The wilderness is not a symbolic construction. There is a danger that lies in the early romanticization of nature and in the separate-ness and alienation from it in our contemporary technocratic society. To both idolize and consume “the wilderness” is to misunderstand it, and in so doing, lies the tragic nature of the anthropocene. The readings of this week start with two supportive premises: 1) from Cox, “our understanding of the environment and our ability to work together can’t be separated from the need to communicate with others. Indeed, our language, visual images, and ways of interacting with others influence our most basic perceptions of the world and what we understand to be an environmental ‘problem’ itself”, and 2) from Purdy, “In every respect, the world we inhabit will henceforth be the world we have made. is is not reassuring: politics, economics, and ecology are all in near- perpetual crisis.”
The public’s value of the environment (and thus their symbolic and cultural construction of it) is crucial in defense of our climate going ahead. As scholars, artists, public citizens, we need to be producing work and asking questions in direct opposition of denial and passive action; we need to think of our exchanges as both informing and as being responsible for the communities we live in; and we need to ask questions about our past decisions and our future. Humans can’t just be going recklessly forward – we need a plan, and we need moral inquiry in order to understand our decisions.
As Cox said, we need to “challenge the colonial view of nature solely as alien and exploitable through the championing of wilderness”. I agree with this notion, and thus I think the best way to protect wilderness (both our conceptual idea of it, and the reality of the environment itself) would be to see it through the eyes of the 21st century, and as a precious resource existing in a world far too prone to exploit it.