Progress versus Wilderness
Progress versus Wilderness Essay
This writer's personal viewpoint is that "progress" (as the term is generally understood in modern society) is in the long run incompatible with wilderness preservation. However, the purpose of this article is less to persuade the reader that this viewpoint is correct than to get him to face the issue squarely and make a decision for himself, one way or the other.
The fact that there is a conflict between economic growth, on the one hand, and wilderness, freedom, and a wholesome environment, on the other, is implicit in any discussion of wilderness values. But there seems to be a widespread reluctance to bring this issue out in the open and ask explicitly whether genuine wilderness can be preserved if economic progress continues.
For example, when this author recently did some work for a local Audubon Society, he mentioned to a couple of the members, that chronic woe of the environmentalist: While conservation organisations are solving one problem, six other problems are growing up to take its place. These men warmly agreed, "Yes," they said, "It can get discouraging. The problems multiply faster than the solutions." The writer than suggested that the only cure might be a fundamental change in our society's attitude toward economic progress. At this the Audubon men were turned very cold. They would neither affirm nor deny that there was an irreconcilable conflict between wilderness and "progress". They seemed reluctant to discuss the question at all. It made them uncomfortable.
This is an unhealthy situation. The conflict should be faced directly and discussed in explicit terms. The present article will outline the writers personal conclusions, and perhaps this will force the reader to think about the problem and arrive at a definite opinion of his own.
The conflict that concerns us can be expressed more precisely using the concept of “wildness” expounded by Roderick Nash (“The Future of Wilderness: The Need for a Philosophy”, Wild America, July 1979). Wildness is that which is not controlled by organized society. Today, wilderness provides the most important opportunity to experience wildness.
"Progress," as it is currently understood implies the ceaseless improvement of efficiency in economic productivity, in education, in medicine, in communications, and in any other socially accepted area of activity — including wilderness recreation. Those who have experienced power blackouts, traffic jams, or poor postal service may smile at this notion, but such problems are only the growing pains of a society whose main thrust is in the direction of efficiency. In spite of power blackouts, more work is done for us than ever before; in spite of fuel shortages, more people travel further and faster than they did teen years ago.
But efficiency implies control. Wildness, the uncontrolled, the unpredictable get in the way. ...
A Reply from the Earth First! Journal
I thoroughly enjoyed your article, “Progress Versus Wilderness.” It was very nicely written, and I found myself agreeing with everything you had to say. …
A Reply to the Reply
Dear Mr. Schneider:
I thank you for your letter …
Some sort of organized movement should be formed which should develop an anti-technological, pro-nature ideology and wait for the right political and psychological moment to expand its influence. Modern society currently seems to be in a state of sociological uncertainty and disorganization. It is quite possible that at some point some group will “save” the mass of mankind by presenting them with an ideology in which they can Believe …