Australia is one of the few countries still lucky enough to have undeveloped land. We accept wilderness as an integral part of the landscape, while people who live in crowded and developed countries are spellbound by it.
But our wild places have not always been regarded as places worth keeping.
For almost 230 years native vegetation has been seen as an impediment to progress and extensively cleared. Entire ecosystems have disappeared and biological diversity has been wiped out.
Attitudes have only just begun to change. It was only in the last decades of the 20th century that wilderness began to be reserved.
Australia’s future relies on healthy soil, air and water systems and wilderness provides their best protection. It contains most of our ancient forests that purify our air and its pristine catchments yield water that does not require expensive treatment.
Wilderness is where we find peace, solitude and an opportunity for reflection away from machinery and the pressures of modern living. Many plant and animal populations will survive only if we preserve wilderness. Australia's distinctive heritage of wild landscapes and unique wildlife is at risk if we give in to the pressures of exploitation.
The world's population is growing. As it does, pressure to exploit our natural resources intensifies and our last remaining wilderness areas come under increasing threat. Miners, loggers, farmers and property developers interests, along with the commercial tourism operators and high-impact users such as recreational four-wheel-drivers are queuing to get into these rare areas. We must treat these areas carefully.
If we can stabilise the consumption of natural resources, Australian society will be able to preserve wild places. Wilderness will remain a talisman of hope for the natural world and be our legacy for future generations to cherish. In the words of Henry Thoreau, as true today as when they were first written in 1851, "In Wildness is the preservation of the World."
The Colong Foundation is dedicated to those who understand that society has more to gain from wilderness preservation than from its exploitation.