on Iowa Public TV, for example, the narrator asks the question, "How do we maintain the ecosystems of our hillsides, coastlines, and countryside for future generations?" And then he answers: "Transforming them into productive landscapes."

Lands exploited or used for human purposes are proposed as suitable alternatives to natural wilderness, as they are often portrayed as a win-win relationship, with people exploiting natural systems for utilitarian benefit, at the same time. time that nature, supposedly, also benefits from said exploitation.[12] This justification is similar to how southern plantation owners excused slavery by saying that slavery benefited their slaves by giving them work, housing, and food.[13]

Subtly appealing to the American Protestant ethic, the implicit underlying meaning of the expression “productive landscape” is that self-contained, natural landscapes[l] that are untouched by human manipulation and control are not productive, useful, or used, and they are operating at their full “potential”. For supporters of “productive landscapes,” these self-contained wildlands[m] are not contributing to human health and happiness—or at least not to economic prosperity. In his opinion, there is no doubt that these wild lands are not producing economic gains for companies, individuals or society.

On the contrary, “productive landscapes” are linked to economic benefits. In a special issue on productive landscapes appearing in Rangelands, the authors defined areas designated as productive landscapes in terms of economic production: “'Productive'[n] means, first, that there is some activity productive on the land - such as farming, ranching, or logging”[14][italics added].

A recent report on this issue states, “Most people who talk about 'Productive Landscape' mean land actively used for agriculture and logging.”[15] In yet another example, the Idaho Forest Products Commission noted, “Productive forests[o] keep Idaho's economy going. The wood and paper businesses employ more than 15,000 inhabitants of the state. These are good, solid jobs that pay better than other industries. And these employees pay more than $20 million to the state in taxes each year.” However, in the same publication the authors noted that many national forests were "unhealthy" because they had not been actively "managed" for productive uses.[16]

Promoting speeches that give value to "productive landscapes" delegitimizes the protection of wild lands and paints the exploitation of Nature green. In reality, human manipulation of the earth generally leads to biological impoverishment. Compared to natural ecosystems, “productive landscapes” tend to have lower total productivity and suffer losses of biological diversity, soil health, and other ecological attributes.[17] Maintaining these areas also often requires a significant amount of energy input.[18] Finally, the idea of "productive landscapes", as a conceptual model of conservation, diverts values towards utility for human beings, ignoring the intrinsic value of Nature.

Productive landscapes reduce production processes and are not ecologically benign

Productive landscapes, because they manipulate species composition and production for human ends, tend to disrupt evolutionary processes. A tree plantation managed for timber extraction cannot support natural elements and processes such as insects, disease and fire, as they are threats to maximizing wood fiber production. A landscape grazed by livestock, often consuming the entire production of native plants, suffers numerous negative consequences for native vegetation and fauna. Native herbivores rely on the same plants that cows or sheep eat for food, and other animals rely on natural vegetation for shelter. Compared to the original grasslands it replaces, a prairie that is plowed and worked into a monoculture of corn or soybeans is, biologically speaking, ruined. Promoters of productive landscapes used to be tied to industrial or exploitative economic interests, but increasingly include politicians, the media, and social justice advocates (and even many land defense groups[p]) who they relate “productive landscapes” with the protection of supposed cultural traditions.

Acknowledging that human activities have altered much of the world's natural ecosystems and celebrating this fact, as advocates of productive landscapes often seem to do, are two different things that reflect profoundly different attitudes. Clearly we can do better in managing a forest to preserve more natural functionings or designing a farm to promote more suitable habitats for wildlife, but we should not delude ourselves into thinking that such exploitation schemes are superior alternatives to natural ecosystems.

Given our current global population and reliance on technology, humanity may have no choice but to “put the landscape to work”[q]. At the same time, however, we should be aware that many of the activities in productive landscapes are ultimately unsustainable (if only because of their heavy dependence on energy inputs from fossil fuels) and sooner or later impoverish. and reduce the natural world.

In fact, in most cases, “productive landscapes” are biologically impoverished compared to the natural landscapes they have replaced. [19] Just to give an example, a comparison between unlogged primary[r] forests and a managed forest in 20

Ontario showed a 50 percent reduction in logged forest genetic diversity.[20] Biodiversity preservation involves more than just maintaining native species. It also requires above all the preservation of the ecological and evolutionary processes that produced that biodiversity. Unfortunately, more active management deliberately reduces natural ecological/evolutionary processes. For example, much forest management in the western United States is currently justified as necessary to prevent and curb the effects of native pine beetles, which kill some trees, and/or to reduce the number of forest fires, which constitute one of the main evolutionary forces in forest ecosystems.[21] Similarly, even the best managed livestock operations tend to favor the removal of large predators such as wolves, which are important due to their trophic cascading effects on herbivores and native plant communities.[22]

The mistaken assumption of proponents of productive landscapes is that managed farms, ranches, or forest lands are ecologically benign and help promote conservation. In fact, after years of hearing the propaganda in favor of production landscapes, many people now believe that protecting production landscapes preserves “open space”[1265][1266] and assumes that open space is the same as land. suitable habitats for wildlife. Few realize that because of the emphasis on subjugating natural systems to economic ends, productive landscapes may be “open” but are far from wild or natural.

Agriculture, by definition, is the conversion of native plant and animal communities into simplified farms dominated by a few selected domestic species. Except for urbanization[t] or strip mining, nothing beats agriculture in terms of total destruction of natural processes and systems. In fact, in much of the world the main cause of habitat fragmentation and degradation is agriculture.[23] Society depends on agriculture to feed us, but we should also understand and recognize that agriculture is the antithesis of wilderness.

Extensive ranching and cattle grazing are somewhat less destructive than cultivation because native vegetation is maintained to some extent, but their global physical footprint affects at least 25 percent of the ice-free land surface.[24] Therefore, the overall effect of livestock farming on biodiversity is very important.[25]

Domestic species, such as cattle or sheep, generally replace native herbivores. All over the world, native animals are forced to compete with domesticated ones for food. In addition, domestic animals raised on relatively arid lands often require irrigated pasture or hay crops that dry up streams and rivers, thereby damaging aquatic ecosystems and fish populations. Abstraction of water for irrigation from the Big Hole River in Montana, for example, has been the main factor that has brought the Montana arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus) to the brink of extinction. Also, depending on how they are managed, domestic animals can trample stream beds and pollute the water, and the fences needed to contain them become barriers to migratory animals.[26] Livestock can also transmit diseases to native species. Domestic sheep, for example, are known to carry diseases that are lethal to wild bighorn rams.[27] Since domestic animals are unable to evade predators, governments and ranchers often kill bears, wolves, lions, cougars, tigers, and other native predators to protect domestic livestock. In addition to being ethically questionable, the elimination of these 28 predators has serious repercussions on ecosystems.[28]

While commercial logging often supports native tree species and is therefore less destructive than agriculture, it also has significant ecological effects. First, most forest operations require access roads. Both tracks and logging fragment forest landscapes and provide pathways for invasion by invasive species, produce sediment that pollutes rivers, and provide access to hunters who can adversely impact the numbers and relationships of plant and wildlife communities. animals.[29] Logging also changes the age structure of forests. In times before European colonization, large-scale disturbance was rare in many forest communities and thus the forests were older and many were what we would now call ancient or forests. primary[v].[30] These ancient forests had an increased abundance of stumps, root mounds exposed by falling trees, and large-diameter fallen tree debris (RAC)—all of which are now viewed by ecologists as critical biological legacies. for the long-term functioning of the forest ecosystem.

The antithesis of landscapes dominated by human exploitation of resources are wilderness ecosystems, or what I call “productive ecosystems”[w]. Productive ecosystems are productive regardless of human aspirations. They are home to most of the world's species, the sources of pure water, and the places where ecological and evolutionary processes operate with minimal human interference.

Father-knows-what-is-best syndrome

When I was a child, I used to watch a TV show called “Father Knows Best”[1267][1268][1269][1270][1271], about the Anderson household, an idealized family of middle class. The father was a patient patriarch who dispensed wise advice to his wife and three children. There was never a crisis that Dad couldn't solve, and in a way, the show reflected the optimistic attitudes of America during my childhood in the '50s and '60s.

Those who advocate further taming of the Earth in the form of “productive landscapes” have much in common with the mythical Anderson family. Proponents of productive landscapes maintain a dad-knows-what-is-best attitude that, at best, demonstrates a lack of caution regarding human manipulation and exploitation of the Earth. . In fact, the overriding philosophical assumption behind the expression “productive landscape” is that humans are intelligent and wise enough to manage and manipulate landscapes without causing significant harm to the biosphere.

There is no doubt that human beings exert a tremendous influence on the Earth's continents, sea and atmosphere. According to some reports, more than a third of the global land area of the continents is under cultivation,[1272] and an even greater amount of land is used for livestock production.[1273] Add to these facts the clearing of forests, the overfishing of the oceans, humanity's burning of fossil fuels, which is leading to climate change, and a growing human population that demands more and more of the Earth's resources, and it will be easy to see why human beings can be considered a geological force that is influencing evolution. And yet, there is a critical difference between documenting and acknowledging human impact and accepting it as inevitable and even desirable.

Industry and those who seek profit by grabbing the Earth's resources for private profit have long portrayed the exploitation of the natural world in a positive light. What is new about the case of the defenders of productive landscapes is that they promote the same exploitation and manipulation saying that it is to “save” nature. Whether these advocates are corporate representatives or new environmentalists, they lack humility and fail to recognize how little we understand about how the Earth works. Unlike the mythical father of the TV show, who used to get positive results, every time we think we've solved a problem or figured out a way to exploit nature more effectively, we've probably created a new unintended consequence.

Many of the spokesmen for this new environmentalism try to undermine or devalue time-tested approaches to conservation such as parks and nature reserves or protected areas[y]. For example, Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden, has asserted that advocates of parks and wilderness[z] seek to preserve nature in its pristine, pre-human condition.[1274] Yet no serious advocate of parks believes that such places are "untouched" in the sense of not being touched or affected by humans at all. To make such a claim, one would have to deny global warming, the presence of pesticides and other chemicals all over the planet, and a host of other well-known human impacts. Those who are involved in conservation are well aware of these human influences.

There is, however, an immense variety of degrees of human influence. Downtown Los Angeles is much more of a human-made and -dominated environment than, say, Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge[aa]. In the Arctic Refuge natural forces continue to dominate the land. Preserving such places where natural forces operate with a minimum of human influence is still the best way to preserve nature and evolutionary processes.

Parks and wilderness are key to conservation

Parks and natural protected areas[bb], as well as other reserves are well-established means of conserving natural ecosystems and species. Protected areas are the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation: they favor the migration of species, offer refuges for exploitation, maintain important habitats and - perhaps most importantly - maintain ecological and evolutionary processes. Although few existing parks and reserves are adequate to protect all native species and ecological/evolutionary processes, science has shown that large reserves work to slow or minimize species losses even if they do not completely eliminate such losses. .[1275]

For example, Harini Nagendra conducted a meta-analysis of 49 protected areas in 22 countries, looking at the proportion of deforested land outside protected areas compared to land within reserves. Nagendra found that land deforestation was "substantially lower" in protected areas compared to surrounding unprotected areas.[35] A meta-analysis of marine reserves reached similar conclusions, finding that marine reserves had significantly higher numbers of species, biomass, and diversity than adjoining unprotected areas. As expected, larger reserves showed larger absolute differences than smaller ones, confirming that large protected areas are better at conserving biodiversity.[36]

Today about 13 percent of the Earth is protected, yet species continue to head toward extinction. The fact that extinction is not completely prevented, however, does not mean that protected areas are useless in conservation efforts: on the contrary, it means that we need more and larger protected areas that are connected to each other. The best conservation science has confirmed that we need larger protected areas to act as nuclei, linked by wildlife corridors[cc].[37] Where such protected areas are located could also be of great importance. For example, a recent study found that protecting 17 percent of the Earth's surface could conserve two-thirds of all 38 plant species.[38]

A visit to any of Alaska's reserves, such as the Arctic Refuge, would confirm that restraining development and human impacts is essential to preserving species and ecological processes. Of course, the refuge is not immune to human impacts - global warming is thawing permafrost, polar bears have high levels of PCBs, and so on - but, as a whole, the Wilderness Arctic Refuge is less degraded than any of the landscapes. production of the globe. Ecological processes such as floods, droughts, forest fires, blizzards, predation, etc. they still function here virtually unimpeded by human manipulation. Even popular parks like Yellowstone - which is suffering from various intrusions, such as the introduction of an exotic trout species to Yellowstone Lake, white pine blister blight that is killing whitebark pines (<em>Pinus albicaulis</ em>) and the proliferation of various species of non-native grasses - are even healthier, ecologically speaking, than the surrounding private lands and public lands managed by the Forest Service[dd] or the Department of Land Management[ee] that they are open to resource extraction and commodity production.[39]

The problem with many reserves is that they are too small and are established in the midst of heavily altered domesticated landscape environments.[40] That's a human-made problem, and it's a problem humans can solve by enlarging protected areas and reducing the portion of Earth devoted to domesticated landscapes. Will this be easy? I sure don't. However, it is not impossible either. We should not accept the argument that we have no choice but to accept a further reduction in natural areas due to human population growth or desires for more and more goods.

Proponents of “productive landscapes”, who see them as a cornerstone of human-friendly conservation, are undermining public support for large interconnected protected areas and replacing them with an alternative of dubious efficacy. By simplifying conservation, they are making it trivial. For example, Marris presents “designer ecosystems”—ecosystems that humans shape to include domestic and exotic species—as harmless or “the new wild nature”[ff].[41] Even if we assume that man-made nature can benefit people, such landscapes can only minimally support native species.

We have already seen the consequences of this type of impact, intentional or not: for example, the highly flammable arabueyes[gg] originally introduced to the western United States to improve grazing for cattle, yet ended up changing dramatically the regimen of fires with disastrous consequences for the native flora; or the numerous introductions of

[cc] “Wildlife corridors” in the original. N. from t.

[dd] “Forest Service” in the original. N. from t.

[ee] “Bureau of Land Management” in the original. N. from t.

[ff] “The new wild” in the original. N. from t.

[gg] “Cheatgrass” in the original. It refers to the grass Bromus tectorum. N. del t. non-native species in Australia (including rabbits, red foxes, camels and feral cats), all of which have had devastating consequences for species native to that continent.

The loss of native species has serious consequences for the functioning of ecosystems. Compared to species moved to a new location, native species tend to have a much higher number of interdependent species. Douglas Tallamy, in his book Bringing Nature Home, offers numerous examples of how native trees, such as oaks, can have hundreds of insects associated with them, while non-natives, such as those that typically used in urban gardens and parks, they may only have half a dozen or fewer.[42]

Elimination of native insect habitats produces a chain of effects through the ecosystem by reducing food for many insectivores, including many species of birds. We are not even aware of many of these relationships, and thus advocating the alteration of plants and animals to satisfy human desires is a risky enterprise at best. Biodiversity losses and the promotion of ecosystem manipulation practices (even if well-intentioned) carry inherent ecological risks. Showing such a presumptuous attitude toward these matters demonstrates the arrogance that comes with the father-knows-what-is-best stance.

While we can admit that parks, reserves and other protected areas will not completely halt the accelerating loss of biodiversity across the globe, protected areas are a means of preserving natural ecological functioning and evolution proven by many years of experience. The protection of natural areas should be the priority goal in any strategy to protect life forms on Earth.

A looming issue, which is often grossly underestimated if even discussed, is whether an Earth domesticated by humans and populated by nine or ten billion people is possible. Many proponents of the “productive landscape” suggest that human technology and intelligence will save us from any limits to growth.[43] However, given the immense and growing need for energy, the need for basic resources such as clean water and adequate food, as well as the need for infrastructure to support billions of people, it is more than questionable whether such a world is even possible. , not to mention whether it is sustainable. It is, therefore, simply a matter of prudence to reduce our global population, our exploitation of resources and, finally, to stop our domestication of the Earth. It is reasonable to argue that at least half of the Earth's continental surface and the vast majority of the seas should be protected reserves in which exploitation by humans is limited or prevented. However, this is only feasible through a substantial reduction in human population and consumption. That proponents of the Anthropocene fail to even acknowledge that we need to limit population and consumption is emblematic of their denial of reality.

A key aspect of supporting protected areas is the implications of such decisions. Although rarely specifically admitted in such reserve designations, by leaving natural areas out of development, we are implicitly challenging a human-centric worldview. We are asserting that at least a portion of the globe is not a field open to resource extraction by human beings. Instead of rejoicing in unconscionable human growth, setting limits to exploitation by human beings becomes a statement of restraint and self-discipline. Parks, natural areas[hh] and other protected reserves are therefore a philosophical recognition, at least in a certain way, that we do not know everything. Since the Father may not know what is best for the Earth, and to ensure our own survival and quality of life, we recognize that we must keep significant parts of the globe where human influence is minimal.

Another practical reason for establishing parks and other reserves is that these places serve as markers and reminders of how our collective actions have changed the natural world.

[hh] “Wilderness areas” in the original. N. from t.

Without protected areas we can enter a kind of ecological amnesia that distorts our perspective. Without old-growth forests as a reference, for example, it is easy for people to think that tree plantations are forests. Without wild herds of bison or wildebeest, it is easy for people to believe that domestic cattle are, in some way, a functional ecological equivalent. Without native predators controlling prey populations, it is all too easy to forget how a healthy landscape works with predator presence. And of course, without large wilderness areas, it's easier for people to believe that human taming of Earth is a neutral or even positive force.


Regardless of what their direct benefits may be for human beings (clean water, recreation, landscape beauty, etc.), parks, natural areas[ii] and other protected ecological reserves are basically a clear moral statement that we recognize the need to safeguard natural processes, native species and indigenous landscapes due to their inherent right to exist. Establishing protected areas is a symbolic moral gesture that the philosophical attitude of-father-knows-what-is-best is not an adequate indicator to guide the relationship of human beings with the natural world.

As I have said before, it is one thing to recognize human domination over the landscape and quite another to celebrate and promote it. The term productive landscape -together with the proposition of the term Anthropocene to call our geological epoch- expresses self-promotion regarding the human impact on the Earth. Such terms give a positive meaning to something that is actually a destructive process.

All ranching, farming, and logging are unlikely to disappear anytime soon from rural parts of the country where “productive landscapes” are idealized. Locally produced agricultural products, especially fresh vegetables and fruits, can help meet the food needs of communities. Furthermore, a reduction in export-oriented commercial agriculture and timber production, coupled with the simultaneous expansion of land area devoted to natural ecological processes and wilderness, would go a long way toward creating “productive ecosystems”. And productive ecosystems in the background provide the longest-term benefits, both for human societies and for communities of native flora and fauna.


1. C. White, “The Working Wilderness: A Call for a Land Health Movement.”


2.“Keeping Maine Forests.”


3. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, “Working Landscapes.”

[http://www.iatp.org/issue/rural-development/environment/agriculture/working-landscapes][http://www.iatp.org/issue/rural-development/environment/agriculture/working-landscapes] .

4. NF Sayre, “Working Wilderness: The Malpai Borderlands Group and the Future of the Western Range,” Terrain.org.


5. Exploring Vermont's Working Landscape at Groton State Forest, Vermont Business Magazine (August 27, 2013).

[http://www.vermontbiz.com/event/august/exploring-vt%E2%80%99s-working-landscape-groton-state-forest-0][http://www.vermontbiz.com/event/ august/exploring-vt%E2%80%99s-working-landscape-groton-state-forest-0]. [1276]

6. P. Kareiva, M. Marvier, and R. Lalasz, “Conservation in the Anthropocene: Beyond Solitude and Fragility,” Breakthrough Journal (Winter 2012).

[http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/past-issues/issue-2/conservation-in-the-anthropocene/][http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/past-issues /issue-2/conservation-in-the-anthropocene/].

7. Interview with Peter Kareiva, “The End of the Wild”, The Nature Conservancy. http//[http://www.nature.org/science-in-action/our-scientists/the-end-of-the-wild.xml][www.nature.org/science-in-action/our -scientists/the-end-of-the-wild.xml].

8. A Working Forest: Its Future With Fire, People and Wildlife. http//aworkingforest.com/a-working-forest/

9. Idaho Forest Products Commission.


10. G. Hoch, “Where Cattle Roam and Wild Grasses Grow,” Minnesota Conservation Volunteer Magazine (July/August 2013).


11. Iowa Public Television, “Explore More: Working Landscapes.”


12. Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, “Working Landscapes,” Our Environment at Berkeley.


13. Many of the slave owners claimed that the slaves would be better off being enslaved than being free since, if freed, the slaves would not be able to take care of themselves. Slave owners saw themselves as paternal beings who provided slaves with a home, etc. Here is a link that goes into this in greater depth: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100708220047AAE/yt.

14. L. Huntsinger and N. Sayre, “Introduction: The Working Landscapes Special Issue”, Rangelands 29, no. 3 (June 2007).

15. C. Morse et al. (2010) “Strategies for Promoting Working Landscapes in North America and Europe”.

[http://vtworkinglands.org/sites/default/files/library/files/working%20landscape/UVM_Strategies][http://vtworkinglands.org/sites/default/files/library/files/working%20landscape/UVM_Strategies] forPromotingWorkingLandscapes.pdf

16. Idaho Forest Products Commission.


17. T. Tscharntke et al., “Landscape Perspective on Agricultural Intensification and BiodiversityEcosystem Service Management”, Ecology Letters 8, no. 8 (2005): 857-87.

18. Fridolin Krausmanna, 1, Karl-Heinz Erba, Simone Gingricha, Helmut Haberla, Alberte Bondeaub, c, Veronica Gaubea, Christian Lauka, Christoph Plutzara, and Timothy D. Searchingerd 2013. Global human appropriation of net primary production doubled in the 20[ th] century. Published online ahead of print June 3, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.121134911PNAS June 3, 2013

19. EuropaBio: How does Agriculture Affect Biodiversity?


20. GP Buchert et al., “Effects of Harvesting on Genetic Diversity in Old-Growth Eastern White Pine in Ontario, Canada”, Biology 11, no. 3 (June 1997): 747-58.

21. G. Wuerthner, Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy (Covelo, CA: Island Press, 2006).

22. RL Beschta and WJ Ripple “Large Predators and Trophic Cascades in Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Western United States,” Biological Conservation 142 (2009): 2401-14.

23. The World Bank.


24. GP Asner et al., “Grazing Systems, Ecosystem Responses, and Global Change”, Annual Review of Environment and Resources 29 (2004): 261-99.


25. R. Alkemade et al., “Assessing the Impacts of Livestock Production on Biodiversity in Rangelands Ecosystems”, PNAS 110, no. 52 (December 2013).


26. G. Wuerthner and M. Matteson, Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West (Covelo, CA: Island Press, 2002).

27. T. Howard, “Disease Transmission from Domestic Sheep to Bighorn Sheep.” http//www.bighorndiseaseinfo.org/.

28. JA Estes and J. Terborgh, Trophic Cascades: Predators, Prey, and the Changing Dynamics of Nature (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2010).

29. S. Trombulak and C. Frissell, “Review of the Ecological Effects of Roads on Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems”, Conservation Biology 14, no. 1 (February 2000): 18-30.

30. J. Strittholt et al., “Status of Mature and Old-Growth Forests in the Pacific Northwest”, Conservation Biology 20, no. 2 (April 2006): 36374.

31. World Bank Database.


32. J. Owen, “Farming Claims Almost Half Earth's Land, New Maps Show,” National Geographic News (December 9, 2005).


33. E. Marris, P. Kareiva, J. Mascaro, and E. Ellis, “Hope in the Age of Man,” New York Times (December 7, 2011).

[http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/opinion/the-age-of-man-is-not-a-disaster.html?ref=opinion][http://www.nytimes. com/2011/12/08/opinion/the-age-of-man-is-not-a-disaster.html?ref=opinion].

34. WD Newmark, “Extinction of Mammal Populations in Western North American Parks,” Conservation Biology 9, no. 3 (2002): 512-26.

35. H. Nagendra, “Do Parks Work? Impacts of Protected Areas on Land Clearing”, AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 37, no. 5 (2008): 330-37.

36. B. Halpern, “The Impact of Marine Reserves: Do Reserves Work and Does Size Matter?” Supplement to Ecological Applications 13, no. 1 (2003): S117-S137.

37. M. Soule and J. Terborgh, Continental Conservation: Scientific Foundations of Regional Reserve Networks (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1999).

38. LN Joppa, P. Visconti, CJ Jenkins, and SL Pimm, “Achieving the Convention on Biological Diversity's Goal for Plant Conservation,” Sciencie 341, no. 6150 (September 6, 2013): 1100 -103. doi:11.1126/science.1241706.

39. RF Noss, C. Carroll, K. Vance-Borland, and G. Wuerthner, “A Multicriteria Assessment of the Irreplaceability and Vulnerability of Sites in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” Conservation Biology 16 (2002) : 895-908.

40. LN Joppa, SR Loarie and SL Pimm, “On the Protection of 'Protected Areas'”, PNAS 105, no. 18 (May 2008).

www.pnas.org_cgi_doi_10.1073_pnas.0802471105 PNAS _ May 6, 200 8_ vol.15 _ no. 18.

41. Interview with Emma Marris, American Society of Landscape Architets.


42. DW Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2007). [http://bringingnaturehome.net][http://bringingnaturehome.net].

43. E. Ellis, “Overpopulation Is Not a Problem,” New York Times, September 13, 2013.

Presentation of "THE EARTH IS NOT A GARDEN"

The interest that we see in the following text is that it is a quite accurate critique of ecomodernist currents based on the concept of the Anthropocene.

However, the author falls into two errors to which it is necessary to draw attention here:

1. The author, following the traditional line of conservationism, speaks of cultivating the feeling of "modesty and respect" towards Nature as the main way to achieve its preservation. Certainly, the feeling of humility and respect for Nature is something praiseworthy, which obviously the editors of Wild Nature share and consider fundamental, but we doubt that by itself it is enough to effectively preserve wild Nature. The reason for this is that what determines the development of societies are not fundamentally the ideas, feelings, attitudes or values held by their members, but the material factors, the physical conditions that restrict, condition and push said societies to take the direction they follow. And, therefore, the destruction of Nature by human societies is mainly determined by the material factors that condition their development (demographics, need for resources, technological capacity, etc.). The prevailing ideas, beliefs and values in these societies are only an effect of such development, not its cause. The prevailing ideas and attitudes can and usually serve to justify and reinforce such development, but they neither originated nor maintain it by themselves. And in the same way, the ideas and feelings contrary to that destruction are not going to serve, by themselves, to change the course of society and with it the destruction of Nature. The only thing that could achieve this would be something equally physical that affects the material bases for the maintenance and development of the techno-industrial society.[43]

Having seen what has been seen, it is therefore not strange that the author naively believes that it is enough to let ethics and ideals (taking the wild as a fundamental value) serve as a guide to "intensification" (that is, to the development of the techno-industrial society) promoted by neoconservationists. However, as we have pointed out, ideals and principles do not work by themselves. Values and ideas can serve to define ends and inspire and incite to pursue them, but achieving those ends requires more than ethics and ideology. If the material conditions that primarily determine the development of techno-industrial society are not modified, ethics and ideals will achieve nothing by themselves and development will continue on its current course, with all the destruction and subjugation of the wild that it inevitably entails.

2. Keim, also in the typical conservationist vein and related to the above, naively believes in the possibility of reaching a balance or compromise between the development of modern technology and the preservation of wild Nature. Hence, despite his criticisms, he makes certain concessions to ecomodernists and speaks positively of "conservation finance", of certain forms of genetic engineering, of collaboration between ecomodernists and multinationals (The Nature Conservancy and Rio Red, for example), etc. However, such a balance is impossible. The only way to effectively preserve Wild Nature in the long term would be the complete physical removal of the techno-industrial system. Any other compromise solution between modern technology and wild Nature will be insufficient to conserve the latter in the long term and sooner or later will lead to its total destruction or/and subjugation. Thus, the dichotomy proposed by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus: either global warming or electricity, turns out to be not as fallacious as the author claims. Although this pair of eco-postmodernists cunningly tried to defend techno-industrial society with it, assuming that anyone would choose the maintenance and development of techno-industrial society, whatever its negative consequences for Nature, rather than be left without modern comforts, the fact is that in every dichotomy there are two possible options, no matter how much they are scared in this case of the other option: eliminate electricity, that is, the techno-industrial system.


By[http://aeon.co/magazine/author/brandon-keim/][Brandon Keim]

A few years ago, I asked a biologist friend what she thought about an idea that had recently become fashionable in environmental circles: that wilderness was an illusion and that our beloved wilderness[44] they were an outdated mental construct that did not exist in reality. She had just finished her shift on the elevated boardwalk, a volunteer-run walk through a lovely little peat bog that formed after the ice age, near what is now the largest commercial area in eastern California. Maine.

After a moment's reflection, she told me that this was probably true, in an academic sense, but that she didn't pay much attention to it. The fact was that places affected by human activity, such as peat bogs, were special and had to be protected; other places were much less affected, but they were special and also needed protection.

It was a simple and practical answer, coming from someone who had spent much of his life caring for the natural world. I've been reminded of it now that conservation ideals are under siege from the movement's own self-proclaimed vanguard: the Green Modernists (also known as New Conservationists, post-ecologists, or ecopragmatists), a group of influential thinkers who argue that we should accept our domination of the planet and rethink the Earth as a giant garden.

Put aside your attachment to the wilderness[46], they say. There is no such thing, and to think otherwise is certainly counterproductive. And when it comes to wildness[47], some of it might remain on the fringes of our gardens - designed and managed to serve the wishes of human beings - but it's not particularly important. What if you appreciate wild plants and wild animals for themselves? Well, forget about that too. Those sentiments are as old-fashioned as a daguerreotype of Henry David Thoreau's beard, as dead as a dodo[48] in an epoch, the Anthropocene, characterized by literally breathtaking human domination of the Earth. .

It is true that humanity has enormous power. About a quarter of all terrestrial photosynthetic activity and half of available freshwater is diverted for human purposes. We are altering ocean currents and atmospheric patterns, and we are moving as much rock as erosion processes. The total biomass of humanity and our domesticated animals exceeds that of all other land mammals; our plastic spreads through the oceans. We are driving other creatures toward extinction at a rate not experienced in the last 65 million years, since an asteroid hit Earth and ended the age of the dinosaurs.

By the middle of this century, we could become 10,000 million human beings, all of them demanding and deserving of a quality of life that today only a few experience. It will be an extraordinary challenge and it will considerably affect the planet. Coping with it will require, as the green modernists rightly point out, new ideas and tools. It will also require a deep and abiding respect for non-human life, no less important than the respect we show for one another. Power is not the same as supremacy.

If humanity is to be more than just a biological asteroid, nature lovers, contrary to what was recommended, in a seminal essay co-authored by Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy, the world's largest conservation organization world, we should not “cast aside idealized notions about nature, parks and wilderness[49]” or stop “pursuing the protection of biodiversity for its intrinsic value”. Nor can we replace these ideals with what science writer Emma Marris envisions as “a boisterous, half-wild, global garden[50] maintained by us.”

However well-intentioned the ideas of these authors may be, they are inappropriate for the Anthropocene. We need to defend wilderness more, not less. And although defining humanity's role as that of the global gardener seems innocuous, the idea contains the seeds of the fundamental error of industrial society: an ethical vision in which only human interests matter. It is not the project of a garden, but that of a landscaped cemetery.

Green modernism is not exactly new. On the contrary, it has crystallized arguments that have seeped into conservationism over the last few decades, reaching their apogee after the publication of Marris's book Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World</ em> (2011) and Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene (2011), a collection of essays produced by the Institute for Advancement[51], a think tank[52] based in California. When you add in Kareiva's prominence within The Natural Conservancy, the media hook of a paradigm shift, and the general frustration - shared by green modernists and their critics alike - at the inability to stop ecological destruction, it's all set. for what American journalist Keith Kloor called a battle for the soul of environmentalism to take place.

In this battle, the modernists wielded strategic and tactical weapons. In their eyes, conservationists were too doomsday and obsessed with stories of defeat: polar bears on icebergs, ecosystems forever altered. Nature is resilient, they objected. The forests grow back. After all, polar bears could handle the heat. Likewise, conservationists should be more realistic and recognize the impracticality of their hopes. And they should also be more humanistic. Nature has been protected, too often, at the expense of human beings.

"Conservationists will have to come to terms with human development and the 'exploitation of nature' for human ends," wrote Kareiva and her collaborators, Michelle Marvier, a professor of environmental studies, and Robert Lalasz, the director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy. . Green modernists called on big business to join them and emphasized "ecosystem services," by which nature is measured and turned into products based on the benefits it provides us. They also blamed conservationists for being technophobes reluctant to applaud technologies that promote prosperity while reducing our ecological footprint.

In themselves, many of these ideas were not so radical. They represented an update, at the beginning of the 21st century, of the managerial approach that was previously evident everywhere, from fishing to environmental impact studies. What made green modernism so controversial was the implicit ideological shift: that human interests should be put above everything else. The justification they gave for this amounted to rewriting ecological history all over again.

According to green modernists, mainstream conservationists are obsessed with the 19th-century idea of pristine wilderness[53] untouched by human hands. Consumed by nostalgia, they have failed to comprehend the historical significance of human ecological influence, practicing a cult of wilderness that is not only ineffective, but illusory. “Conservation cannot promise a return to pristine, pre-human landscapes,” say Kareiva and her colleagues. “The wilderness so dear to conservationists – 'unencumbered' places[54] – never existed, at least not for the past few millennia, and possibly even for much longer” .

Looking through sepia-tinted glasses, conservationists are presumably unaware of other, less pristine forms of nature, the landscapes and habitats associated with our activities. Recalling his childhood, spent playing in the second-growth forests[55] of North America's Northwest Coast, Marris writes that “such forests have long been ignored by ecologists and conservationists. Caught by the lure of 'untouched wilderness', they left behind secondary forests”.

It's an odd statement, given that a Google search for “second-growth forest” returns over 54,000 results; and it is not difficult to mention several conservationists whose ecological awareness arose in such “ignored” spaces. Poet and environmentalist Gary Snyder grew up right in the very woods Marris refers to, on a "stump farm" - a term derived from the removal of the stumps left behind when giant old-growth forest trees are felled - while north of Seattle. Bob Marshall, the forester and activist whose efforts led to the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the US federal wilderness system[56], warned as early as 1930 that purity thresholds “ unattainably high” would leave secondary forests unprotected. Aldo Leopold, one of the fathers of modern environmentalism, whose influential book, A Sand County Almanac[57] (1949) is a chronicle of nature on a prairie farm of the time of the Dust Bowl[58], is a particularly interesting example.

Leopold, a hunter and forester, initially believed in the managerial tradition that saw nature as a resource. The trees, the fish and the pheasants existed to be used by us, albeit responsibly. However, over time he came to consider this ideal insufficient, a transformation recounted in “Thinking Like a Mountain”[59], his essay about hunting a she-wolf. "Having seen the green fire die" in the wolf's eyes, he wrote, "I felt that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with this way of seeing things."

And then there is Thoreau himself, patron saint of conservation and a favorite target of Anthropocene ideologues, who deride him for extolling the virtues of the wild[60] while living a stone's throw from the city. However, if anything, this should make it even more relevant. Thoreau, in the secondary forests and along the railway lines, discovered "another civilization different from ours" and suggested that "in the wild character is the salvation of the world." However, green modernism does not want to recognize this, just as it does not want to take into account the definition of the “unfettered” state of nature so valued by conservationists.

“Unhindered” doesn't mean untouched, but unrestricted. Wilderness[61] as formally defined by the Wilderness Act, are simply places where the processes of nature have not been seriously impeded by human activities. It is best understood as a scale of degrees of wildness, a term derived from the Old Norse[62] word for “will”. Wildness consists - for Thoreau, for the ecological historian Roderick Nash and for entire generations of conservationists - in having a will of one's own[63]. The wild is free and autonomous, existing independently of human control. This is what so many conservationists are passionate about: not just the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge[64] or the Amazon jungle, but also the wildlife they encounter in everyday landscapes, on their own walks through the footsteps raised timber from a peat bog. A few may obsess over the pristine, but most love the wild[65] and their appreciation for the wilderness[66] is much more practical in nature.

It doesn't matter, the caricature that portrays conservationism as doomsayer is only a necessary complement to the second premise of green modernism: that human activity in the 21st century is the mere continuation of what we have been doing for millennia. The supposedly pristine pre-industrial landscapes that cajoled conservationists had already been altered, making the ideal of wilderness meaningless.

“Some ecologists view the Anthropocene as a disaster by definition, seeing all human-induced changes as a degradation of virgin Eden,” Kareiva, Marris, environmental scientist Erle Ellis, and ecologist Joseph Mascaro wrote in an editorial in the journal. New York Times, in 2011. “Yet, in fact, humans have been modifying ecosystems for millennia.” The founders of the Institute for Advancement, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, make a similar comment in Love Your Monsters: “The difference between the new ecological crises and the ways in which humans and even prehumans have been shaping non-human nature for tens of thousands of years is of degree and scale, not kind.

The Amazon is one of the favorite examples of massive alteration of nature. The discovery of prehistoric orchards and irrigation canals beneath the presumed primary forest caused a wave of excitement a decade ago. Those discoveries, which were reported primarily in Charles Mann's book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005), and in the works of anthropologist Michael Heckenberger, seemed to rewrite ecological history. Far from being a wilderness untouched by humans, the great Amazon rainforest, the Earth's delicate lung, had been exploited until recently! “The very notion of a 'virgin rainforest' may be wrong,” Kareiva wrote in 2007 in Science magazine.

But this opinion is very controversial. Although certain areas of the Amazon were indeed populated, they were comparatively small: patches of intense modification scattered in the middle of an immense wilderness[67]. Certainly, the Amazon was not domesticated on a scale even remotely similar to that of the Anthropocene. Some archaeologists have even suggested that the areas of the Amazon where earthen constructions were carried out[68] were dry places similar to the savannah, making their impacts less dramatic. The Indians practiced agriculture locally, not landscape engineering.

This is not just archaeological trifles. Blurring the line between the limited impacts caused by humans in the past and extensive human activity on the enormous scale of the Anthropocene today makes it difficult to recognize the wilderness, large and small, that still remain in many places, from the depths of the southern oceans to the boreal forests, passing through much of the Amazon. This confusionism also dilutes the differences between ways of life. Limited and careful management of nature - fires that try to mimic regional fire regimes or agricultural systems adjusted to existing hydrological cycles - is considered on the same level as activities that ignore these ecological traits.

Not that indigenous societies were always harmonious administrators who left a light footprint. There are many examples to the contrary, the most notable being the extinctions that occurred after the arrival of stone age humans in the Americas and Australia. However, these extinctions by no means meant the disappearance of the wilderness[69], nor do they fall in the same place on the spectrum of degrees of impact on nature that industrial-scale development occupies. Once we outcompeted 20-foot[71] tall giant sloths[70] and saber-toothed tigers, now we have trouble sharing space even with kangaroo rats[72] and tiger salamanders[73]. This is the difference between transformations brought about by a few million people and those brought about by 7 billion, with drastically different resource requirements. And this difference is concealed by the narrative of human omnipresence.

This narrative is linked, according to the professor of environmental law, David Johns, in an essay published in Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of Earth (2014), “To the idea that the significant presence humanity and the remarkable impact of our species mean that humans are in command.” It is an example of modern myth-making, the normalization and self-justification of a human-dominated Anthropocene devoid of wilderness, in which those damn conservationists have to catch up with the program. As Marris states in Rambunctious Garden: “We are already running the whole of the Earth.”

All of this might seem to some like a storm in a teacup: an internal feud. However, ideas matter, especially when they involve questions as fundamental as how we see ourselves in relation to other living things. Dismissing wild nature and underestimating wildness lead us into ethically disturbing situations. And they are in turn the result of an ethically troubling situation: ecological philosopher Eileen Crist equates green modernism with the mentality that put humans at the top of the Great Chain of Being in the Middle Ages, and kept us there. Until Charles Darwin came along.

The garden metaphor is especially fraught with implications. A garden is not a place for ethics. In it life and death happen according to the whim of the gardener. To plant or to cut, to tend or to kill, to include or to exclude: it is a morally unrestrained exercise of the will, which is fine for a backyard, but which requires limits, both literal and philosophical. "Once we've adopted a gardener's mentality, it will give us too much freedom to do whatever we want," says bioethicist Gregory Kaebnick. "And I know what I'm talking about, I'm an avid hobby gardener."

In a garden, there is not necessarily the feeling that life has any value other than what we assign to it. Neither individual beings nor larger entities - populations, communities, species, ecological processes - are intrinsically deserving of respect. The gardener's ethic cannot take that into account. What Leopold so wisely advised: that we think of ourselves not as conquerors of communities of living beings but as "mere members and citizens" of them, is thrown out the window.

Furthermore, the values we assign are inevitably biased towards what we have planted and controlled. “Civilization ... is the garden where relationships grow,” wrote the poet Howard Nemerov, a revealing phrase quoted by Gary Snyder in A Place in Space (1988). "Outside the garden lies the wild abyss." This mentality is already deeply embedded in our development-oriented society. What is not managed is devalued, if it is not considered totally invisible. No one walks straight through a flower bed; yet we trample on so-called weeds in an empty plot without even realizing they are there. In a landscaped Anthropocene, nature runs the risk of becoming an aesthetic abstraction, largely only interesting because we can find our own reflection in it.

Therefore, the restoration of pre-industrial ecological references is considered impractical, but the so-called Pleistocene rewilding[74] - parks managed to contain something similar to the ecosystems of a million years ago - is applauded. Trying to prevent the extinction of species is somewhat old-fashioned, but “de-extinction”[75] through biotechnological reconstruction of species is the latest cry. These kinds of projects have some value, but they reflect a self-centered notion of the nature of the Anthropocene that can easily become toxic.

A notable example comes from a post on the National Public Radio blog[76] from January of this year, titled “A Human-Driven Mass Extinction: Good or Bad? The author, Adam Frank, comments on an interview in New Scientist with ecologist Chris Thomas, who points out that today some lineages are adapting to human activities while those activities are pushing many others to adapt. extinction. “How does that make you feel? How should it make them feel? Frank was asking about the imminence of mass extinction. "The answer to that question depends to a large extent on what each one understands by nature and where they think we should fit into it."

This line of thought never applies to human affairs: “A city has been bombed tonight and other people are building shelters out of the rubble! Is that good or bad?" Merely asking is ridiculous. After all, human lives have intrinsic value. However, according to the logic of green modernism, non-human lives do not. In most cases, they represent preferences or services. It is the exploitative essence of colonialism applied to nature, the consecration of the very attitudes that have turned humanity into a biological asteroid. To stop protecting nature for its own sake, to judge conservation by the degree to which it promotes human interests, is to reshape our relationship with the Earth into the same shape as the relationship between an empire and resource-producing colonies. The expression "The Earth" refers only to us.

Wild nature and wild character are the opposite of this. As ideals, they embody respect for non-human lives, recognizing that they do not exist solely in relation to us. Upon entering a wilderness[77], Nash writes, we realize that we are not in a playground, but in the home of others. It opens us to the perception of the intrinsic value of other lives and the importance of sharing.

“Conservation is inspired by the question: who are the members of my community?” says Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Arizona Center for Biological Diversity. “It is an act of humility. It requires you to tell yourself, “It's not just my wants and needs that are important. What other creatures want and need is also important.'”

This does not mean that human beings cannot or should not cause any harm, much less that they should cease all their activities. It is impossible not to leave a mark. However, we can think about where we put our feet, cultivate a sense of modesty rather than haughtiness, and let courtesy and respect guide us. It is a habit of mind that is useful in relationships within our own species as well. "The lessons we learn from the wild[78]," Snyder writes, "become the protocol of freedom."

Easier said than done, of course. Green modernists would counter that it's unrealistic: those lovable ideals may have won a few battles, but conservationists are losing the war. New ideas are needed. Leaving aside the dubious proposition that principles should be abandoned when they are difficult to put into practice, a few of his criticisms seem uncomfortably on point.

Clearly more is needed. If conservation victories had been enough to bear our weight, the Earth would not be headed for mass extinction. And it is true that conservationists have all too often relied on hackneyed platitudes. It is more than evident that not “everything” is “connected with everything else”; the extinction of one butterfly will not bring down the entire ecological edifice. Similarly, prejudice against non-native species can backfire; if today the non-native vegetation were eradicated, large numbers of butterflies would starve. The discourse of fragility and irreversibility ends up tiring too. Life can be fragile, but it can also be remarkably resilient.

The emphasis that green modernists place on ecologically viable development is also welcome, even if its promoters play some strident notes. (“Putting our faith in modernization will require a new secular theology,” Shellenberger and Nordhaus write, and “requires a worldview that sees technology as benign and sacred.”) The nascent field of conservation finance, a nature-focused extension of social benefit-oriented crash investments[79], has tremendous potential.

However, without the ideals of wilderness and wild character as guides, the compass spins aimlessly. Pursuing intensification - the green modernist goal of achieving more productive agriculture and denser cities, thus presumably leaving more space for nature - requires ethical leadership. Otherwise, what is promised is merely intensification over an increasing portion of the Earth's surface. Embracing technology is equally inaccurate advice. There is a difference between crops engineered for high productivity and drought resistance and those engineered to withstand heavy doses of various pesticides.

Making such distinctions requires critical thinking about technology and development, not Kareiva and Marvier's demand that conservationists stop "complaining about capitalism," as if capitalism were some transcendental entity rather than something subject to a constant debate. Equally unhelpful are the false dichotomies of Shellenberger and Nordhaus, who write that "living in a warmer world is less of a problem than living in one without electricity."

Green modernists make a point of celebrating urban nature, which is fine. The non-human life of cities should be appreciated on principle. Bob Marshall wanted us to "learn to treat even the smallest elements of the natural world with respect," even the squirrels and scraggly elms that grow inside cities. However, urban nature is limited as a means of preserving the richness of life. This is corroborated by the global study on birds and plants that live in cities, published earlier this year in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Cities contain, respectively, 20 percent of the birds and 5 percent of the plants that we might find in the corresponding non-urban locations. Yet this grim statistic is hailed in some modernist circles as good news: cities can support life!

This overly optimistic impulse characterizes many of the examples given by green modernists as evidence of resilience: rare species of salamanders that, having lost their natural habitat, have "specialized in living in cattle drinkers"; rainforests that regrow abandoned crop fields and contain half the species that previously lived there. Chernobyl is another iconic example of the apparent resilience of the Anthropocene: even after an atomic power plant meltdown, life flourishes! But the great and terrible lesson that Chernobyl has taught us is that, for non-human life, a nuclear accident is better than having us around. The best of gardens is not a garden at all. Plants and animals on Earth continue to need wilderness[80], both small and large.

Of course, in the places that need some of these wildernesses[81] and much of the wilderness to exist, there are also human beings. It's great that The Nature Conservancy is working with mining giant Rio Tinto to reduce impacts in the Gobi desert and is offering advice on how to dam Colombian rivers to minimize ecological damage. Damage control is vitally important. However, it should not be the highest aspiration of conservation and it is by no means a strategy on which the future of the Earth should depend.

Recommending, as Kareiva does, that we stop “advocating the protection of biodiversity for its own sake” - or, in less sanitized terms, of life for its own sake, and measure conservation “largely by its relevance to people”, is not It is a new and bold idea. It is a surrender. It's also somewhat impractical: can a line ever be drawn? When to stop paving a little more prairie, or leave a river undammed - given that paving and building dams also creates new types of ecosystems, and testifies to nature's ability to adapt? Given this, green modernism would draw lines based on ecosystem services: grasslands support pollinators, undammed rivers maintain commercially valuable fish stocks. However, can this strategy be successful on a large scale? It may become possible to achieve valuable services – clean air and water, profitable “productive landscapes”[82] – with a minimum of biodiversity.

As biologist John Vucetich points out, the modern world aptly demonstrates that we can achieve prosperity for human beings even in the absence of the abundance of life that existed in the past. “There are so few black-footed ferrets[83] on the planet that it has already been shown that we don't need them,” he says, “we'll get by without speedy foxes[84] or wolverines[85][85]. We can enumerate entire lists of species that we could do without.”

Vucetich sees the fight over green modernism as a clash between two ways of understanding sustainability: one that exploits nature as much as we want as long as we don't harm future exploitation, and another that exploits nature only as much as is necessary to lead a fulfilling life. . "I don't think these two worldviews are going to lead us to the same place," he says. "I think they would lead to completely different worlds."

Conservation successes are not simply national parks and protected areas, but the many places where human appetites are curtailed so that other life forms can flourish: patches of forest on the edges of cities, wetlands that they have avoided becoming shopping malls. Defending them is the daily bread in conservation work and, for this, ideals are needed.

“People volunteer to participate in commissions that study mining proposals, criticize environmental impact reports, challenge the unscrupulous assumptions of large companies and rise up against certain local public officials who try to betray the inhabitants”, Snyder writes about his neighbors' efforts to protect their second-generation hillside forests in the Sierra Nevada from irresponsible mining and logging. What motivates them to do this unattractive work is not self-interest, he writes, but "a true and selfless love for the land." It's hard to imagine green modernism being so inspiring or, for that matter, so effective. Despite caricatures of conservationists as die-hard fanatics, in practice conservation is an exercise in negotiation and compromise – and no decent agreement can ever be reached by falling short in the first place.

Another example in Maine comes to mind here: the ongoing restoration of the Penobscot River, the second longest in the northeastern United States, which for most of the last 9,500 years served as a pathway for migration of huge schools of fish between the Atlantic Ocean and the 7,700 square miles[86] of its basin. During the last two centuries its entire course, save a few miles[87], has been interrupted by a series of dams. Those mass migrations, which historian and biologist John Walkman says once made eastern rivers "look silver," had been reduced to a sad little trickle of fish.

Over the past decade, an alliance of conservation organizations and government agencies struck a deal with the power companies: they would buy three dams, dismantle two of them, and create a pass around the other, while another dam would remain in operation and increase its generating capacity. The deal was precisely the kind of action that green modernists advocate: a balance between business interests and ecological values, producing electricity while protecting life.

The Nature Conservancy helped make the restoration possible and rightly celebrated on their website page. However, they were not the only ones involved in it. The negotiations took place only because conservationists and fishermen had previously fought for decades to prevent the construction of more dams. The commercial value of the restored fisheries and recreational opportunities was part of the arguments for removing the dams and helped sell the project politically. Yet the driving force that kept so many people coming to meetings, reviewing impact studies, and organizing fundraisers was a love for what the Penobscot was once.

One woman I know, an artist and wildlife ecologist who makes woodcuts of river animals for local school students to use in art classes, describes the project as a renaissance. Sometimes he wades through the shallows, searching through the mud for ancient stone fishing weights made by the Penobscot Indians in pre-industrial times. The Penobscot Indian Nation has also supported the restoration, seeing it as an opportunity to heal the degradation of waters that were once central to their tribal life. And while they are under no illusions that the river will once again harbor its former wealth - after all, the negotiation left a dam intact - they are inspired by the idea. They are also moved by an intuitive idea of what is wrong. Because the life of the Penobscot had been cut short so blithely just wasn't right.

It is these feelings, of passion, modesty and respect for wild nature[88], which basically made the commitment possible. It was not cost-benefit analyses, nor any notion of humanity as the planetary gardener. If we had thrown away wild nature, both its reality and the ideal it represents, the dams would still be choking the river.


The value that we see in the following text is that it is a simple and entertaining refutation of the typical humanist and postmodern attacks against the concept of wild Nature. (There is another text by Foreman, “The myth of the humanized pre-Columbian landscape” [http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/el-mito-del-paisaje-precolombino-humanizado][-http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/el-mito- of-the-pre-Columbian-humanized-landscape][ecocentric/the-myth-of-the-pre-Columbian-humanized-landscape-], in which many of the arguments presented here are developed in a more elaborate way).

As usual, however, we must point out certain problems or defects that we see in the text.

To begin with, the author makes certain winks and concessions, at least lip service, to the defense of social justice. Although this may apparently have a strategic justification (to win over to the conservationist cause those who give importance to social struggles for equality and solidarity; or, at least, not scare them away), in reality, deep down and in the long term, it is a error (social justice is a matter, at the very least, wholly independent of, if not incompatible with, the defense of wild Nature; and indeed, this is precisely the reason why humanists, postmodern or not, tend to attack or try to undermine the second). Apart from being a hoax in this case: Foreman has never really shown much interest in social justice, but rather the opposite, he has always defended not mixing conservation with leftist struggles and even declares himself a conservative and "right-wing". ”.

Furthermore, it is typical of Foreman to confuse Protected Wilderness with Wilderness and Wilderness itself. For him, it often seems that the only thing that is wild is that which is protected. However, the protected part of Wild Nature is just that, a part of it.

And we have already commented on other occasions that the legal protection of Nature (to which Foreman gives absolute importance) will not be sufficient or effective in the long term to save wild Nature from the harassment it suffers and will continue to suffer from society. technoindustrial. The only way to truly and definitively save the wild is to eliminate techno-industrial society.

In relation to all this, the author commits the serious intellectual blunder of saying that the wild character is merely a "human concept", implying that the only real thing are the concrete places and wild beings and that any abstract idea or notion about they have no real basis. But if the notion of savagery is merely a human invention, if it does not refer to a trait that exists in reality, how do we know that the beings and systems Foreman claims to protect are truly savage? Wildness is not a human invention, but an objective feature of certain processes, systems and physical beings (those that exist and function by themselves, that are not artificial and act autonomously, following their own dynamics). Foreman is a passionate defender of wild Nature with many years of experience behind him, and this honors him and makes him worthy of being taken as a reference on many occasions, but sometimes intellectually he leaves much to be desired. To demolish every abstraction, every idea, every notion, every concept as mere human inventions, is clumsy (aside from the fact that the abstract critique of "abstraction" is, ironically, a typical trait of many postmodernists).

Regarding the fact that legally protecting, that is, voluntarily leaving unexploited or destroying certain wild areas, is an act of humility, despite being true, it also poses a problem: it diverts attention from the ultimate causes of the destruction and subjugation of Wild Nature, which are material (population, technology, geographical expansion, etc.), towards "causes" that in the best of cases are secondary when not mere effects of said destruction and submission (values, attitudes, ideas, wills) . The lack of humility before Nature was not the first cause of the domination of the wild (it is rather the effect of it; an effect that in turn reinforces domination, of course, but which was not its origin), and therefore, humility, necessary as it may be, will not be enough to save what remains of the wild on Earth.[a]


By Dave Foreman[b]

In the past, opposition to Wilderness Protected Areas[c] and National Parks used to come from those whose economic interests led them to want to exploit publicly owned natural resources, often with the financial help of the government. It's still like that. However, more recently, the opposition has also emerged from an ideological position of “People First!”[d]. Edward Abbey[e] is often quoted as saying, “The wilds[f] need no defense, only defenders”[g]. Cactus Ed[h] himself told me that he had never said that and that this sentence made no sense to him. It is clear that the wilds[i] need defenders. However, with such an ideological attack by arrogant humanists[1], the Wilderness needs to be defended not only as a place, but also as a concept.[2]

Wilderness advocates from the fields of anthropology, archaeology, history, rural sociology, philosophy, and conservation biology need to investigate the claims made by humanist opponents of

[a] In this regard, see, for example, the presentation of “The Earth is not a garden” in Naturaleza Indómita ([http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/la- land-is-not-a-garden][http://www.naturalezaindomita.com/textos/naturaleza-salvaje-y-teora-ecocntrica/la-tierra-no-es-un-jardn]).

[b] Translation by Último Reducto of “Where Man Is a Visitor”. Original text published in Place of the Wild, David Clarke Burks (ed.), Island Press, 1994. N. from t.

[c] “Wildernes Areas” in the original. In this text, this expression has been translated as “Wild Protected Areas”, except in cases where it is explicitly indicated otherwise. N. from t.

[d] “People First!” in the original. It refers to anthropocentric postures. The expression “People First!” shows a clear contrast with the ecocentric position implied by the expression “Earth First!” (“The Earth First!), name of an environmental organization founded, among others, by Foreman in the 1980s. N. from t.

[e] Edward Paul Abbey (1927-1989). American writer whose ideas about wilderness and industrial civilization greatly influenced radical conservationism and environmentalism in the United States in the second half of the 20th century. N. from t

[f] “Wilderness” in the original. The term “wilderness” refers to lands with little or no humanization. In this text it will be translated as “wild lands” or “wild areas”, unless explicitly stated otherwise. N. from t.

[g] "Wilderness needs no defense, only defenders" in the original. N. from t.

[h] Nickname by which Ed Abbey was known. N. from t.

[i] “Wildlands” in the original. N. t. the Wild Areas and fight them off. And all lovers of the wild and free need to mount a strong defense of Wilderness Areas. What follows is neither an exhaustive defense nor a studied rebuttal. Because of this, it is largely unreferenced. It is a map drawn on the sand of a river bank with a piece of wood carried by the current. I hope it will lead some of us to develop deeper answers from the questions posed here.

One hundred and forty years ago, part-time canoeist and bean farmer Henry David Thoreau said, “I wish to say a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and absolute wildness.”[j] Today, I want to say a few words in favor of Integral Nature[k], in favor of Protected Wilderness Areas.

The introductory section of the Law for the Protection of Wild Areas of 1964 defines, in part, a Wild Area as an area "in which man himself is a visitor who does not remain." In recent years, both charlatans and those sincerely concerned with the alienation of humans from nature have attacked the notion of a Wild Area as a place where humans are visitors. They use the absence of human settlement to label Wilderness Protected Areas as misanthropic and counterproductive. These attacks come from all parts of the globe and across the political spectrum.

We can exclude from this discussion that hairy-chest populism that calls itself the “intelligent use movement”[34]. This movement is largely made up of loggers, miners, ranchers, trappers, and fans of off-road motorcycles and drive-by hunting. These elements rave about Wild Areas because they "lock them out." They seem to have evolved into a new species that has lost the ability to walk. Perhaps we could call it Homo petroliens. His opposition to Wilderness and other topics of conservation and environmentalism stems from a proud defense of ignorance that tries to express his anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism by wearing Stihl chainsaw caps. They are the servants of America's supreme elite: the big business oligarchy. These rugged individualists are puppets whose strings are pulled by the executives of oil, mining, and logging companies. They are not a serious criticism of Wild Areas.

More troubling are those critics of Wilderness Protected Areas who come from more progressive and thoughtful traditions, both in the United States and abroad. Some are conservationists, biologists, and ecophilosophers. Others are environmentalists who I suspect have never been outdoors, except to hail a taxi. Let me try to put together some of their arguments and then comfortably answer them.

I don't want to sound like a curmudgeon, but I'm tired of the Wild Areas bashing, so I'll keep it short. I respect many of the people who have recently written questioning traditional notions about Wilderness Protected Areas and National Parks. I think I understand your frustration and hope that my answer will lead us to confluence rather than divergence. Since I do not wish to fall into the trap of demonizing others (a common pastime in academic philosophy - see the pages of Environmental Ethics[m]), as a general rule, I will avoid mentioning the names of the individuals who defend the following arguments against Wilderness Areas. In Latin America, Asia, and Africa, arguments against Wilderness are emphasized that are somewhat different from the arguments used in the United States, Canada, and Australia. However, because there are several hybrids, they all constitute the same herd.

I will summarize the arguments against the Wild Area concept as follows:

- Wilderness Protected Areas separate humans from nature as people are not allowed to live in them.

- What needs to be protected is the wild character, not the Wild Areas. The wild character is real; the Wilderness Areas are a human intellectual construction.

- Wilderness Protected Areas and their relatives, National Parks, are a legacy of Western civilization and its false dichotomies.

- Defenders of the Wild Areas are misanthropes. Not only do they seek solitude in remote places where no one lives, but they also want to exclude indigenous peoples and rural inhabitants from the territory.

- The environmental movement should not worry so much about wildlife and parks. Environmentalism is primarily concerned with human health.

- We should encourage people to repopulate the territory. National Forests[n] and other public lands should be open to settlement by people who wish to be stewards and healers of the land.

- Native Americans (and even rural Americans) enhance nature with their activities. Due to their deep knowledge of the land and their love for it, their activities increase biological diversity.

- The notion of a virgin pre-Columbian America is a myth. The natives modified the land to a great extent. The paradise that the Europeans found was not a wilderness, but a garden improved by humans.

- The belief in the intrinsic value of other species and natural processes is a hypocritical posture and an exclusive luxury of rich Westerners. The Third World is oblivious to notions such as those manifested in National Parks and Wilderness Protected Areas. People in “developing” countries need sustainable development that puts food in their stomachs and shoes on their feet, not reserves for wildlife. The idea of Wild Areas is alien to them. Wilderness Protected Areas and National Parks are a legacy of European and US imperialism.

- The role of human beings is to landscape the Earth. We need to take the helm of the planet and actively manage evolution and natural processes. The

[m] Magazine in English dedicated to dealing with the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. N. from t.

[n] The “National Forests” of the United States are publicly owned forest areas that enjoy a certain degree of legal protection and are managed by the federal government through the United States Forest Service (US Forest Service). N. from t.

Wilderness Protected Areas represent a dereliction of responsibility and a dereliction of duty. Without active management and human presence, natural landscapes will deteriorate and lose their biodiversity.

- With over five billion people and counting, we cannot afford Wilderness Protected Areas or large carnivores. The land and the ocean are to produce for the people. In a world plagued by economic imperialism and social injustice, progressives should direct their efforts to improve the destiny of humanity as a whole. We can't waste time on lions, tigers and bears or open-air museums and hiking parks for the economic elite.

- Changes in the demographics of the United States will lead to a reduction in traditional support for Wilderness Protected Areas. Conservationists need to focus on more people-oriented environmental issues in order to attract Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans to the movement.

- Scientists tell us that the Earth is at the gates of the sixth episode of mass extinction. Therefore, Wilderness Protected Areas and National Parks have failed to protect biodiversity. Something new is needed that includes people: “ecosystem management”.

Demons! This is starting to sound like an FBI complaint accusing you of everything except not flossing every night. And that I have not exhausted all the arguments against the Wilderness Areas that the defenders of sustainable development and the humanist ecologists usually put forward.

Now, the arguments do not come out of nowhere. They come from people. These people have their reasons for showing their teeth against certain points of view. In the old days, the bad kids liked to dip the cats in turpentine so they could see them screech and run. Some will think that my interest in pointing out the motivations of the agitation against the Wild Areas is like dipping cats in turpentine. I may be a grouch, but honestly, I'm a good guy deep down. Ask my sister. I am more interested in finding common ground than building barriers. However, motivations are important. I will consider those motivations as I try to point in the direction of possible responses to the criticisms against Wilderness.

I am afraid that the most outrageous critics of Wilderness Areas and National Parks understood in the American way, suffer from an exaggerated third world jingoism. Anything that comes from the United States is bad for these people. North America and Europe are to blame for all the world's problems.

Some individuals, coming from the United States, are expiating their white and liberal guilt. (I'm lucky. I come, at best, from a lower-middle-class redneck family of Scottish and Irish descent. I have my fair share of moral flaws, and one of these days I think I should stop and purge some of them, however Not on my list is the feeling of guilt for having been raised in opulence).

Western civilization (imperialism) and the United States of America deserve a lot of criticism. And I think the United States should be held to stricter standards than any other country or society because from the beginning we Americans have claimed to be involved in a superior social experiment.

I have personally experienced some of America's shortcomings. (When your government spends three million dollars to try to put you behind bars, even a tough-ass guy like me ends up showing some skepticism.)

However, the United States is not an entirely bad country. We are not the only cause of injustice in the world. Despite the efforts of J. Edgar Hoover and Ronald Reagan, we have a Bill of Rights and we jealously guard it. For all our failings, no other nation, past or present, can closely compare to the United States when it comes to protecting civil liberties. The Bill of Rights is considered the great gift that the United States gave to the world. And we have given the world an even greater gift: the idea of National Parks and Wilderness Protected Areas.

Furthermore, the anti-Americanism inherent in Third World critiques of Wilderness Areas and National Parks overlooks the corruption of elites in those countries. Blaming white males for all the world's ills is—dare I say it—racism. Furthermore, the main Third World critics of the Wild Areas are members of the socio-economic elite of their own countries, and have received a Western education.

None of this implies that we should ignore issues of international economic justice. Europe, Japan and the United States, in collusion with the spoliation barons of the Third World, consciously practice economic imperialism against the people throughout the world. Furthermore, it is necessary to safeguard lands for use by indigenous peoples and peasants, as well as to recognize and celebrate their knowledge and good administration of the territories. Wilderness Protected Areas and National Parks do not necessarily have to come into conflict with the needs and rights of the oppressed.

Some of the arguments against Wild Areas come from the myth of the Noble Savage. Alienated from our own "corrupt" society, we still want to believe that human beings are inherently good, so we idealize indigenous peoples as the first environmentalists. It seems that we cannot accept non-industrial societies as they are. Either we have to demonize them by presenting them as groups of savages with animal impulses incapable of behaving civilly, or else we have to exalt them as models of virtue.

Anthropology is like the Bible: it can be used to support any claim about human beings and nature if desired. For example, we can argue until our faces turn blue about the level of impact that indigenous peoples had in America. The prevailing view until recently was that Native Americans had very little impact on the landscape. The Puritans of New England claimed so, to justify that they were taking from the Indians the land "that they did not use". The pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme in recent years. Now some crackpots, along with some serious academics, claim that even small populations significantly altered pre-Columbian ecosystems—especially through burning. The “virgin America myth” is being debunked. The worshipers of the Noble Savage assure that said impact was positive. Some also raise the ecological pedestal even the Aztecs, the Incas and the Mayans.

However, many researchers see archaeological evidence of ecological collapse. Did the Hohokam and Anasazi exceed carrying capacity and cause ecosystem failure in what is now the southwestern United States? If the Plains Indians had been left alone for another hundred years, would they have ended up causing the near extinction of the bison thanks to the new mobility offered by the wild horses abandoned by the Spanish? Did the civilizations of Mesoamerica degrade their lands as badly as the civilizations of the Middle East and the Mediterranean? Was the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna caused by Stone Age hunters entering virgin territory?

And these are followed by even deeper questions. Is the deep philosophy of the Hopi the result of a new covenant with the earth that followed the ecological collapse of the Anasazi seven hundred years ago? Could the hunting ethic of the tribes of America (and elsewhere) have been a reaction to the Pleistocene slaughter?

Given that some claim that human shifting gardening and the use of non-native plants [or] increase local species diversity, dare we wonder about the quality of such increased diversity? Are the additional species just weeds? Do many of these exotic species come from Europe? Not all biodiversity is the same. Rare and sensitive native species are more important than weeds that thrive in human-disturbed areas.

In certain areas of the Americas, high population density and intensive agriculture have resulted in severely degraded ecosystems. The first wave of skilled hunters twelve thousand years ago probably caused the extinction of dozens of species of large mammals in the Americas. Unheard of for such a predator. However, I question, as do some others, that the North American forests and grasslands encountered by early European explorers and settlers were primarily the result of burning by native tribes. Certainly, in localized areas, the North American tribes had a significant impact on the vegetation due to the burning they carried out. But how extensive could such manipulation become with a population of only 4 to 83 million north of the Rio Grande?[3]

These questions do not imply opposing legitimate land claims held by Native Americans and other indigenous peoples. In most cases, tribes are better guardians and managers of the land than government agencies. Despite opposition from other New Mexico conservationists, I supported the transfer of the Blue Lake area of the Carson National Forest to the Tao Pueblo Indians in the 1970s. It was their land and they had done a better job of protecting their wilderness from what the Forest Service would have done. However, we must be intellectually honest when investigating the relations of human beings with the earth, and we must not condescend to the myth of the Good Savage and, therefore, elevate primitive peoples to implausible levels.

There is a huge gap between considering indigenous peoples or peasants in the Third World to be ecologists and ecologists and doing the same to rural residents of the United States. Among the American rural proletariat, I have encountered an abysmal lack of ecological knowledge or appreciation for ecosystems. I have requested ao In the original it was written: “... and using native plants...” (whose translation would initially be: “. and the use of native plants. ”). However, this is inconsistent with the rest of the paragraph, so it has been considered that the author (or perhaps the editor of the original version) made the mistake of not putting a “non” in front of “native” and, consequently, , has been corrected in this translation. N. of t. the ranchers who identify plants for me. They know winter fat[p] and a few grass species, but all the others are “weeds” or “weeds”. Similarly, loggers and even forest rangers know about valuable trees as a source of timber, but shrug off the rest. Attitudes towards animals are even more worrying if possible. My neighbors in Catron County, New Mexico, scoffed at college biologists. I was told more than once that spiny lizards[q] were the offspring of Gila[r] monsters.

Regardless of the push and pull about the role of pre-industrial societies in changing the face of the earth, there is plenty of evidence that Wilderness - vast expanses uninhabited by humans - is not a concept alien to cultures. primitives. Native Hawaiians told me that before the conquest by the United States, humans were banned from some mountainous areas, on pain of death. Jim Tolisano, an ecologist who has worked for the United Nations in many countries, reports that tribes in Papua New Guinea demarcate large areas as off-limits to village building, gardening, hunting, and even visiting. “You must not go there; that mountain belongs to the spirits.” Like the Papuans, the Yanomami of the Amazon engage in fierce and bloody conflicts (my mountain ancestors from eastern Kentucky were much like them). Between the different villages there are prohibited zones[36][37] in which if one enters their life is in danger. As a consequence, large areas are left uncultivated and unhunted and are rarely visited. Biodiversity thrives in them. These borderlands are the refuge of animals that are heavily hunted near the settlements.[4]

Some anthropologists think that the permanent state of war between some tribes is an adaptation to avoid exceeding carrying capacity, since this would result in ecological collapse. (These unused zones on the territorial borders are eerily similar to the areas where wolf pack territories abut each other. Deer abound in such places.) My ancestors were able to follow Dan'l Boone[t] to the “dark and bloody lands” of Kaintuck because they were uninhabited by Native Americans. The Shawnee from north of the Ohio River and the Cherokee from the Tennessee Valley hunted and fought in Kentucky. However, none of them lived there. Wasn't that a wilderness area until the Scots and Irish from Shenandoah invaded?

Geographers, anthropologists, historians and ecologists need to investigate these and other fascinating fields of study to show that Wilderness Areas - in which humans are non-resident visitors - were once widespread throughout the world. world. Wilderness[v] is not exclusively an idea of 20th century Americans, Canadians and Australians.

Can people from outside the former English frontier colonies appreciate the wilderness for themselves? I have met Native Americans and people in Mexico and Belize who are as supportive of Wilderness as I am and who believe in the intrinsic value of other species. A few years ago, at an international conference on wilderness mapping, I met South American biologists who were as uncompromising in their defense of Wilderness as Reed Noss[w]. Jim Tolisano talks about colleagues in Sri Lanka, in various African countries, in Costa Rica and in the Caribbean who make me look like a lazy bum.

It is racist to claim that only middle class Americans and Australians can be deep ecologists or supporters of Wilderness. How dare these pretentious and pampered gentlemen claim that those who are not Westerners are incapable of having a land ethic like Leopold's[38]? To say that the people of Latin America, Africa and Asia can live without beings and wild sunsets is another form of imperialism. It is exactly as racist as saying that African Americans and other people of color in the United States are not interested in wildlife or Wilderness Areas. Michael Fischer, former executive director of the Sierra Club, tells the story of being on a radio show with Ben Chasis, now the executive director of the NAACP[y]. Fischer wanted to emphasize the Sierra Club's new willingness to care about environmental justice issues in minority communities and suggested that the Sierra Club should focus less on Wilderness protection issues. Chasis chided him for his condescension. “We are also interested in wildlife and wild lands.” Wilderness conservationists need to be concerned about pollution issues in communities of color. We also need to help those living in inner cities experience the wilderness first hand. But we don't need to soften our resolve to protect Wilderness.

Many have a sincere and legitimate belief that we need to create a new sustainable bioregional[z] society in which people live in touch with the land. Care and restoration at the watershed level is the real task. Gary Snyder tells a beautiful story of what happened to him as he was walking down the driveway back home at sunset. He surprised a cougar who was sitting outside by the window listening to his stepdaughter play the piano. We need communities like San Juan Ridge in the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada. Arne Naess calls them “intermediate communities”[aa]. However, extensive Wilderness Areas, where humans are only visitors, are also essential, large carnivores and many other species need refuge away from constant human presence. Humans aren't always good neighbors, and the Gary Snyders are rare cases.

In fact, Wilderness Protected Areas and National Parks have not been able to safeguard the full range of native species and all ecosystem functions in North America. However, what has really failed? The idea of Protected Wilderness Areas and National Parks or, rather, the application of land management in our politicized social environment? Due to the superior political influence of extractive industries, conservationists have been defeated time and time again as they attempted to establish protected areas. The most biologically productive areas of our federal lands have been opened up to slashers, dam and highway construction, mining, and motorized entertainment.

I have spent many, many days and nights in Wilderness Protected Areas, from Alaska to Central America. I have never felt that these places where I was only a visitor separated me from nature. When I hike or canoe in a Wilderness Area, I feel at home. The Wild Areas are reality; the wild character[bb] is a human concept.

Aldo Leopold wrote that there are those who can live without beings or wild sunsets, and there are those who cannot. Many of those who criticize Wilderness Protected Areas display a lack of visceral passion for wildlife. Do they listen to the music of the geese or do they get excited at the first anemone[cc]? Do they long to know that there are wolves hunting moose in a place that is untouched by human interference? I see no evidence of such sentiments in the writings of some of the Wilderness critics.

A few of them suffer from what I would politely call the Little Red Riding Hood Complex. They are afraid of the dark. They are terrified of the big bad wolf. Pocket-sized nature reserves for rare plants are fine. For them, preserving biodiversity is just about that. However, large, wild and uninhabited places make them tremble with fear.

We can see history as the progressive control of the Earth by the Master and Lord Man[dd]. Those New Age technocrats who prattle about taking charge of evolution and improving the Earth are thus the monstrous heirs of Greek hubris[ee]. His adorable human garden is hell for other species. Four billion years of life become a mere overture, before Man, in all his Wagnerian glory, bursts singing onto the scene. Does our madness know limits? Is it that we do not have humility?

Enough of counterarguments. Wilderness Protected Areas, more than anything else, challenge us to be better people.

For six thousand years, each of the successive historical epochs has puffed out its chest more than the one before. As an Ozymandias[ff] fell onto the lonely, flat sands, an older and prouder Ozymandias took his place. Virtue has been increasingly replaced by dominance and the desire for power. Wilderness Protected Areas are the quiet acknowledgment that we are not gods.

Wilderness Protected Areas, where humans are visitors who do not stay, test us in a way that nothing else can. No other place teaches us humility so well - whether we visit them or not. The Wilderness Areas make us wonder: Are we capable of self-imposing the restriction of leaving some places alone? Can we consciously choose to share the earth with those species that do not tolerate us well? Can we develop enough generosity of spirit, enough bigness of heart not to be everywhere?

No other challenge requires greater restraint, generosity, and humility than the preservation of Wilderness Areas. Our friend from Concord, Thoreau, said: "In the Wild[gg] is the preservation of the World." True, very true. However, a deeper truth is that in the Wilderness Protected Areas is the Preservation of the Wild[hh].


1. I use the term “humanistic” in the sense of one who glorifies Lord and Master Man and is openly anthropocentric on conservation issues. See The Arrogance of Humanism by David Ehrenfeld (New York: Oxford University Press; 1978).

2. In those places in the text where I refer to the concept of wilderness or protected places on the ground, I write Wilderness Areas (“Wilderness” in the original) and Wilderness Protected Areas (“Wilderness Areas”), respectively, with capital initials. Much of what follows is equally applicable to National Parks.

3. Based on the latest and best estimates from serious demographers.

4. George Schaller reports that when the tribes were armed only with blowguns and bows, monkeys could be found half a mile[ii] from the villages. Today, after the arrival of the shotguns, monkeys cannot be found within five miles of the settlements. Jim Tolisano reports similar changes in Papua New Guinea. [40][41]

Presentation of "Wild nature and human settlement"

We present below the translation of the text “Wilderness and Human Habitation”. The author tries to refute in it some usual criticisms about the idea of the wild. It does so from a perspective of respect and devotion to wild Nature, showing that on many occasions what happens to critics is not only that they do not share this value, but also that they directly do not understand (or do not want to understand) what is wild.

On the other hand, we have also found several ideological flaws in the text. The most important that we see in this article is the voluntarist idea that by promoting a change in the values of human beings (for example, promoting respect for Nature) techno-industrial society can be reformed, turning it into something compatible with the wild. In fact, as we have said before, not even a change in current human demographic trends (toward population decline) would by itself be a good thing for the wild, unless that demographic change is accompanied by a decline in population. at the technological level, something that is not mentioned at all in the text, nor is it usually taken into account by those who criticize human population growth. All this is very worrying, because it focuses the attention of those who love wild Nature on goals that do not really help preserve the wild in the long term.

It is also questionable that hunter-gatherer cultures were as integrated into their environment as the author claims. Although the damage that hunter-gatherers and other primitive cultures could cause to the environment is insignificant compared to the effects that today's techno-industrial society has on the biosphere, this does not mean that such damage never existed, only that it was of a magnitude much smaller than the current one.

In addition, it is also questionable that certain types of management, such as the restoration of ecosystems, no matter how careful they are, do not really hide the same evil that they are intended to combat. Is the ecosystem that emerges after a case of "restoration" really something similar to what it was originally (with the same functions and ecological processes) or a botch product of the typical human belief that something good can be done for the environment? nature intervening in it? Often the engineering arrogance and ignorance of ecosystem managers and recuperators (something largely unavoidable in complex and dynamic systems and processes, such as ecological ones, which are largely unpredictable and it is impossible to know all their details) leads them to interventions that further aggravate the problems instead of solving them. For example, introducing new exotic species in order to control other invasive species and ultimately end up harming native species and ecosystems rather than non-native species. See, for example:[https://www.lavanguardia.com/natural/20160311/40362282588/conejo-australia-plaga.html][https://www.lavanguardia.com/natural/20160311/40362282588/conejo-][https://www.lavanguardia.com/natural/20160311/40362282588/conejo-australia-plaga.html][australia-plaga.html.]

In any case, sometimes restoration is better than nothing, although the result is never exactly the same as what it was (it is impossible for it to become so; this is why the destruction of species, ecosystems and wild processes is so serious, since it is actually largely irreversible and unrecoverable). Sometimes, the degradation is so great, that without some help the ecosystem cannot recover by itself (or it would take a very long time: thousands or millions of years; which comes to the same thing, because by then the conditions have been able to change so much so that there will never again be an ecosystem with a similar structure and functioning in that area).

In any case, these are only technical, concrete and short-term “solutions” that, in reality and all too often, divert attention and energies away from the fundamental problem: the intrinsic incompatibility between the maintenance and development of the techno-industrial system and the preservation of Wild Nature on Earth in the long term and on a large scale. If the techno-industrial society goes ahead, efforts to preserve and restore individual ecosystems and wild species will be futile in the long run, as their destruction, degradation and subjugation will continue as the techno-industrial system needs space, energy and matter to grow. (or just to stay). In the long term and in general, the only thing that can serve to save the wild is the disappearance of the techno-industrial system.

Wild Nature and human settlement[a]

By David Johns

Wild nature[b] has been the object of new attacks of various kinds in recent years.[1] These attacks come from within the environmental movement itself and are a reaction to a number of alleged weaknesses in pro-wilderness thinking: pitting wilderness against human beings, failing to recognize the need to integrate people into nature and failing to realize that people have always modified nature. I want to respond to this set of criticisms.

Criticism number one: the idea of wild nature[c] exists only from the perspective of the paradigm of civilization. The notion of wild nature[d] reinforces this paradigm, instead of overcoming it.

The idea of the wild arises from the essential dualism that characterizes civilization and from the emotional and thought processes that are part of it. Civilization posits itself as separate from wilderness - that is, land not under human control and hostile to it.[2] However, wilderness is not merely a category within a paradigm or mental construct. There is an enormous quantitative difference between the lands that are exploited by civilization (and its precursor, hierarchical and usually sedentary societies) and the lands that are not. “Wild nature” is the expression that ecocentric or biocentric people use to designate land that has not been significantly degraded by human beings.

[a] Translation by Último Reducto of the text “Wilderness and Human Habitation”, which appeared in the book Place of the Wild, David Clark Burks (ed.), Island Press, 1994. no. from t.

[b] “Wilderness” in the original. The English term "wilderness" refers to ecosystems or areas with little or no humanization and can be translated in various ways depending on the context. In the present text "wilderness", unless explicitly indicated otherwise, has been translated as "wild nature" or "the wild". N. from t.

[c] “Wilderness” in the original. N. from t.

[d] Idem. N. of human t., the land that still maintains ecological processes and native biodiversity.

Failing to think in terms of the wilderness/civilization dichotomy does not solve the problem of civilized societies, which colonize and consume ecosystems in much the same way that a malignant tumor consumes the cells and tissues around it.[3] Human history and prehistory are full of examples of people who reduced or destroyed what they claimed to respect. To transcend the dualism between civilization and wilderness, we need to change behavior as well as thought and feeling. As we work to materially transcend dualism, we must protect what remains of the wild and restore what is needed to ensure the integrity of ecological processes.

The English term wilderness derives from earlier Celtic words meaning “land with a will of its own.”[4,e] Land with a will of its own is neither tamed nor domesticated. It is land free from human colonization. (Colonization is not the mere presence of humans but the conversion of ecosystems to the predominant use of a single species with a consequent decline in diversity, complexity, and evolutionary dynamism.) Colonization invariably involves large numbers of people and high levels of consumption. To protect wildlands[f] is to protect their autonomous character[g] - to protect them from the supreme will of a single species. Protecting wild areas[h] is protecting biodiversity and the dominance of ecological processes. To fail to protect wilderness[i] in the name of transcending dualism is to leave areas that are relatively intact and healthy vulnerable to destruction.

Criticism number two: people belong to nature, not something apart from it. The problem with the idea of wilderness is that it keeps people, including indigenous peoples, cut off from nature.

The separation of people from nature is in fact the problem. Reintegrating people into nature is indeed the solution. Reaching people's hearts, helping them to recover their deep ties with the planet that sustains them, and rekindling their love and respect for the rest of their lives, is essential. It is no accident that the rites of passage into manhood in many pre-civilized societies involved going solo into the wilderness. There one found their deepest self as part of the living landscape. Without wild nature, we risk losing the places that make such encounters possible. If Paul Shepard is right, by losing the wilderness[j] we risk losing any opportunity to overcome our developmental stunting.[5] By losing the wild, we lose the world that gave birth to us.

[e] Here the author has made a misinterpretation of Vest's work cited in note 4. What Vest says in that article is that the concept of "self-willed land" was shared by ancient Indo-Europeans in general, among them by the Germans and the Celts. But one thing is the concept and another the terms with which it is expressed. As Vest himself points out in his article, the linguistic roots of the term “wilderness” are Germanic (Gothic). The Celts expressed the idea of "wild land" with other terms, such as "nemeton" (where, for example, the Spanish term "nemoroso" comes from). N. from t.

[f] “To protect landscapes as wilderness” in the original. N. from t.

[g] “Self-willed character” in the original. It would literally mean “self-willed character”. It has been preferred to translate it by "autonomous character" which is the same but sounds more natural in Spanish. N. from t.

[h] “To protect areas as wilderness” in the original. N. from t.

[i] “Wilderness” in the original. N. from t.

[j] Idem. N. from t.

Rekindling those feelings is just the beginning - the starting point of a long road in which human beings will have to change the way they live and reduce their numbers. How are you going to get people back into a deeper relationship with non-human nature? Many point out that people who live simply have important lessons to teach those of us trapped in the world's dominant cultures. In fact, many of those who criticize the idea of wild nature[k] point to the role that human groups play in increasing biodiversity. We will come back to this point later, but first let's see what we can learn from those who live close to the earth.

Whether we assume that groups of people who are closely associated with the earth know what we don't, or simply assume that they don't have the capacity to be so destructive, is irrelevant here. When the way of life of certain societies, such as the Kung (Southern Africa), the Inuit (northern Canada) or the Kayapo (Amazon), is described as part of ecological processes, there are two things that stand out and are anathema. for civilized societies. The first feature is a combination of a very sparse population and non-intrusive technology, neither of which should be equated with cultural simplicity. The second characteristic is a largely egalitarian society devoid of grandiose plans of conquest, hoarding, or other forms of domination.

When the number of human beings increases far beyond the size of a gang and forms concentrations, the relationship with nature changes as people have to switch to more manipulative and intrusive technologies and forms of social organization. More of the ecosystem must be altered to satisfy human consumption and less remains for other species. Controlling nature to support a greater number of human beings leads, in turn, to reduced feelings of affinity with nature.[6]

How are 5.5 billion people going to get closer to the earth? How are 400 million Americans going to get closer to the earth? The 400 million Americans living today could decide to lessen their collective impact by drastically reducing their levels of consumption, but today's human population would still need to convert huge chunks of land to farms and gardens. Our numbers, and the social organization that maintains them, compel us to wage war with the wild. Our number makes us poor. We react with intolerance towards other creatures that use the space or the food that we want. We have to own everything.

For most of humanity's existence on this planet we were few, slowly expanding across the land, with the limited technology and social organization needed to support hunter-gatherer bands. The last ten thousand years, and especially the last three hundred, have witnessed a radically altered situation. We are no longer a few million. We no longer live from harvesting supplemented by fishing, hunting and scavenging, but thanks to agriculture in all its possible forms.

For most of human history we did not live in large concentrations or as sedentary populations. Until recently, many areas were unoccupied by humans, or were occupied only seasonally or temporarily, and many

[k] Idem. N. of the t. other areas were used only in a limited way - for sacred reasons, as areas of separation between groups and the like.[7] Human beings in gang society are no different from other mammals in affecting the evolution of ecosystems. As human density approaches that which necessitates the practice of horticulture or agriculture (or something equivalent, such as exploiting salmon runs off the Northwest Coast of the United States), the impact of our species will significantly beyond coevolution. Although there are some examples of humans (such as beavers) acting as key species that increase diversity, normally and historically the predominant results are ecological disturbance and degradation - regardless of the idea of nature that the people involved have. In fact, people's notion of nature tends to conform to their adaptive behavior, alienating as it may be.[8] Even before agriculture and horticulture the adoption of large game hunting by some groups may have caused extinctions.[9]

Agriculture allowed a rapid expansion of the human population and the accumulation of surpluses that made possible the changes in social organization, technology, and attitudes that are normally called civilized. The rise of civilization (cities, states, great hierarchies, professional armies) marks the adolescence of the human capacity to colonize nature: to completely bury ecosystems under cities and fields, to reach out to other ecosystems for materials, to replace the diversity with monocultures and to consume entire rivers for irrigation.

Large populations of people and the social/technological processes that go hand in hand with civilization undermine ecological processes and destroy biodiversity. This is as true for the Aztec, Inca, Chinese, Hindu, and Sumerian civilizations as it is for the European. Large populations of people and certain types of technology degrade landscapes. They destroy biodiversity. A friendlier attitude towards the earth and towards other forms of life may lessen the impacts - compared to the mentality of a society that reduces nature to mere resources - but it will not prevent them. The existence of competing centers of civilization greatly aggravates the negative impact, as each center sees the other centers as threats to its hegemony and intensifies its attempts at domination and extraction.

The argument that people have been roaming around and having a significant impact on non-human nature for a long time demonstrates a strange inability to tell the difference between 50 million and 5 billion human beings and between 4 billion years (the approximate time that life has existed on earth) and the time that the genus Homo has existed. To claim that human beings, having acquired their ability to affect biodiversity, have improved it as a whole, reeks of the same tremendous humanist arrogance that is the hallmark of the cult of the noble savage or Renaissance man.

Biodiversity and ecological processes need to be protected from those billions of human beings: protected areas where no people reside, except in small numbers and with pre-Mesolithic technologies. It is simply not possible for 5 billion people to live on earth without severely impoverishing the biosphere, even if they live at the level of the poor in the Third World. It is impossible for 1 billion people to live as Americans, Europeans or Japanese do without severely degrading the biosphere, not to mention the degradation caused to their fellow humans. It would be a disaster to put such a large number of people in contact with nature so that they could undergo conversion by allowing the construction of roads and the entry of large numbers of hikers or other artifacts of civilization into the few areas that remain in which biological processes still retain some integrity. Not restoring areas -for these or other reasons- would also be a disaster.[10]

Criticism number three: indigenous peoples had a profound impact on nature - in fact, they managed nature. Such stewardship[794] of nature is essential for human beings and important for the health of nature.

This largely depends on what one understands by indigenous peoples and what management or guardianship consists of. In America, indigenous peoples are the pre-Columbian peoples and their descendants. For some purposes it may be useful to think of all such people as belonging to one category, but as far as the human relation to non-human nature is concerned, doing so obscures rather than clarifies. Pre-Columbian America was home to a wide range of cultures, from the Inuit to the Aztecs to the many bands of the Amazon. Both the attitudes and the behavior of the different groups with respect to the land were very varied. The Aztecs overpopulated and destroyed much of the biodiversity and carrying capacity of the Valley of Mexico and the surrounding area. The swidden farmers were not disruptive in small numbers, but in larger numbers they altered forests, changing microclimates and causing extinctions. In some cases, burning brought erosion and long-term changes. Some farmers cleared vast forests over decades, reducing biodiversity and undermining the ecological foundation of their society.[795] Anthropologists and paleontologists debate whether large animal extinctions were caused by changes in climate or by intensive hunting of large prey. Most believe that hunting large game played at least some role.[12]

Surely other groups of North American Indians lived integrated in nature, as one more species. However, there is no monolithic Indigenous People that can serve as a model. There are many indigenous groups, including those that have adapted significantly to the modern world and have much to teach us to those whose roots are even deeper buried than their own.

If the term indigenous is not uniformly indicative of ecologically sound behavior, neither are the terms management or custody. All species modify their environment. Large mammals have a significant impact on other species, both directly and indirectly through their impact on habitats. As species evolve and expand (or contract) their ranges, ecosystems change. Harold J. Morowitz has suggested that the real units of evolution on earth are ecosystems: the plant and animal community and the hydrological, trophic, and nutrient cycles. Stephen Jay Gould defends a hierarchical idea: genes, individuals, populations, species and communities can all be subject to natural selection. Lynn K. Margulis and others have long argued that the earth is best understood as a living entity with parts that co-evolve.[13] Although evolution (or co-evolution) does not have a purpose or goal, it does seem to have a direction. In a universe that tends to entropy, some of its parts that receive energy from stable sources and are able to contribute it correspondingly to a sink at a stable rate, tend to increase in complexity.[796] This has been the general pattern on earth, despite five episodes of mass extinctions.

So what is the problem when it comes to human behavior? Aren't we just co-evolving, similar to other large mammals, altering the whole thing? Sometimes we do it like this; but we usually go beyond that. Our capacity for culture gives us the ability to break, at least temporarily, the solar economy - reducing the complexity, diversity and integration of cycles and systems. Colonization, understood as the opposite of co-evolution, represents a cultural option that involves reshaping, even destroying, ecosystems to serve human purposes.[797] This remodeling has certain characteristics: human beings benefit to the detriment of other species and ecological processes in general; forests are turned into forest plantations or pastures, grasslands into endless soybean fields, and rivers into poisonous soups, ruining the earth's ability to recycle everything from nutrients to heat. Colonization reduces the capacity of landscapes and ecosystems to maintain diversity, replacing many species with a few or even just one. Colonization means that the human population grows, sometimes rapidly, and consumption increases - all at the expense of other species. In short, the self-regulation of the community as a whole is replaced by control over part of the whole, and spontaneity, liveliness, and ecological integrity are diminished. The tiger is caged and the ox is raised to pull the plow in the rice fields.

How do we distinguish this colonizing behavior from management or custody? The lines are not always clear, and often the contentious nature of the debate simply adds to the lack of clarity. I submit that the terms are so broad that they can be used to cover both colonizing and non-colonizing behaviour. A forest is a living, self-regulating system. Human beings, though newcomers, can, in limited numbers and with pre-Neolithic forms of social organization and technology, live as part of such a system. Anthropic change can mimic non-anthropic forces or simply be one element among many.[798] Is this management or should another term be applied to it? If it is indeed management, can the same term be used to describe the use (or suppression) of fire[m] or the execution of other pre-industrial practices that people carried out that were ecologically harmful? Detractors of the idea of wilderness[n] have objected that since pre-European North Americans managed their ecosystems and things were going great until 1492, we can do the same. However, not only were things not uniformly stupendous until 1492, but there is often a deliberate intent to try to apply the term management to everything from the use of bows and arrows to the use of a bulldozer. The Forest Service[o], Department of Land Management[p] and logging companies claim to be stewards and good stewards[q] of the land. Are we talking about gross misrepresentation or mere scale differences? Did some peoples have less impact because their technology was simpler or was it that their relationship with nature was fundamentally different? Or is it that some were simply better managers than others? Is it just a matter of different ends, or is the notion of management itself fatally flawed? Doesn't it really imply domination of one kind or another?

It is clear that management is a very broad term. The problem is really the nature of human activity in relation to non-human nature and whether such activity constitutes a type of colonization or whether it involves living in nature[r] and even restoring it. What types of human intervention that are non-colonizing and ecocentric could be called management? The purposes of human activity must be taken into account when evaluating whether management is appropriate. Ecocentric human goals include restoring the conditions for self-regulation and spontaneity of ecosystems. By removing degrading influences (industry, roads, pollution, exotic species, logging, dams, and so on) we can allow the ecosystem to begin to heal, to reestablish successional patterns and resilience against natural disturbance regimes. Whether we call it management or not, restoring an ecosystem to self-regulation is very different from trying to dominate it.

The goals of resource management, by contrast, are to maximize the extraction of materials from an ecosystem—replacing natural relationships and processes with human-imposed ones. Such an effort implies continuous inputs of energy to overcome undesirable processes and species and maintain exotic or preferred species, often monocultures. This type of management is all about control. It is in direct opposition to self-regulation and spontaneity. Ultimately, the difference between the two forms of management is the difference between power and love. The act of loving - allowing the loved one, the earth and other living things to develop in their own way - is not an act of self-denial but a recognition that the conditions for one's own development are the antithesis of power and can only occur in the context of an integrated whole.

Guardianship usually has a connotation of benevolent management, but this term can also be used to hide a multitude of sins. Paul Shepard observes that many civilizational mythologies acknowledge and honor the evolution, or in mythological terms, the unfolding, of a greater whole. Human beings have a place in the whole, but not as lords of creation. Only in civilized mythologies - which are in fact reified and dying mythologies - do human beings appear as lords, administrators and managers.

Ecocentrism implies the recognition that we can only try to imitate nature and must be careful and respectful in our interactions, even when trying to help nature heal. Ecocentrics recognize that protected wilderness[799] areas are important as they have been around for four billion years and do not need to be reinvented. As Reed Noss has put it, “Wilderness[t] offers a healthy, intact , and relatively unmodified land standard.”[17] For the wilderness[u] to do this, they need to be protected from industrial civilization. Noss points out that areas that are protected from people are the only places where large, healthy populations of large carnivores and other animals can exist. Your health is an indication of the health of the system. Another definition of wild land[801] is the place of wild beasts[w]; when the wild beasts diminish or disappear, the land becomes poorer.

Ecocentric protection of wild nature does not mean that we should walk without shadows or footprints. What it means is living within certain limits: in terms of population, technology and human consumption levels. The idea of wild nature signifies a recognition that evolution is wiser than any single species, even us, and that we should therefore live humbly. It means abandoning our fantasies of control and coming to terms with reality within the community of the biosphere. It means facing the fear of nature, both internal and external, which is the reason for control.

The idea of wilderness is about learning how to live in the current - which may mean swimming upstream at times - without resorting to the dams that kill rivers. The idea of wilderness is about living with wolves and bears and sharing the planet with them on equal terms.

The defense of wild nature is not antihuman but a defense of the protection of the place that has been our home for a long time. The idea of wild nature has to do with preserving and restoring the land "with its own will" and stopping colonization. Wild nature must be protected from humans because all civilized societies, along with many of their predecessors, disrupt ecological processes and reduce biodiversity. Wild nature is necessary to counteract the lethal effects of the large human population and certain forms of social organization and technology. Until human societies can be radically modified, large chunks of the earth will have to be protected from human intervention.

If I have offered more questions than answers, it is because I have more questions than answers. Our job now is to clearly state the questions. Although these arguments may sound like I think we should go back rather than forward, there is no going back in any simple sense. However, if we look at the psychological healing of the human being, we can find a useful analogy. Healing a deep psychological wound means going back to it, re-experiencing it from an enlightening perspective, and then moving on on a different path. We need to heal the wound. By hurting the earth we have hurt ourselves. As long as we are caught up in the kind of violence that arises from deep wounds, we must restrain ourselves. This is the purpose of the protection and restoration of wild areas[803]. It is a stopgap measure until we learn to base our lives more on love than fear.


1. By “wilderness”[y] I do not mean legally protected wilderness areas or areas with similar status. I agree with the statement of purposes of The Wildlands Project[z]: “we understand by wild lands[aa] the extensive areas of native vegetation in various stages of their succession, which do not suffer from human exploitation; viable populations of all indigenous plant and animal species, including large predators, that are self-reproducing and genetically diverse; and the vast landscapes without roads, dams, motor vehicles, power lines, aerial flyovers, or other artifacts of civilization, in which evolutionary and ecological processes can take their course. Such wild lands are absolutely essential for the comprehensive maintenance of biodiversity. They are not a solution to all ecological problems, but without them the planet will sink into even greater biological poverty.”

2. Some civilizations are ambiguous about wild nature. Although they are generally hostile to her, they recognize that she is a source of revitalization. See, for example, Paul Shepard, Nature and Madness (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1982) and Peter Duerr, Dreamtime (London: Blackwell, 1985). In any case, the civilization/wilderness dualism (as opposed to the distinction between areas used for living, hunting, sacred rituals, and separation from other groups) is central to the cosmology and composition of civilizations.

3. For the sake of simplicity I say “civilization”, however, I also mean precivilized societies that are precursors to civilization, such as chiefdoms. See, for example, Elman Service, Primitive Social Organization (New York: Random House, 1962) and Origins of the State (Philadelphia: ISHI, 1978)[bb], Ronald Cohen, Origins of the State and Civilization (New York: Norton, 1975), Robert McCormick Adams, Evolution of Urban Society (Chicago: Aldine, 1966), Hans J Nissen, The Early History of the Ancient Near East (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989) and William Sanders and Barbara Price, Mesoamerica (New York: Random House, 1968).

4. Jay Hansford C. Vest, “Will of the Land,” Environmental Review (Winter 1985): 321-329.

5. See Shepard, Nature and Madness and Morris Berman, Coming to Our Senses (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989).

6. Mark Nathan Cohen, The Food Crisis in Prehistory (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977).[cc]

7. On the evolution of our gender and its expansion throughout the world, see Richard Klein, The Human Career (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989); for an interesting interpretation see Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee (New York: HarperCollins, 1992)dd, especially part 4. See also Marvin Harris and Eric B. Ross, Death, Sex, and Fertility (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987)[ee]. Regarding North America, it is interesting William M. Denevan, The Native Population of the Americas in 1942, 2nd ed. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992). See also John R. McNeill, “Agriculture, Forests, and Ecological History,” Environmental Review (Summer 1986): 122-133 and Roy Ellen, Environment, Subsistence and System (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

8. See Morris Freilich, The Meaning of Culture (Lexington, Mass.: Xerox College Publishing, 1971) and Marvin Harris, Cultural Materialism (New York: Random House, 1979 )[ff]. See also Marshall Shalins, Culture and Practical Reason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976).

9. Paul S. Martin, “Prehistoric Overkill: The Global Model” and Richard G. Klein, “Mammalian Extinctions and Stone Age People,” both in Paul S. Martin and Richard G. Klein, <em>Quaternary Extinctions</em > (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1984).

10. Even if wilderness[gg] is influenced by human change elsewhere on earth, that is preferable to no wilderness at all; see Reed Noss, Conservation Biology 1 (March 1991): 120. The degradation of wilderness by distant man-made changes is not a strong argument against the existence of wilderness, but rather an argument for more and greater wilderness (should be the frame of reference[hh]) and for limiting certain human activities wherever they occur.

11. See, for example, William T. Sanders and Robert S. Santley, The Basin of Mexico (New York: Academic Press, 1979), Roy Ellen, Environment, Subsistence and System< /em> and Andrew Goudie, The Human Impact on the Natural Environment, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990).

12. See Martin and Klein, Quaternary Extinctions.

13. Harold J. Morowitz, Energy Flow in Biology (New York: Academic Press, 1968); Stephen J. Gould, “Darwinism and the Expansion of Evolutionary Theory,” Science 216 (April 1982): 380-387; Lynn K. Margulis, Symbiosis in Cell Evolution (San Francisco: Freeman, 1981); Lynn K. Margulis and Dorion Sagan, Origins of Sex (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986)[804]; and Lynn K. Margulis, Mitchell Rambler, and Rene Fester, eds., Global Ecology (Boston: Academic Press, 1989).

14. See Morowitz, Energy Flow.

15. By “choice” I mean that human culture can take various forms; I do not mean to imply here that an awareness of alternatives or premeditation is involved.

16. See Holmes Rolston III, “The Wilderness Idea Reaffirmed”, Evironmental Professional 13 (1991): 370-377 and Reed Noss, “On Characterizing Presettlement Vegetation: How and Why”, < em>Natural Areas Journal</em> 1 (1985): 12-13.

17. Reed Noss, Conservation Biology 1 (March 1991): 120.


By David Ehrenfeld

Look at the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin:

And yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory dressed like one of them.

Matthew 6:28-29

Man is accustomed to valuing things to the extent that they are useful to him and, given that he is disposed by temperament and by the situation to consider himself the supreme creation of Nature, why should he not believe that he also represents the ultimate purpose of it? ... Why should he not grant his vanity this little fallacy? ... Why shouldn't he call a plant a weed when from his point of view it really shouldn't exist? He will much prefer to attribute the existence of the thistles that hinder his work in the field to the curse of an enraged benevolent spirit, or to the rancor of a sinister one, than simply to regard them as children of universal Nature, as dear to her as wheat. that he carefully cultivates and that he values so highly. In fact, the most moderate individuals, philosophically resigned to their own judgment, cannot get beyond the idea that everything must at least redound to the benefit of mankind or, indeed, that some further property of humanity may yet be discovered. this or that natural organism that makes it useful to humans, both in the form of medicine and otherwise.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,

An Attempt to Evolve a General Comparative Theory”

The cult of reason[b] and the modern version of the doctrine of final causes[c] interact in humanist environments[d] to reinforce each other; one of the results is that those parts of the natural world for which there is no known utility to us are considered worthless unless some previously unsuspected utility is discovered for them. Nature, in the words of Clarence Glacken, is seen as "a giant tool room"; and this is an apt metaphor since it implies that anything that is not a tool or raw material is probably worthless scrap. This attitude, almost universal in our time, creates a terrible dilemma for the conservationist or for anyone who believes, like Goethe, about Nature that "each of its creations has its own being, each represents a particular concept and , without

[a] Translation by Último Reducto of chapter 5 of the book The Arrogance of Humanism (Oxford University Press, 1981). N. from t.

[b] By "reason" the author means only logic. According to him, for thought to be adequate, it must combine reason (logic) with emotion (a term that for the author includes everything from intuition to basic impulses such as, for example, fear). With “cult of reason” he refers to the exaltation of logical thought to the detriment of “emotion”. He tries to explain all this extensively, with more or less success and clarity, in chapter 4 of The Arrogance of Humanism.

[c] According to the author, the doctrine of final causes “affirms, in a nutshell, that the features of the natural world - mountains, deserts, rivers, plant and animal species, climate - have all been arranged by God to serve God. certain purposes; primarily for the benefit of mankind. These beneficial ends can often be perceived if we look carefully: rivers provide food fish and transportation routes, deserts serve as borders and boundaries, and so on. Our responsibility is to acknowledge this gift and agree to control the planet in return, an acceptance that was encouraged by some Jews and Christians even in ancient times. Therefore, the ideas of using a Nature created for us, of control and of human superiority were associated early in our history. It only remained to diminish the role of God and we would arrive at complete humanism” (The Arrogance of Humanism, pp. 7-8).

[d] The author uses in this text (and throughout the book to which it belongs) the term "humanism" with a very specific meaning: the idea that the human being can and should rationally control any process or complex system, among others. them Nature, as well as the idea, derived from the previous one, that the problems due to artificial disturbances caused in complex systems and processes can and should be solved by interfering in them even more. It does not refer to the more conventional and general notion of the term "humanism" that associates it with the defense and exaltation of the human. N. of t. however, together they are one”. The difficulty is that the humanist world accepts the conservation of Nature only piecemeal and at a price: there must be some logical and practical reason to save each and every part of the natural world that we wish to preserve. . And the dilemma arises on the more and more frequent occasions when we find a part of Nature that is threatened but we do not find a rational reason to conserve it.

Conservation is often identified with the preservation of natural resources. This was certainly the meaning of conservation carried out by Gifford Pinchot, founder of the United States National Forest System, who was the first to popularize the word “conservation”. Resources can be very narrowly defined as stocks of goods that have appreciable monetary value to people, either directly or indirectly. From the time that Pinchot first used the term "conservation", its meaning has been seriously modified by overuse. An ever-increasing percentage of "conservationists" have been concerned with preserving aspects of nature - animal and plant species, communities of species, and entire ecological systems - that are not conventional resources, although they may not. admit.

An example of such non-resources is an endangered amphibian species, the Houston toad, Bufo houstonensis. This small and inconspicuous animal has no value, neither demonstrated nor hypothetical, as a resource for man; other species of toad will replace it when it disappears, and it is not expected that its disappearance will make a great impression on the environment of the city of Houston or its suburbs. However, someone thought enough of the Houston toad to grant it a page on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's lists of endangered animals and plants, and its safety has been put forward as one of the reasons. to prevent oil drilling in a Houston park.

The Houston toad has not caught the attention of all conservationists, otherwise they might already have discovered in it some hitherto unsuspected inherent value; and this is precisely the problem. Species and communities that lack economic value or demonstrated potential value as natural resources are not easily protected in societies that have a highly exploitative relationship with Nature. Many natural communities, probably most species of flora and fauna, and certain domesticated types of crop plants fall into the non-resource category, at the extreme end of the utility spectrum. Those of us who are in favor of their preservation are often motivated by a deeply conservative sentiment of mistrust of irreversible change and by a socially atypical attitude of respect for the components and structure of the natural world. These non-rational attitudes are not acceptable as a basis for conservation in Western societies, except in those few cases where the costs of preservation are minimal and there are no competing uses for the space now occupied by non-resources. Consequently, advocates of non-resources have generally tried to ensure the protection of their “useless” species or environments by requalifying: a “value” is discovered and the non-resource becomes a resource.

Perhaps the first to recognize this process was Aldo Leopold, who wrote in "The Land Ethic":

One of the basic weaknesses of a conservation system based entirely on economic motives is that most members of the land community have no economic value... When one of these non-economic categories is threatened and we happen to love it , we invent subterfuges to give it economic importance.

Economic values for non-resources

The values attributed to non-resources are diverse and sometimes quite artificial; hence the difficulty of trying to condense them into a list. In my attempt to do so, I have relied, in part, on the thoughtful analyzes offered by GA Lieberman, JW Humke, and others in The Nature

Conservancy[e] of the United States. All of the values listed below can be assigned a monetary value and thus become comparable to ordinary goods and services - although in some cases it would take a good deal of ingenuity to do so. They are all anthropocentric values.

1. Recreational and aesthetic values. This is one of the most popular types of value assigned to non-resources, because while it is often quite legitimate, it is also easily misrepresented. Consequently, it is an important part of cost-benefit analyzes and environmental impact studies, biasedly added to the accounts depending on the desired result. The category includes activities that involve little interaction between people and environments: panoramic views can be presented as a monetary value. Other less remote interactions are hiking, camping, sport hunting, and the like. Organizations like the Sierra Club[f] emphasize many of them, in part because their members place a high value on them. It is no accident, for example, that among Australian mammals, those that are large, conspicuous, beautiful and diurnal, such as the great kangaroos that can be seen on safari, are jealously protected by conservationists and that many of them are fairly good. However, small, inconspicuous, nocturnal marsupials, such as the long-nosed bandicoot[g] or the narrow-footed marsupial mouse[h], sadly present a large number of seriously threatened or recently exterminated species.

Scarcity itself confers a kind of aesthetic-economic value, as any stamp or coin collector will be able to confirm. One of the great difficulties in conserving small, isolated populations of the beautiful Muhlenberg swamp turtle[476] in the eastern United States is that as they have becoming increasingly rare, the price paid for them on the black market by hobbyist tortoise breeders has risen to several hundred dollars. Some have even been stolen from zoos. Endangered hawks face a similar but more serious threat from falconers who use hawk stealers to rob them from nests on an international scale.

Some of the most vigorous attempts to give this recreational and aesthetic category a strong resource character have been made by those who claim that the opportunity to enjoy Nature, at least occasionally, is a prerequisite for good mental and physical health. physical. Various groups of chronic mental patients have allegedly benefited more from camping trips than from other treatments, and the color green and environments lacking the monotony of man-made spaces have been claimed to have desirable psychological effects.

2. Undiscovered or untapped values. In 1975 it was reported that the oil from the jojoba legume, Simmondsia chinensis, is very similar, in terms of its physical properties, to the treated sperm whale oil. Overnight, this desert shrub in the southwestern United States went from the status of a minor resource to a very important resource. It can be safely assumed that many other hitherto little-known plant and animal species will have great value as real resources if their potential is discovered or exploited. Plants are probably the most numerous members of this category: in addition to their potential as future food sources, they may also provide structural materials, fibers, and chemicals for industry and medicine. A book entitled Drugs and Foods from Little-Known Plants[j] lists over 5,000 species that are used locally, but not more widely, as food, medicine, fish poison, soap, scent, protectant against termites, tanning, dye, etc. Most of these plants have never been systematically investigated. It is a basic assumption of economic botany that new domesticable crops and, more importantly, undiscovered varieties and precursors of current crops still exist in the wild or in isolated agricultural areas and expeditions are often sent to discover them.

Animals have potential resource uses comparable to those of plants, but their potential is being exploited at an even slower rate. The potential for large-scale domestication and breeding of the South American vicuña, the source of one of the world's finest animal textile fibers, was only recognized after its commercial extinction in the wild became imminent. Reports of strange uses of animals abound: chimpanzees and baboons have been used as unskilled laborers in various occupations, and even tapirs have allegedly been trained as beasts of burden. (In High Jungles and Low, Archie Carr tells the wonderful - even if apocryphal - story of a Central American who decided to use his pet tapir to bring his sugar crop to market and, along the way, He discovered to his horror that instead of swimming, tapirs prefer to cross rivers by walking on the bottom). The full potential as resources, for example, of insects as a source of useful chemical by-products or new substances, has been little explored; Shellac obtained from the shellac bug, Laccifer lacca, is one of the few classic examples of this type of exploitation.

Some species are potential resources indirectly, by virtue of their ecological associations. One such case has been described by botanist Arthur Galston, which concerns the water fern known as Azolla pinnata, which has long been cultivated in paddy fields along with rice plants by farmers in certain villages. from North Vietnam. This inedible and seemingly useless plant contains colonies of blue-green algae in special receptacles on its leaves. The algae are “nitrogen fixers”, that is, they convert atmospheric nitrogen, the main component of air, into nitrogenous fertilizer that plants can use and this fertilizer dissolves in the surrounding water, nourishing both ferns and rice. Not surprisingly, villages that knew the closely guarded secrets of bracken cultivation often produced exceptional quantities of rice.

Of course, protection cannot be claimed for species whose potential as resources is unknown but probably most if not all communities contain species with such potential. Thus, the untapped resource argument has been used to defend the growing movement to save “representative” self-regulating ecosystems throughout the world (an “ecosystem” is a natural community of plants and animals in their complete physical environment constituted by the topography , rocky substrate, climate, geographic latitude, etc.). Such ecosystems range from the rocky and comparatively arid hills of the Galilee, where the wild ancestors of wheat, oats and barley still find refuge, to the tropical forests of the world, whose resources as a source of wood, food and other Forest products remain largely unknown even as they are destroyed.

3. Ecosystem stabilization values. This point is at the center of a difficult controversy that has arisen about the ecological theory of conservation, a controversy based on a semi-popular scientific idea that has been well expressed by Barry Commoner:

The amount of stress an ecosystem can absorb before collapsing is also a result of its various interconnections and their relative response rates. The more complex the ecosystem, the better it can successfully resist stress ... Just as a web, in which each node is connected to others by several threads, its fabric can resist collapse better than a simple circle of threads without ramifications -which if it is cut at any point, undoes in its entirety. Environmental pollution is often a sign that ecological links have been severed and that the ecosystem has been artificially simplified.

I will explain a little later why the idea that natural ecosystems that have preserved their original diversity are more stable than those that have been disturbed and simplified is controversial; but I mention it here because it has become one of the main reasons to preserve non-resources, to keep Nature's diversity complete. A more general and much less controversial formulation of this “diversity-stability” idea is discussed separately in item 9 of this list.

A concrete and less problematic derivation of the diversity-stability hypothesis concerns monocultures - plantations of a single species - in agriculture and forestry. It has long been known that the intensive monocultures that characterize modern forest farms and plantations make cultivation and harvesting easier and lower cost while increasing production; however, this is achieved at a trade-off for increased risk of epidemic diseases and increased vulnerability to attacks by insects and other pests. The reason for this is partly the reduction in species diversity. This results in a higher spatial density of similar crop species which in turn facilitates the spread of both pests and disease-causing organisms. Likewise, it eliminates the plant species that give shelter to the natural enemies of pests specialized in attacking crop plants. Monocultures also create problems in livestock and aquaculture, often due to the expensive inefficiency that occurs when the single species involved makes incomplete use of available feed resources. I will return to this point shortly, when I discuss game farming in Africa.

4. Values as examples of survival. Flora and fauna communities, and to a lesser extent species taken alone, may have value as examples or models of long-term survival. JW Humke has observed that “Most natural systems have been functioning in essentially the same way as at present for many thousands of years. On the other hand, heavily modified and human-dominated systems have not worked very reliably in the past and, in significant respects, do not in the present either. The economic value here is indirect, consisting of problems avoided (money saved) thanks to a good initial design of human-dominated systems or to the repair of defective ones based on characteristics inspired by those of natural systems. This point of view is becoming increasingly popular as disenchantment with the results of traditional planning grows. It has occurred to some to look at successful natural communities in order to look for clues about the organization of traits that lead to persistence or survival. HE Wright Jr. has most powerfully expressed this value of non-resources in the conclusion of an interesting article on landscape development: "Man's survival may depend on what we can learn from the study of natural ecosystems." extensive”.

5. Environmental reference and monitoring values. The fluctuation in the size of populations of animals or plants, the state of their organs or their by-products, or the mere presence or absence of a certain species or A group of species in a particular environment can be used to define normal or “baseline” environmental conditions and to determine the degree to which communities have been affected by non-ordinary external influences, such as pollution or habitat alteration by of human beings. Biological functions, such as the diversity of species in a particular place, when studied over several years, are the best possible indicators of the significant effects of pollution, in the same way that the behavior of an animal is the best indicator of the health of their nervous and musculoskeletal systems. Species diversity is the result of all the forces that affect ecosystems. It allows an automatic analysis of the final products. It should also be noted that the traditional economic value of a species is unimportant in determining its usefulness as an environmental indicator - an important point if we are interested in transforming non-resources into resources.

With the exception of biological monitoring of water pollution, there are few examples of the use of to date 'worthless' species as indicators of environmental change. In the case of water pollution, pioneering work in the field of indicator species has been carried out by limnologist Ruth Patrick, who studies aquatic communities of freshwater algae and invertebrates. She and her many collaborators have compiled lists of the types and abundance of organisms that would be expected to appear in different waters with different states of alteration.

There are a few other examples of this use of plants and animals. Lichens, complex and harmless plants that cover trees and rocks, are sensitive indicators of air pollution, especially that caused by dust and sulfur dioxide. Few lichens grow within a fifty mile radius of a modern urban area - the forests of early colonial America were described as white because of the lichen covering the tree trunks, but this is no longer the case. Common lilac develops a disease called necrotic leaf curl in response to elevated levels of ozone and sulfur dioxide. The honey from the bees reveals the existence of heavy metal contamination in the area where the bees collect the nectar. And the presence of twisted or twisted tails in tadpoles can be indicative of pesticides, acid rain, or even local climate change. All of this is reminiscent of the ancient practice of examining birds' flight and feeding to predict the future, even though we have no way of comparing the effectiveness of the results.

6. Scientific research values. Many otherwise economically insignificant creatures display some unique or special characteristic that makes them extremely valuable to scientific researchers. Because of their similarity to humans, orangutans, chimpanzees, monkeys, and even lower primates fall into this category. Squids and the little-known molluscs called sea hares have nervous systems with properties that make them immensely valuable to neuroscientists. The identical quadruplet litters of armadillos and the hormonal responses of the clawed frog, Xenopus, make them special objects of study for embryologists and endocrinologists, respectively. The strange life cycle of slime molds has aroused biologists' interest in these fungi, and they use them to study the chemistry of cell-to-cell interactions.

7. Didactic values. The didactic value of an intact ecosystem can be calculated indirectly by looking at the economic value of alternative uses that are not carried out on that land. For example, university administration authorities may preserve a teaching forest on campus if the competing use is extra parking for maintenance machinery, but they may not be as willing to preserve the forest if the land on which it This is where it was required to build a new administrative center. This establishes the didactic “value” of the forest for administrators.

On one occasion, in 1971, a US federal district judge ordered the New York State National Guard to remove a land fill from the Hudson River bank and restore the marsh that had previously occupied that location. One of the reasons he gave, though perhaps not the most important to him, was that the marsh was previously used by the local high school for its biology classes.

8. Habitat reconstruction values. Natural systems are too complex for their functional elements and relationships to be fully described or recorded. Nor can we genetically reconstitute species once they have been exterminated. Consequently, if we want to restore or rebuild an ecosystem in what was once its habitat,

[k] Syringa vulgaris. N. of t. we need a living and unharmed ecosystem of the same type both to serve as a suitable model and to act as a source of living components. This is assumed tactically by tropical rainforest ecologists, for example, who know that when very large areas of tropical rainforest are cleared completely it is likely to end up being very difficult for the rainforest ever to regain anything like its richness of natural resources. original species and structure. In certain northern temperate forests, strip-logging, in which strips of forest are left intact to produce seeds and serve as habitat for wildlife interspersed between logged areas, is now becoming more common in logging operations. commercial. Actual cases of completely rebuilt ecosystems are still rare and will continue to be: the best example is provided by the various attempts to restore salt marshes in devastated estuaries - this has been possible because such salt marshes are relatively simple communities with only a few dominant plants. ; and because there are still many marshes that serve as sources of flora and fauna and as models for reconstruction. In the future, if certain threatened ecosystems are recognized as useful to us, any remaining fragments of those ecosystems will acquire special value as a resource.

9. Conservative value: avoidance of irreversible changes. This is a restatement of a basic fear that underlies every other point on this list; Sooner or later it shows up in every discussion about saving non-resources. It expresses the conservative belief that irreversible human-caused change in the natural order - the loss of a species or a natural community - may carry a hidden and unpredictable risk of serious harm to human beings and their civilizations. Preserve the full range of natural diversity as we do not know what aspects of that diversity our long-term survival depends on. This was one of Aldo Leopold's basic ideas:

A conservation system based solely on self-interest is totally unbalanced. It tends to ignore, and thus ultimately eliminate, many elements of the earth community that have no commercial value but are (as far as we know) essential to the healthy functioning of the earth.

What Leopold has done is reject an overtly humanist approach in favor of a subtly humanist one, and this failure to escape humanist bias marks a weakness in his otherwise wise and powerful argument. Leopold leaves us with no real justification for preserving those animals, plants, and habitats that, as he well knew, are almost certainly not essential to the "healthy functioning" of any large ecosystem. This is not a trivial category; it includes, in part, very many species and even communities that have always been extremely rare or have always been geographically confined to a small area. It could be countered that, for example, lichens, once ubiquitous, might in the long run play some arcane but vital role in the ecology of forests - this would be almost impossible to prove or disprove. But the same could not seriously be said of Furbishl licegrass, a small member of the snapdragon[m,n] family that has probably never been more than a rare constituent of Maine forests.

Exaggerations and distortions

The above list contains most, if not all, of the reasons that a humanistic society has devised to justify the partial conservation of things in Nature that, in principle, do not seem to have value for us. As such, they are all rationalizations - often true rationalizations, to be sure, but rationalizations nonetheless. And being what they are,

[l] Pedicularis furbishiae. N. from t.

[m] “Snapdragon” in the original. Plants belonging to the genus Antirrhinum. Its family is Plantaginaceae. N. from t.

[n] Actually, the genus Pedicularis is currently included in the family Orobanchaceae. N. t. rationalizations are usually easily spotted by almost everyone and tend not to be very convincing, regardless of their veracity. In this case, to most people they are not nearly as compelling as the short-term economic arguments used to justify the preservation of "real" resources such as oil and timber.

In a capitalist society, any individual or private company that treated non-resources as if they were resources would probably go bankrupt and at about the same time receive their first medal for outstanding public service. In a socialist society, the result would be that dues would not be paid, which, from a personal point of view, would be as unpleasant as bankruptcy. People are unwilling to call something a resource because long-term considerations or statistical probabilities say it might be. For similar reasons, most Western populations are content to live near nuclear power plants and continue to breathe asbestos fibers. Humanists don't like to worry about dangers that lie just beyond sight, especially when material “comfort” is at stake.

If we look at the last item on the list, the “conservative value” of non-resources, the difficulty becomes immediately apparent. The economic value in this case is remote and nebulous; it is protection from ghostly night noises, the unknown dangers of irreversible change. Not only is the risk vague, but if a hazard materializes as a result of losing a non-resource it might be impossible to prove or even detect the connection between the two. Even in cases where the loss of a non-resource seems likely to initiate undesirable long-term changes, the argument may be too complex and technical to be widely persuasive; it might even go against popular belief.

An example that illustrates this last point excellently if unintentionally has been offered by the ecologist David Owen and, independently, by the public health scientist WE Ormerod. Both have argued that the tsetse fly that transmits the cattle disease trypanosomiasis may be essential to keeping large areas of sub-Saharan Africa healthy by keeping cattle out of areas susceptible to overgrazing and thus preventing consequent desertification. However, programs for the eradication of the tsetse fly continue.

Given the great complexity of environmental relationships and the myriad interconnections between objects and events in Nature, it is also possible for ecologists to go to the opposite extreme and postulate future consequences from present events when in fact it is not likely that they will. there is a connection or causal relationship. There are even those who, going far beyond Leopold's ecologically reasonable, albeit humanistic, position, assume that everything in Nature is essential for the survival of the natural world since evolution ensures that everything is there. for an important purpose or reason. R. Allen, for example, summarizes in a famous scientific publication his reasons for relying strictly on arguments in defense of resources to preserve the wealth of Nature: the economic climate is such today, he points out, that only the most rigorously practical arguments will prevail. Faint ecologists who fear that their favorite species turn out to be completely useless will have to take the risk. There is certainly some redundancy in the system, but there are strong theoretical grounds for believing that most species on this planet are here for a better reason than poor galactic map readers.

Allen is saying that everything in Nature - including almost all species - is highly interconnected and that almost everything has its own role to play in maintaining the natural order: consequently, almost all species are important, have value as resources. Remove even a seemingly trivial species as a resource, and it's more than likely that somehow, somewhere, someday we'll feel the consequences. This is not a new idea - its scientific popularity dates back at least to the writings of Charles Babbage and George P. Marsh in the 19th century. In the ninth chapter of his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, Babbage states that “the earth, the air, and the ocean are the eternal witnesses of the acts we do... No movement, whether impressed by natural causes or by human activity, it is never erased. Twenty-seven years later, Marsh filled 550 pages with examples of the ecological consequences of our interference with Nature, paraphrasing and amplifying Babbage's ideas:

There exists, not only in human consciousness or in the omniscience of the Creator, but in external material nature, an indelible, imperishable and even possibly readable record for created intelligence, of each act performed, of each word pronounced, even more, of every desire and purpose and thought conceived by mortal man, from the birth of our first ancestor to the final extinction of our race; so that the physical traces of our most secret sins will last until they are founded in that eternity of which only religion, not science, claims to have knowledge.

Of course, in a sense, this is correct. There may be permanent traces of every act we perform (although, admittedly, in most cases they don't contain enough residual information for us to read them). And, in ecology, there are countless hidden connections, most of them impossible to know: for example, it has recently been discovered that on the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, the last old survivors of a species of tree called <em >Calvaria major</em> no longer produce suckers because their seeds, which these ancient trees still produce in abundance, have to pass through a dodo's gizzard in order to germinate. And the dodo, one of our first victims, became extinct in 1681.

But Marsh is implying more than this kind of thing. He is suggesting, as is Allen, that a considerable percentage of the traces that remain behind our actions will have humanistic consequences—it will affect resources. I cannot accept this. I agree with Marsh that the deforestation of the Ganges valley must have permanently and significantly altered the ecology of the Bay of Bengal. However, has there been any permanent and significant effect on resources from the extinction, in the wild, of John Bartram's great discovery, the beautiful tree Franklinia alatamaha, which had all but disappeared from the face of the earth when Bartram laid eyes on him? Or by the extinction of the countless species of small beetles, many of which we never even knew existed? Can we even be sure that the forests of the eastern United States suffer from the loss of their passenger pigeons and chestnuts in a tangible way that affects their vitality or permanence, their value to us?

The best we can say is that any loss could have dire consequences, and I've already shown where this argument falls short, important as it is to me and many other ecologists and conservationists. I'm not so sure that Allen's powerful theoretical underpinnings can protect the Houston toad, cloud forests, and the vast multitude of other living things that deserve a chance to evolve unhindered by the realization of our humanistic fantasies.

Thus, the dilemma of conservation is exposed: humanists are not normally going to be interested in saving any non-resource, any fragment of Nature that is not manifestly useful to humanity, and the various reasons given to show that these are not -resources are actually useful or potentially valuable are unlikely to be convincing even if they are true and correct. When everything is called a resource, the word loses all its meaning - at least in a humanistic value system.

One consequence of the dilemma is that conservationists are tempted to exaggerate and distort the humanistic "values" of non-resources. The most vexing and embarrassing example for conservationists is the diversity-stability issue mentioned

[or] “Passenger pigeons” in the original. Ectopictes migratorius. Very abundant species in North America until the middle of the 19th century, when it became extinct within a few decades. N. from t.

[p] The author refers to the American chestnut, Castanea dentata, which, although not completely extinct, did go from being very abundant and dominant in the forests in many areas, to being very scarce in the adult stage, due to a fungal disease, chestnut rust (Criphonectria parasitica), introduced from Asia by humans. N. t. above. However, I must make it clear from the beginning that the controversy among ecologists is not about the need to preserve the biological richness of Nature -there is little disagreement on this point- but about the specific theoretical reason, put forward by Commoner and others, that diverse ecosystems are more stable than impoverished ones (as far as the short term is concerned), that they are better able to resist pollution and other undesirable changes induced by man. As ecologist David Goodman said:

From a practical point of view, the diversity-stability hypothesis is not really necessary; Even if the hypothesis turns out to be completely false, it is still logically possible - and, according to the best available evidence, very likely - that the disturbance of the developmental patterns of interaction in natural communities has adverse and occasionally catastrophic consequences.

To understand the origins of the controversy we have to go back to a classic text by the great Spanish ecologist Ramón Margalef. Margalef noted, as did others before him, that as natural plant and animal communities matured after an initial disturbance (a fire, a plowed field, a landslide, a volcanic eruption, etc.), the number of species in such communities tended to increase until it reached a maximum and a characteristic “climax” community appeared. This climax community was believed to last until the next disturbance, regardless of when that disturbance occurred. The entire process of change is called "succession." A typical plant succession in an abandoned field in New Jersey or Pennsylvania would begin with annual grasses such as foxtail and ragweed; these after one or two years would give way to perennial herbs, such as goldenrods and asters; Soon there would be clumps of brambles and other woody plants, and then the typical “early successional” trees—red cedar and black cherry—would grow from the seeds deposited by birds. After ten or fifteen years, other trees, such as red maplesv or oaks, could have sprouted from seeds from surrounding forests, and half a century after that, the oak-hickory forestw would gradually give way to a climax plant community of trees. shade lovers: beeches, sugar maplesx and yellow birchesy.

For Margalef, this tendency of the succession towards a climax community ("mature" ecosystems according to his terminology) was one of the several strong evidences that the last stages of the succession are more "stable" than the first ones. Since he also believed that these final ecosystems were more diverse in species and in connections or interactions between species, he argued that this diversity was responsible for the greater stability of mature ecosystems - that the stability was a consequence of the network-like structure of the most complex communities. From this type of reasoning derived analogies such as the one already mentioned by Commoner, in which the strength of a late successional community was compared to that of a network. This hypothesis ended up being a commonplace for conservationists who were eager to justify with scientific reasons their originally emotional desire to protect the wealth of Nature in its entirety, including the apparently useless majority of species. As Goodman pointed out, there is a basic appeal [in] its underlying metaphor. It's the kind of thing that people like, and want, to believe."

However, as Margalef refined his hypothesis, five types of evidence combined to undermine the part of it described here. First, the results of many

[q] “Fox tail” in the original. It probably refers to the genus Alopecurus. N. from t.

[r] “Ragweed” in the original. Genus Ambrosia. N. from t.

[s] “Goldenrods” in the original. Genus Solidago. N. from t.

[t] Juniperus virginiana. N. from t.

[u] Prunus serotina. N. from t.

[v] Acer rubrum. N. from t.

[w] “Oak-hickory forest” in the original. “Hickory” refers to the American trees of the genus Carya, closely related to the European walnut trees (Juglans). N. from t.

[x] “Sugar maple” in the original. Acer saccharum. N. from t.

[and] "Yellow birch" in the original. Betula alleghaniensis. N. del t. different studies about terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems showed that diversity does not always increase with the development of the succession, especially in the final phases. Second, it was discovered that the process of succession is not always as schematic and regular as believed, and that the idea of a "climax" community, like most such abstractions, only partially reflects what we see in Nature. Third, investigations of plant associations by Cornell ecologist RH Whittaker and his colleagues tended to show that the discovered interdependence and interactions between species in mature communities had been somewhat exaggerated.

Fourth, a mathematical analysis carried out by Robert May failed to confirm the intuitively appealing notion, suggested by Commoner, that the greater the number of interactions, or connections, the greater the stability of the system. May's mathematical models worked in the opposite way: the more elements (species and interactions between species) there were, the greater the fluctuation in the size of the "populations" of the system when the application of a disturbance was simulated. In theory, he found that the most diverse systems should be the most delicate; they were those most at risk of collapsing following human-induced change.

Fifth, the evidence provided by conservationists themselves supported May and contradicted the original hypothesis: diverse and “mature” communities were almost always the first to collapse when subjected to severe human stress and were always the most difficult to protect. . On the other hand, Margalef's own brilliant description of species carrying out the early stages of colonization indicated that these residents of "immature" communities were typically resilient, opportunistic, and genetically variable, exhibiting adaptive behaviors, and high reproductive rates. . The most difficult organisms to eradicate included, among others, pest animals, weeds and common game prey.

As May and others well perceived, the diversity-stability hypothesis, in the restricted sense described here, was a case of reversal of cause and effect. The most diverse communities were typically those that had occupied the most stable environments for the longest periods of time. They were dependent on a stable environment - not the other way around. They did not necessarily produce the kind of short-term, internal stability that Margalef had assumed existed. The moral of this story underscores the poignancy of the conservation dilemma. In our enthusiasm to demonstrate the existence of a humanistic "value" for the world's splendid and diverse "mature" ecosystems - rain and cloud forests, coral reefs, temperate deserts and the like - we insist on the role that they were gambling on the immediate stabilization of their own environments (including the very populations that constitute them) against pollution and other effects of modern civilization. This was a partial distortion that not only caused less attention to be paid to the real, transcendent and long-term values of those ecosystems, but also helped to obscure, for a time, their extreme fragility in the face of human “progress”.

Many different kinds of 'stability' actually depend on maintaining biological diversity - the wealth of Nature. This is especially evident today in those places, often in the tropics, where soils are prone to erosion, loss of nutrients and the formation of reddish “laterite” crusts, as well as where desertification can occur; however, none of these effects, however fatal and long-lasting, is ever as easy to explain to laymen as the "stable network" hypothesis.

A much less complex example of exaggeration or distortion resulting from the drive to seek values for non-resources concerns game ranches in Africa. In the 1950s and 1960s it was first noted that capturing native bush and savanna wildlife could produce at least as much meat per acre as raising cattle, without the destruction of vegetation that always accompanies to it in arid environments. This suggestion cannot be refuted on the basis of ecological theory, which recognizes that the dozens of different species of large native herbivores - such as gazelles, wildebeests, zebras or giraffes - eat different parts of the vegetation, or the same vegetation but at different times, and that therefore the environment can tolerate its native animals that graze and browse much better than an equal or lesser number of cattle that eat the same food. There is also no food tolerance problem here: Africans are used to eating and enjoying a wide variety of animals, ranging from rodents to bats, aardvarks, monkeys, turtles, snails, locusts and flies.

The weaknesses of this simple plan have only recently become apparent. Apart from the serious cultural problems related to the high social value of cattle in some African tribes, which makes these Africans reluctant to reduce the size of their herds, the biggest drawback is ecological. The original game ranch theory and subsequent “extraction” programs carried out by Ian Parker tacitly assumed that exploited populations would replace lost animals, or, put another way, that populations of wild edible herbivores would be able to adapt. to a significant annual reduction caused by commercial hunting. This is certainly true for some of the most fecund species, but most likely not all species reproduce fast enough to withstand the pressure of this sustained mortality. The population dynamics and management ecology of almost all species are still largely unknown and exploitation, both legal and illegal, is taking place with little more than speculation about the long-term consequences. A recent ecological study showed that wildebeests need to forage en masse during their annual migrations to allow a lush tapestry of grass to appear a few months later that can be eaten by Thompson's gazelles. How many other similar relationships exist there of which we know nothing?

The problem here lies in the danger of assuming, with an air of infallibility, that the ecological effects of game management are known. This again is a manifestation of the arrogance of humanism: if animals are to be considered resources and worth saving, then they must be available for exploitation. However, our ignorance of the effects of such harvesting has been repeatedly underlined by Hugh Lamprey and some of those who know best the ecology of East Africa. In his magisterial book The Last Place on Earth, Harold Hayes reviews these ecological arguments and beautifully illustrates many of them with an anecdote told to him by John Owen, a prominent former park manager in the Serengeti. Owen described the controversy over the return of the elephants (2,000 specimens) to the Serengeti and the alleged damage they were causing to the park's ecosystems. Should the elephants be exploited was the question to be decided - each side had its defenders.

When I returned from Arusa, the guards accompanied me to show me the lopped acacias. The next day, the scientists [ecologists from the Serengeti Research Institute] came with me to show me the new acacia saplings that were sprouting in another part of the park. The seeds of the acacias are carried by the elephants and fertilized with their dung.

Much of the problem today is poaching, and it has to be admitted that there is a remote possibility that ranching and large-scale game exploitation programs have the effect of making poaching (to make money from the sale of the dams) ceases to be profitable. However, there is also the possibility that ranching and game exploitation affect species diversity and ecosystem stability as much as poaching or even, in some cases, as much as cattle ranching. In our rush to protect zebras, wildebeests, dicdics[aa] and springboksbb by endowing them with tangible humanist value, we may have exaggerated the kind of potential they have as resources (they have many others) and in the process we have further endangered.

[z] Orycteropus afer. N. of t.

[aa] Antelopes of the genus Madoqua. T.N.

[bb] Gazelles belonging to the species Antidorcas marsupialis. T.N.

One of the lessons from the examples above is that conservationists cannot rely on assumptions of power and the doctrine of final causes any more than other people can - they must not assume that an ecological theory can always be created. to support their cases, especially when those cases concern immediate humanistic goals and when the scope of the debate has been artificially restricted by a short-term cost-benefit approach. It is a grave mistake to assume that, since we are Nature's most striking creation to date, each of her other innumerable creatures and works can somehow be used for our benefit if we discover the key how to do it. As used by conservationists, this assumption is one of the most tender and well-intentioned humanist hoaxes; but falsehoods, even if they arise from good intentions, are still falsehoods.

Another example of a situation where ecological theories, if understood in a narrow context, do not support conservation practices is described by tropical ecologist Daniel Janzen:

One possible remedy [for the year-round persistence of agricultural crop pests and diseases in the tropics] is unpalatable to the conservationist. Agricultural potential in many seasonally dry parts of the tropics could well be enhanced by the systematic destruction of vegetation, both riparian and otherwise, which is often left for livestock shade, erosion control and conservation. It might be nice to replace the banyan[cc] with a shed. ... Some studies even suggest that 'overgrazed' grasslands may have higher production than more carefully managed sites, ... especially when the real costs of management are taken into account.

That is, Janzen has shown here that it is quite possible for ecological theory to endow non-resources with a negative value, to turn them into economic burdens. In this particular case, long-term ecological considerations (such as ultimate erosion costs, soil nutrient loss, and other factors related to all of the items on the list above) would likely override long-term ecological considerations. short term described by Janzen. However, the net practical result of any conservationist attempt, based on ecological theory, to demonstrate the resource value of both streamside vegetation and other vegetation types in the seasonally dry tropics would be to expose the conservationist stance to an unnecessary attack.

I want to emphasize here that the purpose of this chapter is narrow: to demonstrate how pervasive humanistic assumptions contaminate and harm even the attempts of those who are busy combating the environmental consequences of modern humanism; as well as to identify non-humanistic, honest and lasting reasons to save Nature. This does not mean that I reject arguments based on the notion of recourse when they are valid. The Amazon rainforest, the green turtle, and many other forms of life are in fact resources; contribute greatly to the maintenance of human well-being. However, this is only one of the reasons for its retention, and it should be applied with care, if only because of the likelihood that it will end up undermining its own effectiveness.

Additional risks

Even though it is quite legitimate to find humanistic values for things that have traditionally been considered non-resources, from a conservation point of view it may be risky to do so. It just so happens that discovering a role as resources for these once worthless parts of Nature turns out to be a quasi-solution, and soon a

[cc] “Banyan tree” in the original. Common name for several species of the genus Ficus, also called “strangler fig trees”. N. from t.

[dd] Chelonia mydas. N. t. bunch of residual problems. Ecologists J. Gosselink, Eugene Odum, and their colleagues have conducted research to discover the "value" of salt marshes along the southeastern coast of the United States, which - despite its scientific elegance - may serve to illustrate these risks.

The purpose of the project was to establish a defined monetary value for the salt marshes based on the tangible properties of the resources. Therefore, aesthetic values were not taken into account. The properties studied included the activity of the marshes in the removal of pollutants from coastal waters (a kind of tertiary treatment of wastewater) and in the production of fish for food and sport fishing (the marshes serve as a “nursery”). ” for fingerlings), the potential for commercial aquaculture and a host of other functions that are difficult to quantify. The final value of an intact marsh was established at $82,940 per acre. Although the computation was complex and speculative and could surely have been questioned by some ecologists, I am perfectly willing to accept it. The marshes are valuable.

Is drawing attention to this value the best way to conserve salt marshes? If a given marsh would be less valuable if put to possible use than if it remained in an intact state, the answer could be yes, provided that the marsh was not privately owned. However, discovering value can be dangerous: indeed, it means giving up any right to reject humanistic assumptions.

First, any possible use with a larger value, no matter how small the difference, would take precedence. Since many of the potential uses are irreversible, a further relative increase in the value of the marsh area would come too late. We don't generally demolish high-end apartment towers to restore tidal flats.

Second, values change. If, for example, a new method is discovered and sewage treatment suddenly becomes less expensive (or if sewage becomes valuable as a raw material), then we will find that the value of salt marshes is suddenly much less. than before

Third, the study assumes that all qualities of salt marshes, both valuable and worthless, are known and identified. In turn, this means that those coastal wetland qualities that are not assigned a conventional value are not important. This is a dangerous assumption.

Fourth, CW Clark has calculated that the quick benefits from immediate exploitation, even if they involve the extinction of a resource, are often economically superior to the kind of long-term, sustained benefits that could be produced by the intact resource. This economic principle has been demonstrated by the whaling industry, especially in Japan, where they have realized that the money made from the rapid extinction of whales can be reinvested in various "spreading" industries, so that the full benefits will be at the same time. greater than if the whales had been caught at a rate that would allow them to survive indefinitely. In other words, finding a value for some parts of Nature does not guarantee that it is rational for us to preserve it - it could be precisely the opposite.

Given these four objections, the risks of treating (even when legitimately done) non-resources as if they were resources become quite apparent, as do the risks of overemphasizing the cost-benefit approach in conserve even the most traditional and accepted resources. There is no true protection of Nature within the humanistic system - this idea itself is a contradiction.

There is another risk in assigning value as resources to non-resources: whenever "real" values are calculated it becomes possible - even necessary - to classify the various parts of Nature for the unholy task of determining a priority in conservation. Since dollar value, as in the case of salt marshes, is often not available, other classification methods have been devised that are supposed to be applied in a mechanical and objective way.

One such classification system has been developed by FR Gehlbach to value state park lands in Texas. The properties that are taken into account and summed in Gehlbach's system include "climax condition", " educational suitability", "species importance" (the presence of rare, threatened and locally unique species), " representativeness of communities” (the number and type of plant and animal communities included) and “human impact” (both present and potential), in order of increasing importance. Gehlbach clearly believes that the numerical scores created by this system can be used, without additional human input, to determine conservation priorities. He says:

We suggest that if an area is offered as a donation [to the State of Texas], it be accepted only when its natural area score exceeds the average score for communities of the same or similar types in the natural area reserve system.

Other classification systems exist, both in Britain and the United States, and probably more will be developed.

There are two dangers in classifying the parts of Nature and both work against the uncritical or mechanical use of this type of system. First there is the problem of incomplete knowledge. It is impossible to know all the properties of something in Nature, and the more complex the entity (for example, a natural community) the less we know. It is tempting. For example, punching a hole in a computer card that labels a community a “lowland floodplain deciduous forest” and leaving it at that. However, such descriptions of communities, especially short and "factual" ones, are largely artificial abstractions; they are designed to make it easier to talk about vegetation, not to decide what to do with it. It is somewhat presumptuous to assume that any formal classification system can serve as a stand-in for personal knowledge of the land or as a stand-in for information-driven human feelings about its meaning or value in today's world or in the world within. a hundred years.

The second danger is that such a formal classification is likely to end up pitting Nature against herself in an unacceptable and wholly unnecessary way. Will we ever be asked to choose between the Texas Big Thicket and Palo Verde Canyon based on relative total scores? The need to conserve a particular community or species must be judged independently of the need to conserve anything else. Limited resources may force us to make choices against our will, but ranking systems encourage and justify them. There is a difference between the scientist who finds it necessary to kill mice in order to do research and the scientist who designs experiments to kill mice. Classification systems can be useful as decision aids, but the more formal and generalized they become, the more likely they are to cause harm.

There has only been one case in Western culture of a conservation effort greater than the one currently underway; It was about endangered species. Not a single species was excluded on the basis of low priority and, by all accounts, not a single species was lost.

Of the pure beasts, and of those that are not, and of the birds, and of everything that creeps on the earth, two by two entered the ark with Noah, the male and the female, just as God ordered Noah. (Genesis 7:8-9).

It is an excellent precedent.

Non-economic values

The attempt to preserve non-resources by finding an economic value for them produces a deadlock situation. Much of the value discovered for non-resources is indirect, in the sense that it consists in avoiding costly problems that might arise if the non-resources were to disappear. This is the base of the quagmire. On the one hand, if the non-resource is destroyed and no disaster follows its disappearance, the argument for its conservation loses all credibility. On the other hand, if a disaster occurs after the extinction of the non-resource it may be impossible to show that there is a connection between the two events.

One way to avoid this quagmire is to identify the non-economic values inherent in all natural communities and species and give them at least equal importance to indirect economic values. The first of these universal qualities might be called the value of "natural art." It has been excellently articulated by the great naturalist and conservationist Archie Carr, in his book Ulendo:

If the Egyptians used the pyramids as quarries or if the French allowed scoundrels to throw stones at the Louvre, everyone would be furious. The same thing would happen if the Americans flooded the Colorado Valley with a dam. Reverence for the original landscape is one of the human qualities. It was the first of them. Considered in terms of how they both affect the human nerves and senses, there is no difference between a work of art and a work of nature. However, there is this difference. ... Any art could, in a way, be superseded one day - the complete symphony of the savannah landscape never.

This point of view is unusual and some need to get used to it, but it is apparently gaining popularity. In an article about Brazilian tamarins, or lion tamarins, three species of tiny, colorful primates of the Atlantic rainforests, AF Coimbra-Filho hinted at the notion of natural art in a frank and thoughtful statement remarkably similar to the quote above:

In purely economic terms, it doesn't really matter that these three Brazilian monkeys fade into extinction. Although they can be used as laboratory animals in biomedical research (and indeed were used before), much more abundant species from other parts of South America serve laboratories equally well or better. Lion tamarins can be exhibited in zoos, sure enough, but it is doubtful that most of the zoo public will miss them. No, it seems that the main reason for trying to save them and other animals like them is that the disappearance of any species represents a great aesthetic loss for the world as a whole. It can perhaps be compared to the loss of a great work of art by a famous painter or sculptor, except that, unlike man-made works of art, the evolution of a single species is a process that takes millions of years and it can never be duplicated again.

This natural art, unlike man-made art, has no economic value, directly or indirectly. No one can buy or sell it for its artistic quality; it does not always stimulate tourism, nor does ignoring it cause, for the same reason, any loss of goods, services or comfort. It is distinct from the values as a recreational or aesthetic resource described above and may apply to communities or species that would not cause any tourist to go a single mile out of their route to view them or to qualities that have never been revealed on casual inspection.

Despite being free from some of the problems associated with arguments based on the notion of resource, the rationale for conservation based on natural art is still, in its own way, a bit artificial and confusing. First of all, it leads to the kind of classification problems I discussed above. If the analogy with art is valid, we cannot expect all parts of Nature to have the same artistic value. Many critics would say that El Greco was a better painter than Norman Rockwell, but is the savannah of the Serengeti more artistically valuable than the pine forests of the New Jersey moors or the coastal dunes of Aimsdale-Southport in Lancashire? And if so, then what?

Even if we accept that the art-based rationale for conservation need not encourage such comparisons, there is still something wrong, since the concept of art

[ee] Genus Leontopithecus. N. The natural t. remains rooted in the same homocentric, humanistic worldview responsible for bringing the natural world, including ourselves, to its current state. If the natural world is to be conserved merely because it is artistically stimulating to us, we continue to conserve it for selfish reasons. There is still an implicit condescension and superiority in the attitude of human beings, the kind parents, towards Nature, the cute but troublesome child. This attitude is not in keeping with the humbling discoveries in ecology or the kind of ecological worldview that emphasizes connectivity and the immense complexity of human relationships with Nature. Nor does it agree with the growing body of essentially religious sentiments that are approaching the same position - equality in that relationship - following an unscientific path.

the noah principle

Defenders of natural art have done us a great service by being the first to point out the unsatisfactory nature of some of the economic reasons put forward to support conservation. However, something more is needed, something that does not depend on humanist values. Charles S. Elton, one of the founders of ecology, has indicated another value as a non-resource, the ultimate reason for conservation and the only one that cannot be compromised:

The first [reason for conservation], which is usually not put first, is actually religious. There are millions of people in the world who think that animals have the right to exist and to be left alone, or at least not to be persecuted or extinct as a species. Some people will believe this even though it is quite dangerous for them.

This non-humanistic value of communities and species is the simplest of statements: <em>they should be conserved because they exist and because this existence is itself the present expression of a continuing historical process of immense antiquity and majesty</ em>. The existence since time immemorial in Nature is considered to carry the inalienable right to continue existing. Existence is the only criterion of the value of the parts of Nature and the decrease in the number of existing beings is the best way to measure the decrease in what we should value. This is, as has already been said, an ancient way of evaluating “conservability” and, in its own right, deserves to be called the “Noahic Principle”, after the person who was the first to put it into practice. For those of us who reject the humanistic underpinnings of modern life, there is simply no way to tell whether one arbitrarily chosen part of Nature is of more "value" than another part, so, like Noah, we don't bother trying.

Today, the idea of conferring rights on non-human forms of existence is becoming more and more popular (and is meeting more and more resistance). I will give only two examples. In a book entitled Should Trees Have Standing?[ff] CD Stone has argued for the existence of legal rights to forests, rivers, etc., regardless of the inalienable interests of the people associated with these natural entities. Describing the land as "an organism, of which Humanity is a functional part," Stone extends Leopold's land ethic in a formal way, justifying such unusual lawsuits as Byram River, et al. v. Village of Port Chester, New York, et al. If a large company can have legal rights and responsibilities and access to the courts through its representatives (“legal status”), Stone argues, why not rivers? Stone's essay has already been cited in a minority decision of the US Supreme Court - not trivial. I doubt that your suggestion will go far unless humanism loses ground, but the weaknesses of the notion of legal status for Nature are not the point here; the mere appearance of this idea at this time is a significant event.

[ff] Should trees have legal status? N. of the t.

However, the other example of the Noah's Principle in action has been provided by Dr. Bernard Dixon in a short but insightful article on the case for the careful preservation of Variola, the smallpox virus, a Threatened species:

Since man is the only product of evolution capable of taking conscious steps, whether based on logic or emotion, to influence its course, we have a responsibility to see that no other species is annihilated.... Some of us who might happily say goodbye to a virulent virus or bacterium might well have qualms about forever eradicating a "higher" animal - be it rat, bird or flea - that transmits such microbes from man. ... Where, moving up the scale of size and unsightly appearance (smallpox virus, typhoid bacilli, malaria parasites, schistosomiasis worms, locusts, rats...), does conservation become important? ? In fact, no line can be drawn. Each of the arguments advanced by conservationists is as applicable to the world of pest animals and pathogenic microbes as it is to whales, gentians, and flamingos. It can even be applied to the tiniest and most virulent of viruses.

Elsewhere in the article, Dixon makes a strong case for preserving the smallpox virus as a resource (though not for biological weapons); however, the non-humanist “existence value” argument is the one that matters most to him.

Charles Elton proposed that there are three different reasons for conserving natural diversity: because it is a right relationship between man and living things, because it provides opportunities for a fuller experience, and because it tends to promote ecological stability - ecological resistance to the invaders and the explosions in the native populations.

He stated that these reasons could be harmonized and that together they could generate a "wise principle of coexistence between man and nature." Since these words were written we have ignored this harmony of reasons for conservation, ignoring the first reason (or religious reason) as embarrassing or ineffective and basing ourselves on rational, humanistic and "rigorously scientific" tests for values.

I am not trying to discredit all economic or selfish uses of Nature nor recommending the abandonment of resource-based motives for conservation. Selfishness, within limits, is necessary for the survival of any species, including ours. Furthermore, if we were to rely solely on non-resource motivations for conservation, we would discover, given the present state of opinion and the world's material aspirations, that there would soon be nothing left to conserve. However, we have been too careless in our use of recourse arguments - distorting and exaggerating them for short-term purposes and allowing them to confuse and dominate our long-term thinking. Resource-based reasons for conservation can be used as long as they are sincere, but they must always be presented alongside non-humanistic reasons, and it should be made clear that the latter are more important in all cases. And when a community or a species has no known economic value or any other value to humanity, it is as dishonest and unwise to invent weak values based on the notion of a resource for it as it is to abandon any attempt to conserve it. Their non-humanistic value is enough to justify their protection - but not necessarily to guarantee their safety in this human-obsessed world culture.

I have tried to show in this chapter the devilishly intricate and cunning character of the humanistic trap. “Do you love Nature?” they ask. “Do you want to save her? So tell us what it's for." The only way to escape this type of trap, if there is one, is to tear it apart, reject it completely. This is the ultimate realism; sooner or later we will have to get to it - the sooner we do it, the less it will hurt.

Non-humanistic arguments will gain the weight they deserve only after cultural attitudes have changed. Morally backed missionary movements like humane societies are doing pretty well these days, but I am under no illusions about the possibility of ethical change in our Faustian culture unless pushed to do so by some general catastrophe.

Not all problems have acceptable solutions; I feel that this is one of these cases. On the one hand, conservationists will generally not be successful using the resource-based approach alone; and often they will even harm their own cause. On the other hand, a combination of humanist and non-humanist arguments like Elton's can also fail, and if it succeeds, it is probably due to forces that conservationists never expected nor controlled, as Mumford points out in “Prospect”:

Often the most significant factors in determining the future are the irrational ones. By "irrational" I do not mean subjective or neurotic, since from the point of view of science any small amount or single occasion can be considered irrational, as long as it does not lend itself to statistical treatment and repeated observation. Accordingly, we must accept, when considering the future, the possibility of miracles.... By miracle, we do not mean something out of the order of nature but something that happens so infrequently and that brings about such a radical change that nobody you can include it in any statistical prediction.

However, should such an unexpected change in cultural attitudes occur, those of us who have already rejected the humanistic idea of Nature will at least be prepared to take advantage of favorable circumstances. And whatever the outcome, we will have had the small private satisfaction of being honest for a while.

Bibliographic references:

- Allen, R. “Does Diversity Grow Cabbages?” New Scientist 63 (1974): 528-29.

- Altschul, S. Drugs and Foods from Little-known Plants (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973).

- Babbage, Charles. The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, reprint of the 1838 second edition (London: Frank Cass, 1967), ch. 9.

-Carr, Archie. High Jungles and Low (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1953).

----------- . Ulendo: Travels of a Naturalist in and out of Africa (New York: Knopf, 1964).

- Clark, CW “Profit Maximization and the Extinction of Animal Species”, Journal of Political Economy 81 (1973): 950-61.

- Coimbra-Filho, AF, et al. “Vanishing Gold: Last Chance for Brazil's Lion Tamarins”, Animal Kingdom, December, 1975, pp. 20-26.

- Commoner, Barry. The Closing Circle[gg] (New York: Knopf, 1972).

-Dixon, Bernard. “Smallpox-Imminent Extinction, and an Unresolved Dilemma,” New Scientist 69 (1976): 430-32.

- Elton, Charles S. The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants (London: Methuen, 1958).

- Galston, Arthur. “The Water Fern-Rice Connection,” Natural History 84 (1975): 10-11.

- Gehlbach, FR “Investigation, Evaluation, and Priority Ranking of Natural Areas”, Biological Conservation 8 (1975): 79-88.

-Glacken, Clarence. Traces on the Rhodian Shore[hh] (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967).

[gg] There is an edition in Spanish: The circle that closes, Plaza & Janés SA Editores, 1973. N. from t.

[hh] There is an edition in Spanish: Footprints on the beach of Rodas. Nature and culture in Western thought from Antiquity to the end of the 18th century, Ediciones del Serbal, 1996. N. from t.

- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. “An Attempt to Evolve a General Comparative Theory”, in Goethe's Botanical Writings, Bertha Mueller, trans. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1952), pp. 81-84.

- Goodman, Daniel. “The Theory of Diversity-Stability Relationships in Ecology,” Quarterly Review of Biology 50 (1975): 237-66.

- Gosselink, JG, EP Odum, and RM Pope. “The Value of the Tidal Marsh,” Louisiana State University Center for Wetland Resources, No. LSU-SG-74-03, 1974.

- Hayes, Harold. The Last Place on Earth (New York: Stein and Day, 1977).

- Humke, JW, et al. “Final Report. The Preservation of Ecological Diversity: A Survey and Recommendations”, prepared for the US Department of the Interior by The Nature Conservancy, Contract No. CX0001-5-0110.

-Janzen, Daniel. "Tropical Agrosystems," Science 182 (1973): 1212-19.

- Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac[478] (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966).

- Lieberman, GA “The Preservation of Ecological Diversity: A Necessity or a Luxury?” Naturalist 26 (1975): 24-31.

- Margalef, Ramon. “On Certain Unifying Principles in Ecology,” American Naturalist 97 (1063): 357-74.

- Marsh, GP Man and Nature; or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (New York: Scribner's, 1865).

- May, Robert. Stability and Complexity in Model Ecosystems (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973).

- Mumford, Lewis. “Prospect”, in Man 's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth, WL Thomas, Jr., ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956), pp. 1141-52.

- Omerod, WE “Ecological Effect of Control of African Trypanosomiasis”, Science 191 (1976): 815-21.

- Owen, D.F. Man in Tropical Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973).

- Patrick, Ruth. “Aquatic Communities as Indices of Pollution”, in Indicators of Environmental Quality, WA Thomas, ed. (New York: Plenum/Rosetta, 1972), pp. 93-100.

- Stone, CD Should Trees Have Standing? (Los Altos, Calif.: Wm. Kaufmann, 1974).

- Whittaker, RH "Gradient Analysis of Vegetation", Biological Reviews 42 (1967): 207-64.

- Wright, HE, Jr. "Landscape Development, Forest Fires, and Wilderness Management," Science 186 (1974): 487-95.

Presentation of "The shaky ground of sustainable development", "The ecology of order and chaos" and "Restoring the natural order"

We present below the translation of three successive chapters of the book The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination by Donald Worster. We have selected these three chapters because we have found them to be the most interesting in the book and, although they make sense separately, they should be read in order for a better understanding.

Worster is an American historian and environmentalist who tries to show in these articles what is behind some modern concepts and ideologies that question the supposed traditional vision of Nature and the relationship of human beings with it. What hides ideologies such as the ecology of chaos or others related, such as postmodernism, relativism, etc., is actually a justification for the destruction and subjugation of the wild, while promoting techno-industrial development. It seems as if, even within environmentalism, the goal of preserving wild Nature in the face of advancing technological progress is being abandoned due to the difficulty of achieving it, while ideologies are being generated that justify said advance and abandonment. Concepts such as "sustainable development", "environment" or more elaborate arguments such as the ecology of chaos, postmodernism, etc. they do nothing but generate confusion about the intrinsic importance of wild Nature and Worster tries to show it, with greater or lesser success, in these texts of his. This is one of the greatest successes of these articles and that is why we have made these translations.

Still, there are some aspects of Worster's ideas that we feel are wrong, and we'll briefly discuss some of the more important ones below.

- As we have already pointed out on other occasions, conservationists tend to fall to a greater or lesser extent into idealism, understood as the fact of giving excessive importance to ideas, values and wills and, in a complementary way, to underestimate the importance of material and objective factors when determining the development of social systems, and specifically, in the case at hand, the relationships of societies with Nature and its effects. Conservationists are often right when it comes to seeing ecological problems and recognizing the value and importance of wild Nature, but when it comes to identifying the causes of these problems and proposing solutions to them, they are often quite wrong. . Few are those who identify mainly or exclusively material factors, such as human population or social and technological development, as the fundamental causes of ecological problems and the subjugation of wild Nature. The majority, although they certainly recognize these material factors, consider them secondary, effects of mistaken ideologies or mentalities, such as anthropocentrism or the desire to dominate Nature, and not the other way around (it is these ideas and attitudes that are only effects that at most they reinforce certain tendencies of material social or technological development, but they are not the ultimate causes of it). So when it comes to proposing solutions, they focus on changing the ideas and values of people and society, instead of directly attacking these material factors.

And Worster, despite his lucidity in many other respects, also falls into idealism to some extent. For example, when he considers in the third article, that industrialism is a product of the mind (will, ideas, values) of the individuals (capitalist entrepreneurs) who founded it in the 7th and 8th centuries. What this does not explain is where these ideas came from, in what material context they appeared or why then and there and not in another time and place, and why they were those and not others.

And, of course, when he tries to propose solutions to the disaster caused by industrialism in Wild Nature, following the same idealistic logic, he proposes a change of mentality (adopting the “aesthetic understanding” and adopting a conservationist ethic), instead of a radical change of the conditions and material factors that physically determine the existence and development of the techno-industrial society.

- Also, in relation to his idealism, it should be noted that Worster seems to confuse and equate the popular notion of "materialism" as "desire and excessive valuation of material goods" and the philosophical notion of said term as "subordination of the aspects and factors non-material with respect to material aspects and factors in cultures and their development”, when both notions are not necessarily related. In fact, most modern consumerists (“materialists” in the first sense of the term) are actually idealists (ie, the opposite of “materialists” in the second sense of “materialism”).

- Another defect of Worster is his idealization of the environmentalism of the 60s and 70s. In our opinion, neither at that time was environmentalism, in general, as radical, lucid and honest as Worster paints it, nor is it very different today than it was then. In fact, today's environmentalism is simply, to a large extent, the logical development of the environmentalism of then. Or put another way, the germ of reformism, of the “green” ideology, of environmentalism, of eco-technophilia, etc. I was already in that movement from the beginning. The majority of this movement was never against modern technology, but advocated achieving a "balanced" and "ecologically and socially correct" technological development that respected and did not excessively damage the human environment (which is not necessarily the same as Nature). In addition to that, the ecologists who valued wild Nature then (conservationists) were, as now, a minority within the whole of environmentalism, which is mostly environmentalist, that is, it cares about the environment, not about Nature. .

- Finally, and also closely related to idealism, would be the conservationist idea that it is possible to achieve a balance between technological and social development and the preservation of wild nature. Because they underestimate the importance of material (physical) factors, conservationists often believe that it is possible to reconcile the maintenance and development of techno-industrial society with the preservation and recovery of wild Nature on Earth. According to them, it would be enough to “progress morally”, that is, to adopt values, ethics, and morality that take Nature into account. However, there are physical limitations that make it impossible to achieve such a balance. If the techno-industrial society continues to exist, and even more so if it grows, wild Nature will decrease, whatever the prevailing ideas in the former. And, vice versa, if wild Nature is to be preserved, and even recovered, the techno-industrial society should disappear. There are no "moral progress" worth.

The shifting terrain of sustainable development

By Donald Worster

The first thing I know when I start climbing a mountain is where the top is. The second is that there are no ways to achieve it that are completely free of suffering. Not being able to know these things can lead one to follow a deceptively easy path that never reaches the summit but zigzags endlessly, frustrating the climber and wasting his energy.

The popular and current slogan of "sustainable development" threatens to become just such a path. Although attractive at first glance, it is especially appealing to people who are put off by the long, arduous trek ahead of them or who really don't have a clear idea of what the main goal of environmental policy should be. After much wandering and confused and heated arguing, they have discovered what looks like a wide, easy path that all sorts of people can walk at once and rush to follow, unaware that it may be going in the wrong direction.

When modern environmentalism first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, and before its goals were clouded by political concessions and blurring, the end was more apparent and the path forward clearer. The goal was to save the living world around us, the millions of existing plants and animals, including humans, from the destruction caused by our technology, our population, and our appetites. The only way to do that, it was all simple enough to see, was to adopt the radical thinking that there must be limits to growth in three areas: limits to population, limits to technology, and limits to appetite and greed. Underlying this idea was a growing awareness that the secular, materialistic, progressive philosophy on which modern life rests, on which indeed Western civilization has rested for the last three hundred years, is profoundly flawed and ultimately destructive to us. themselves and for the entire fabric of life on the planet. The only true and certain way to reach the ecological goal, therefore, was to question this philosophy from its foundations and find a new one based on material simplicity and spiritual wealth -find other reasons to live different from production and consumption.

I'm not saying that this conclusion was shared by everyone who called themselves an environmentalist at the time, but it was clear to the more thoughtful leaders of the movement that this was the path we should take. However, since it was so painfully difficult to make such a change, since it meant going in a direction diametrically opposed to the path we had been following, many began to look for a less demanding path. By the mid-1980s, such an alternative had appeared, it was called "sustainable development." It first appeared in the World Conservation Strategy[b] of the International Union for Conservation of Nature[c] (1980), then in the book <em>Building a Sustainable Society< /em>

[a] Translation by Último Reducto from “The Shaky Ground of Sustainable Development”, chapter 12 of The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination, Oxford University Press, 1993. Copyright © 1993 Donald Worster. N. from t.

[b] “World Conservation Strategy” in original. N. from t.

[c] “International Union for the Conservation of Nature” in the original. N. from t. by Lester R. Brown, from the WorldWacth Institute (1981), then in another book: Gaia: An Atlas of Planet Management, edited by Norman Myers (1984) and after most influentially in the so-called Brundtland Report, Our Common Future (1987), directed by Gro Harlem Bundtland, Norwegian Prime Minister and chair of the World Commission on Sustainable Development. The appeal of this alternative lies in its international political acceptability by both rich and poor nations, in its potential to achieve a broad coalition among many warring countries. As Richard Sandbrook, executive vice president of the International Institute for Environment and Development, explained: “It hasn't been too difficult to bring together the environmental lobby of the North and the pro-development lobby of the South. And now there is actually a blurring of the differences between the two, so that they are going to reach a common consensus around the issue of sustainable development”.[1]

So: a lot of lobbying coming together and a lot of blurring going on, inevitably resulting in a lot of shallow thinking. The North and the South, we were told, could now make common cause without much difficulty in favor of a new, more progressive environmentalism. Capitalists and socialists, scientists and economists, the impoverished masses and the urban elites could now happily march together on a straight and easy path, as long as they did not raise any serious questions about where they were going.

Like many other popular slogans, sustainable development has worn thin after a while, revealing the lack of fundamental new ideas. Although it seems to have gained wide acceptance, it has done so by sacrificing the true essence. Worse yet, the slogan may turn out to be inappropriate for environmentalists to use as it may lead us hopelessly back to using superficial economic language, relying on output as the criterion of judgment, and following the progressive materialist worldview in understanding and use the land, all of which was precisely what environmentalism intended to bring down at the time.

My own preferences are for an environmentalism that talks about ethics and aesthetics rather than resources and economics, that prioritizes the survival of the living world of plants and animals regardless of their productive value, that appreciate what the priceless beauty of nature can contribute to our well-being in more profound ways than mere economics. I will return to that alternative later, but first I want to reveal more fully the shifting terrain of sustainable development. To date we have not had a deep analysis of this slogan, despite all those books and reports mentioned above. Although I myself cannot offer a complete analysis of it here either, I want to draw attention to the important issue of language, the words we put together to capture our ideals, and, above all, to ask what is implied by that magic word of consensus, " sustainability".

We do not have a complete history of the word, but its origins seem to go back to the concept of “sustained extraction”[d] that appeared in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Germany depended on its forests in the most essential sense , for the wood needed to sustain its economy, and these forests were in decline—reducing in extent due to overexploitation and disappearing as the population increased. Fear of impending resource depletion, poverty, and social chaos pushed some citizens to seek

[d] “Sustained-yield” in the original. N. t. a solution based on the authority of science. They began to talk (the exact date is not yet clear) about managing the forests so that periodic removals matched the rate of biological growth. Science, they believed, could reveal this rate, thus indicating precisely how many trees could be felled without depleting the forests themselves or undermining their long-term continuity. It was a hope based on a vision of the natural world as a stable and enduring order, a vision with Newtonian roots, in which even the growth of a complex entity like a forest followed a regular and predictable cycle on a map.

Science, according to this ideal of "sustained extraction," could become the basis of continued prosperity, a tool for economic growth, and thus could lay the foundations for a lasting social order. Laws and regulations governing extraction could be made scientific, and experts in the science of biological growth could become the architects of a more secure nation. Robert Lee argues that the Germany of that period was not yet the "stable, hierarchical, stratified, and highly structured society" that it would later become, but rather was still divided into rival religious faiths, Protestant and Catholic, and it had been devastated by a long period of war and rebellion and by many anti-social encroachments on private resources. "Sustained extraction," he writes, "seems to have been a response to uncertainty and instability...[I]t was an instrument for ordering social and economic conditions."[2]

Americans such as Bernhard Fernow (1851-1923), an immigrant from Germany, and Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946), the first Chief Forest Engineer in the Department of Agriculture, imported the theory of sustained extraction into the United States. in environmental management during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Fernow, who was of Prussian origin, had studied sustained logging techniques at the Prussian Forestry Academy in Munden and was critical of the laissez-faire economics of his adopted country. Forest resources, he explained, can deteriorate under the active competition of private enterprise and their deterioration can adversely affect other conditions of material existence; . the maintenance of a continuous supply and favorable conditions is possible only under the supervision of permanent institutions for which present benefit is not the sole motive. It pre-eminently requires the exercise of the providential functions of the state to counteract the destructive tendencies of private exploitation.[3]

The German notion of the state as a necessary counterweight to the anarchic and short-term thinking of laissez-faire capitalism was a key part of the idea of sustained extraction. Pinchot, who had studied at the French Forestry School in Nancy and examined model forests in France, Germany and Switzerland, also believed that the state, guided by trained professionals like himself, should play an active role in managing natural resources. of the nation in order to ensure a sustainable future. For both men, nature was little more than a utilitarian good to be managed and harvested for the common good. They had completely absorbed the dominant worldview of their time, which dictated that the main goal of social life is economic progress - constantly increasing production in the long run - adding only the corollary that such production should be directed by the state and its subordinates. experts to prevent the destruction of the organic social order.

"Sustainable development" is therefore not a new concept but has been around for at least two centuries; it is a product of the European Enlightenment, is both progressive and conservative in its impulses and uncritically reflects modern faith in the ability of human intelligence to manage nature. The only thing that the Brundtland Report and other recent documents have new is that they have spread the idea around the globe. Now it is Planet Earth, and not merely a beech forest, that has to be managed by qualified minds, by an eco-technocratic elite. Though never explicit, contemporary advocates of sustainable development are pushing a political ideal alongside an environmental policy: one that advocates a more centralized authority that can disinterestedly manage the entire global ecosystem. Neither large capitalist corporations nor traditional rural communities can be trusted, they suggest, to single-handedly find a sustainable path to the pinnacle of universal abundance.

I cannot help but agree that a world of aggressive nations and individuals seizing resources for their own selfish enrichment, regardless of how others fare, is doomed to end in violence. Nor can I disagree that it will cause ecological degradation that will eventually sink us all. Multinational corporations are taking us down this path at full speed, while the small rural villages of the past are fading away and seem powerless to prevent this outcome. However, can we really trust the state and its scientific experts to save us from this situation and show us how to successfully manage a global ecosystem 12,800 kilometers in diameter and 500 million square kilometers in extent, and teach us how to make it produce more and more, until all human beings on earth enjoy a life of princes, and all this without destroying its capacity for renewal? The ground on which this hope rests is dodgy ground.

Sustainability, to begin with, is an idea that has never been well defined. Until we have a clearer consensus about it, we cannot know what is being promised or what is being sought. Consider the issue of time frame. What society is sustainable? A society that lasts a decade, one that lasts a human life, or one that lasts a thousand years? If we want to give more authority to development experts it is not enough for them to merely say “sustainable for a long period”, or even “for the next generation”. On the other hand, no one really expects sustainable to mean “forever and ever”; this would be a utopian expectation that no society has ever achieved. If we can't expect to achieve perfect sustainability that lasts forever, then what can we expect? What can we try to achieve? What degree of sustainability should we establish? Nobody, to my knowledge, has yet given a definitive answer.

In addition to not offering us a clear time frame, the ideal of sustainability is presented to us with a bewildering multiplicity of criteria and we have to choose which ones we want to emphasize before we can develop any concrete program of action. Among the dozens of possible sets of criteria, three or four have dominated the discussion in recent times, each one of them based on a different field of knowledge and with very little common ground.[4]

The field of economics, for example, has its own peculiar notion of what sustainability means. Economists focus on when societies reach a starting point for continued, long-term growth, investment, and profit in a market economy. For example, the United States reached that point around 1850, and has been growing steadily ever since, despite a few recessions and depressions. According to this criterion, any or all of the industrial societies are already sustainable, while the backward agrarian societies are not.[5]

On the other hand, scholars of medicine and public health have a different notion of the world; sustainability is for them a state of individual physiological well-being, a state that can be measured by doctors and nutritionists. Therefore, they focus on the risks of water and air pollution or the availability of food and water; or talk about the threat that shrinking gene pools pose to the practice of medicine and the supply of drugs. Despite the existence of many such threats today, most health experts would admit that great strides have been made around the world in human health over the last few centuries. Consequently, according to their criteria, the state of humanity is much more sustainable today than it was in the past - a fact that is demonstrated by the explosive growth of the population and the life expectancies of the majority of the societies. By the criterion of physiological fitness, people living in industrial societies are doing much better than our ancestors or our peers living in non-industrial societies.

Another group of experts, political and social scientists, speak of "sustainable institutions" and "sustainable societies," which seems to refer to the ability of institutions or leading groups to command sufficient public support to renew themselves themselves and stay in power.[6] So, sustainable societies are simply those that are capable of reproducing their political and social institutions, without discussing whether the institutions are good or bad, compassionate or unjust. According to this way of reasoning, the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union have not proven sustainable and have been thrown into the dustbin of history.

These are all prominent and important uses of the term that can be found in various fields of knowledge, and undoubtedly all of them can be defined in very sophisticated ways (and much more precisely than I have indicated here). Contrary to this, we also have some simpler and more popular notions of the term. One of the clearest, succinct, and least complicated definitions is the work of Wendell Berry, an American writer and scathing critic of anything that sounds expert. Specifically, he defends a more sustainable agriculture than we have today, referring to an agriculture that "does not deplete the soil or the people."[7] This phrase expresses, as does much of Berry's work, an old-fashioned agrarian way of thinking, steeped in the folk history and local knowledge of their rural Kentucky neighbors. Like everything Berry writes, it has a concise, elementary air and the great virtue of drawing our attention to the fact that people and the earth are interdependent, a fact that the specialized approaches of economists and other scholars generally overlook. .

According to Berry, the only truly sustainable societies have been small-scale agrarian ones; no modern industrial society can choose to be. His own model, based on the livelihoods and culture of the Jeffersonian farmer, must be seen as part of the economic past; it has virtually disappeared from modern American life. One might wonder, as Berry's critics often do, if he is not offering us more myth than reality: Did such non-depleting rural communities ever really exist in the United States, or are they just idealizations or indulgent products of a false nostalgia? However, even if we accept Berry's differentiation between “sustainable agricultural” and “ unsustainable industrial”, it is not clear what the prerequisites for sustainability, or the measures of its success, would be. What meaning can we give to the idea of “people exhaustion”? Is it a demographic or cultural idea? How much self-sufficiency or production by the local community does it require and how much market exchange does it allow? In fact, what does Berry mean by his notion of soil depletion? Pedologists point out that the United States has lost, on average, half of its topsoil since white settlement began; but many of them also add that said soil loss will not be a problem as long as we can compensate it with chemical fertilizers. Once again we find ourselves in the quagmire of deciding who are the experts whose knowledge, language and values define sustainability. Berry would reply, I suppose, that we should let local people define it, but national and international rulers will want something that is more objective.

All these definitions and criteria are floating in the air today, confusing our language and our thinking, demanding much more than an agreed meaning before we can achieve concerted environmental action programmes. Indeed, there is a broad implication in the literature I have cited that sustainability is at bottom an ecological concept: the goal of environmentalism should be to achieve “ecological sustainability”. What this means is that the science of ecology is expected to cut through all that confusion and define sustainability for us; it should point out which practices are ecologically sustainable and which are not. Once again we are faced with the task of seeking a set of expert and objective responses to guide policy. But how much do those ecology experts really help? Do they have a clear definition or set of criteria to offer? Do they even have a clear and coherent perception of nature that they can offer as a basis for international action?

Ecologists have traditionally approached nature as a series of overlapping biological systems or ecosystems. Contrary to most economists, for whom nature is not a relevant category for analysis, they have insisted that such systems are not disorganized or useless, but rather self-organizing and producing many material benefits that we need. The role of ecologists, therefore, as we have come to understand it, is to reveal to ordinary mortals how ecosystems, or their modifications in the form of agrosystems, withstand the stress of human demands and help us determine the critical point when the stress becomes so severe that they collapse.

If we accept this expert tutelage, the ecological idea of sustainability becomes, quite simply, a new way of measuring production, rivaling that of the economists: a measure of productivity in nature's economy where we find consumption objects such as soils, forests and fisheries and a way to measure the capacity of that economy to recover from stresses, avoid collapse and maintain production. Unfortunately, compared to economists, ecologists have lately become very insecure about their own role as advisers. His stress and collapse rates have been called into question and his expertise is in question.

A few decades ago, ecologists commonly believed that nature, if left free from human interference, eventually reached a state of stability or equilibrium in which production was maintained at a constant rate. The origins of this idea go back to the hidden depths of human memory, to the remote past of all pre-modern civilizations. Especially for Westerners, the idea of a nature understood as a balanced order has antecedents in the ancient Greeks, medieval Christianity and the rationalism of the eighteenth century and even survived the profound intellectual revolution caused by Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. by natural selection. Since it appeared in the late 19th century, the science of ecology echoed that ancient faith in the essential ordering of nature, and until recently almost all ecologists would have agreed that sustainability was about accommodating the human economy. to that constancy and that order. Today that is no longer the case.[537]

Back in the 1970s, ecology began looking for new ways to describe the planet's forests, grasslands, oceans, and every other biome, and the result is the emergence today of a more permissive set of ideas that rejects virtually all notions of stability, balance, constancy and order, whether new or old, and instead portrays a nature that is far more forgiving of human activity. We live in the midst of a nature that has undergone profound and constant changes for as long as we can imagine, experts now argue with the help of scientific techniques; we are faced with a nature populated by rude individualists, aggressive opportunists and ambitious egoists. In such nature there is no integrated community, nor a lasting system of relationships; there is no interdependence. Indeed, it appears that the sun rises regularly each day and at predictable points; the four seasons come and go with great regularity. However, pay no attention to all that, we are told; look at the populations of plants and animals that live in any given area that we may call wild, virgin, or natural, and you will discover that there are no regularities, no constancy, and no order at all.

Many of these ideas appear in a recent book entitled Discordant Harmonies (1990)[e], which describes itself as “a new ecology for the 21st century”. Here is how its author, Daniel Botkin, a famous Californian ecologist, sees the current state of science:

Until a few years ago, the prevailing theories in ecology either presupposed or considered as a necessary consequence a very strict concept of an ecological system in a highly structured, ordered and regulated stable state. Scientists now know that this view is wrong at the local and regional levels...that is, at the population and ecosystem levels. The change now appears to be intrinsic and natural in the biosphere on many scales of time and space.

“ Wherever we try to find constancy” in nature, Botkin writes, “we discover change.”[538]

The basis for this new ecology is a body of evidence that is essentially historical, including pollen samples, tree rings, and animal population cycles, all of which show that the natural world is in flux. constant, as unstable as the human world, in which wars, assassinations, invasions, economic crises and social disorder of all kinds constitute the only normal state we know.

For example, we can look at the history of a small old-growth forest in New Jersey that was preserved from development in the 1950s by assuming that it was a surviving remnant of old-growth climactic forest, dominated by oak and hickory[f] that in their day they grew in the area. Scientists suppressed forest fires to keep it virgin and undisturbed. In the 1960s, however, they began to discover that maples from outside were encroaching on their reservation. If they suppressed all the fires, if they tried to keep their forest “natural”, they were doomed to fail. So, they were forced to ask, what was the equilibrium state in this habitat? What was the true order of nature?

Another clue comes from pollen extracted from the sediments of ponds and lakes throughout North America and, indeed, on all major continents. The pollen shows that all areas of the Earth have experienced wide variation in plant cover from year to year and century to century, as well as from glacial to interglacial. When the great ice caps covered the North American continent, all the plants retreated south or into the lowlands - and it was not the orderly retreat of a superorganism constituted by an organized community, but a chaotic disbandment. Then, when the glaciers retreated, leaving the land bare, those same plants carried out a messy and chaotic invasion of their former territory. There was no organized return of the communities.

According to Botkin:

Nature undisturbed by human influence is more like a symphony whose harmonies emerge from variation and change across all intervals of time. We see a landscape that is always in flux, changing across many scales of time and space, changing with individual births and deaths, with local disturbances and recoveries, with large-scale responses to the climate of one ice age or another. and with the slowest soil alterations; and with even greater variations between ice ages.[10]

However, Botkin makes a very notable amendment to this statement when he adds that "the symphony of nature" is more like several compositions that were played simultaneously in the same room, "each with its own rhythm and cadence". And so he comes to what is really the practical conclusion of his ecology for rulers, environmentalists and promoters of development: "We are forced to choose between these [compositions], which we have only just begun to listen to and understand." Or, it could be said, that after learning to listen to all those discords of nature, human beings have to assume the role of directing the music. If there is to be any order in nature, it is our responsibility to achieve it. If there is to be any harmony, we must overcome apparent discord. “Nature in the 21st century”, concludes this scientist, “will be a nature made by us”. It is to such a conclusion that Botkin's science has been leading him all along: to a rejection of nature as the norm or criterion for human civilization and to a defense of a human right and need to order and shape nature. We are arriving, he proclaims, at a new notion of Earth "in which we are a part of a living and changing system whose changes we can accept, use and control to make the Earth a comfortable home, for each of us individually." and for everyone collectively in our civilizations.” I believe that this new turn in ecological science towards revisionism and relativism is motivated, in part, by a desire to be less critical of economic development than environmentalists were in the 1960s and 1970s. Botkin criticizes that time for his radical, sometimes hostile rejection of modern technology and progress. He believes that we need a science of ecology that approaches development “in a more constructive and positive way”[11].

These conclusions constitute what I would call a new permissiveness in ecology - more permissive of human desires than was traditional, pre-1970s ecology, and emphatically more permissive than was the ecological mindset of ecologists in the United States. the 1960s and 1970s. This new ecology makes human needs and desires the main criteria for deciding what should be done with the land. He denies that one can find in Nature, past or present, any criteria, much less a limit, for such desires. Botkin alludes to this denial early in his book when he criticizes the environmentalism of the 1960s and 1970s as “essentially a disapproving and, in this sense, a negative movement, denouncing those aspects of our civilization that are bad for our environment...” . What we need to do, he says, is to get away from this critical environmentalism and move towards a position “that combines technology with our concern about our environment in a constructive and positive way”.[11]

This new spin on ecology presents several difficulties that I don't think advocates of sustainable development have really taken into account. First, the idea, taken as a whole, of a normal 'output' or 'yield' drawn from the natural economy becomes, if we follow Botkin's reasoning, much more ambiguous. Scientists once believed that they could relatively easily determine the maximum sustainable yield that a forest or fishery could provide. They just had to determine the population in the steady state of the ecosystem and then calculate how much fish they could catch each year without affecting the remaining population. They could get the interest without spending the initial fixed capital. Botkin asserts that it was just that trust that led to overfishing in the California sardine industry12 - and to the complete collapse of that industry in the 1950s.[12]

However, if the natural populations of fish and other organisms are constantly fluctuating in such a way that we cannot set maximum sustainable harvest amounts, could we instead set the more flexible criterion of “optimal production”, which would allow us some margins? of error and a more generous fluctuations? That is where most of the thinking about ecological sustainability today resides. Extract goods from nature, but do so at a slightly reduced level to avoid putting too much pressure on a system that is changeable and stochastic. Call this option the safe optimum. However, this formula does not really address a more basic challenge implicit in recent ecological thinking. What can “sustainable use”, let alone “sustainable development”, mean in a natural world subject to so much disturbance and chaotic turbulence? Our ability to predict, ecologists say, is much more limited than we imagined. Our understanding of what is normal in nature now seems arbitrary and biased to many.

The only real guidance Botkin offers us, and this is equally true for most ecologists today, is that slow rates of change in ecosystems are "more natural" and therefore more desirable than fast rates. . “We have to be careful,” Botkin tells us, “when we manipulate nature at an unnatural pace and in novel ways.”[13] And this is all it offers us. However, when we need more concrete advice, the ecologist remains embarrassingly silent; it can hardly tell anymore what is "unnatural" or what is "novel" in light of the incredibly shifting record of earth's past.

In the much-vaunted partnership between ecological sustainability advocates and development advocates, who will lead whom? This is the most important question to ask about the new path that so many want us to take. I am afraid that in that partnership it will be the “development” side that makes most of the decisions and that the “sustainable” side will trot after it, smiling and cheerful, unable to establish firm leadership and complaining only about the pace of the journey. “You must go slower, my friend, you are going too fast for me. This is a good path to progress, but we must move at a more 'natural' speed.

In the absence of a clear idea of what a healthy nature consists of, or of how threats to the whole biological community could affect us, we will end up depending on utilitarian, economic and anthropocentric definitions of sustainability. That is where, it seems to me, is the crux of the matter at this point. Sustainability is, above all, an economic concept about which economists are clear and ecologists are not. If this conclusion is unacceptable to you, as it is to me, then you should try to change the elementary terms of the discussion.

I find the following flaws in the idea of sustainable development:

First, it is based on the notion that the natural world exists primarily to serve the material needs of the human species. Nature is nothing more than a set of "resources" to be exploited; it has no intrinsic meaning or value apart from the goods and services it brings to people, rich or poor. The Bruntland Report makes this point abundantly clear on every page: the "our" in its title refers to people only, and the only moral issue it raises is the need to share natural resources more equitably among our own. species, among the world population today and with future generations. This is not an insignificant goal, but it is not up to the challenge.

Second, sustainable development, while acknowledging certain kinds of limits to material demands, depends on the assumption that we can easily determine the carrying capacity of local and regional ecosystems. Supposedly, our knowledge is adequate to reveal the limits of nature and to exploit resources safely up to that level. Given new arguments suggesting how turbulent, complex, and unpredictable nature is, that assumption seems overly optimistic. Moreover, in light of the tendency of some leading ecologists to use such arguments to justify a more accommodative stance on development, placing too much faith in their ecological expertise seems doubly dangerous; they are experts who lack any consensus about what the limits are.

Third, the ideal of sustainability rests on an uncritical and unquestioning acceptance of the traditional worldview of secular and progressive materialism. Consider this worldview something entirely benign as long as it can be sustained. The institutions associated with such a worldview, including those of capitalism, socialism, and industrialism, are also beyond criticism, beyond detailed scrutiny. It is about making us believe that sustainability can be achieved by leaving these institutions and their values intact.

Perhaps my objections can be fully answered by the defenders of the idea of sustainable development. I suspect, however, that your answer will be based, at heart, on the argument that the idea of sustainable development is the only kind of politically acceptable environmentalism that we can hope for at the moment. It is desirable simply because it represents consensus politics.

Having been so critical of this easy, sloganeering alternative, I feel compelled to conclude with a few thoughts of my own on what a real solution to the global crisis will require. I assume that it will be more difficult to achieve, but I would say that its impact is more revolutionary and that it will be more morally advanced.

We must make our highest priority in dealing with the earth the careful and strict preservation of the billion-year heritage achieved through the evolution of plant and animal life. We must preserve as many species, subspecies, varieties, communities and ecosystems as possible. We must not, through our actions, cause the extinction of any other species. It is true that we cannot stop all death or extinction, because the death of living beings is an inevitable part of the functioning of nature, but we can avoid adding more to that fateful result. We can stop reversing evolutionary processes like we do today. We can work to preserve as much genetic variety as possible. We can save threatened habitats and restore those that are necessary to maintain the evolutionary heritage. We can and should do all this mainly because the living legacy of evolution has an intrinsic value that we have not created, but only inherited and enjoyed. This legacy requires our respect, our sympathy and our love.

It is unquestionable that we have the right to use this legacy to improve our material state, but only after taking, in every community, in every nation and in every family, the strictest measures to preserve it from extinction and degradation.

To preserve this evolutionary heritage is to focus our attention on the long history of life's struggle on this planet. In recent centuries we have had our eyes fixed almost exclusively on the future and the potential abundance it could offer our ambitious species. Now is the time to learn to look back more often and, appreciating that past, learn humility in the face of an achievement that dwarfs all of our technology and all of our human aspirations.

Preserving this heritage means putting values other than economic values first among our priorities: the value of natural beauty, the value of respect for what we have not created and, above all, the value of life itself, a phenomenon that even Today, with all our intelligence, we can't really explain.

Learning to appreciate and preserve that legacy is the most difficult path the human species can take. I don't even know, rather I have a lot of doubts about it, if it is realistic at the point where we are, given the state of affairs in global politics, to expect most nations to be ready or willing to take it. However, I know that it is the right path, while the ambiguities, concessions and soft words of sustainable development can lead us into a quagmire.


1. Quoted in the book of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future[g] (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 64. See also Sandbrook, <em >The Conservation and Development Program for the UK: A Response to the World Conservation Strategy</em> (1982); Our Common Future:

g There is a Spanish translation:[https://es.scribd.com/doc/105305734/ONU-Informe-Brundtland-Ago-1987-Informe-de-la-Comision-Mundial-sobre-Medio-Ambiente-y-Desarrollo][https://es.scribd.com/doc/105305734/ONU-Informe-Brundtland-Ago-][https://es.scribd.com/doc/105305734/ONU-Informe-Brundtland-Ago-1987- Report-of-the-World-Commission-on-Environment-and-Development]N. from t.

A Canadian Response to the Challenge of Sustainable Development (Ottawa: Harmony Foundation of Canada, 1989); and Raymond F. Dasmann, “Toward a Biosphere Consciousness,” in The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History, ed. Donald Worster (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 281-285.

2. Robert G. Lee, “Sustained-Yield and Social Order,” in History of Sustained-Yield Forestry: A Symposium, ed. Harold K. Steen (sl: Forest History Society, 1984), 9495. See also Heinrich Rübner, “Sustained-Yield Forestry in Europe and Its Crisis During the Era of Nazi Dictatorship”, ibid., 170 -175; and Claus Wiebecke and W. Peters, “Aspects of Sustained-Yield History: Forest Sustention as the Principle of Forestry-Idea and Reality,” ibid., 176-183.

3. Bernard E. Fernow, Economics of Forestry (New York: TY Crowell, 1902), 20.

4. I have found two books by Michael Redclift that may be useful in this case: Development and the Environment Crisis: Red or Green Alternatives? (London: Methuen, 1984); and Sustainable Development: Exploring the

Contradictions (London: Methuen, 1987). See also Sharachchandra M. L'el'e, “Sustainable Development: A Critical Review”, World Development, 19 (June 1991), 607-621.

5. Clem Tisdell, “Sustainable Development: Differing Perspectives of Ecologists and Economists, and Relevance to LDC's”, World Development, 16 (March 1988), 373384.

6. Arthur A. Goldsmith and Derick W. Brinkerhoff define sustainability as a condition in which “the products[h][of an institution] are sufficiently valued so that the contributions[539][540] continue ”. See his book, Institutional Sustainability in Agriculture and Rural Development: A Global Perspective (New York: Praeger, 1990), 13-14.

7. Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, and Bruce Colman, eds., Meeting the Expectations of the Land: Essays in Sustainable Agriculture and Stewardship (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1984), x.

8. An example of how these old ecological theories still influence advocates of sustainable development is P. Bartelmus, Environment and Development (London: Alen and Unwin, 1986), 44.

9. Daniel B. Botkin, Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990)[j], 10 and 62.

10. Ibid., 62.

11. Ibid., 6, 183, 189 and 193.

12. See also Arthur McEvoy, The Fisherman's Problem: Ecology and Law in California Fisheries, 1850-1980 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 6-7, 10 and 150-151.

13. Botkin, Discordant Harmonies, 190.

The ecology of order and chaos

By Donald Worster

The science of ecology has had a popular impact unknown in any other field of research. Consider the extraordinary pervasiveness of the term itself: it has appeared in both the most commonplace and the most amazing places, on fluorescent T-shirts, in corporate advertising, and on bridge abutments. The language of politics and philosophy has changed - in many countries political groups are emerging that identify themselves as “Parties for Ecology”. However, who has ever proposed forming a political party whose name is "Party for Comparative Linguistics" or "Party for the Advancement of Paleontology"? On several continents we have a philosophical movement called “Deep Ecology”, but nowhere has anyone put forward a movement for “Deep Entomology” or “Deep Polish Literature”. Why has ecology, this strange little word, coined by a little-known 19th-century German scientist, acquired such powerful cultural resonance, such wide acceptance ?

Behind the persistent enthusiasm for ecology, I think, lies the hope that this science can offer much more than a big pile of data. It is supposed to offer a pathway to a kind of moral progress that we can call, for the sake of simplicity, " preservation." The expectation did not originate in the public, but first appeared among eminent scientists in the field. For example, in his 1935 book, Deserts on the March, prominent botanist at the University of Oklahoma and later Yale, Paul Sears urged Americans to take ecology seriously, promote it in their universities and make it part of government processes. "In Britain," he noted, ecologists are being consulted at every step of planning for the proper utilization of the parts of the Empire that have not yet been colonized, thereby ending ... the era of unbridled exploitation. There are hopeful, if all too few, signs that our own national government has realized the role that ecology must play in ongoing planning.[1]

Sears recommended that the United States retain the services of a few ecologists in each of its counties to advise citizens on land use issues and thus stop environmental degradation; such brigades, he thought, would make the entire nation biologically and economically sustainable.

In a 1947 addendum to that book, Sears added that ecologists, acting in the public interest, would infuse into the American mind that "field of knowledge," that "point of view, which peculiarly encompasses all that is meant by conservation." .[two] In other words, in the 1930s and 1940s, ecology was being welcomed as a much-needed guide to a future that would be inspired by an ethic of conservation. And conservation for Sears meant restoring biological order, maintaining the health of the earth and, consequently, the well-being of the nation,

[a] Translation by Último Reducto from “The Ecology of Order and Chaos”, chapter 13 of The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination, Oxford University Press, 1993. Copyright © 1993 Donald Worster. N. of t. seeking a lasting balance with nature, both through moral and technical means.

While we haven't heeded all of Sears' suggestions - we haven't yet put any ecologists on county payrolls, with an office next to the tax collector's and sheriff's's - we've walked a surprisingly long way in the direction indicated by him. Every day, somewhere in the nation, an ecologist is at work writing an environmental impact report, tracking a human-caused environmental disturbance, or testifying in court.

Twelve years ago, I published the history, going back to the eighteenth century, of this scientific discipline and its ideas about nature.[3] Taken as a whole, the conclusions of that book still seem sensible and valid to me: that this science has come to have in modern times an important influence on our perception of nature; that his ideas, on the other hand, have been both a reflection of ourselves and objective perceptions of nature; that scientific analysis cannot take the place of moral reasoning; that science, including the science of ecology, promotes, at least in some of its manifestations, some of our darkest ambitions toward nature and therefore itself needs moral scrutiny and critique from time to time. Ecology, I argued, should never be taken as an all-knowing and always trustworthy guide. We must be willing to challenge its authority, and indeed to question the authority of science in general; not rush to belittle, vilify or guillotinate it, but simply, from time to time, to question it.

Since my book was published, a considerable amount of new ideas and new research in ecology has accumulated. I intend to examine some of these rece