WILDERNESS AND THE FUTURE
In April, 1851, giving a lecture in Concord, Massachusetts, the practical philosopher Henry David Thoreau put the case for ‘Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness’, crystallising his message near the end with these famous words – ‘in Wildness is the preservation of the World’ (R. Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind).
What Thoreau was talking about was the way he believed wildness could provide balance in the lives of a people whose environments were increasingly being affected by the unrelenting march of progress. By tapping the wildness which he believed was within us all, he said it could provide relief from the industrial civilisation and its urban and rural landscapes. Having vehemently argued how important wildness was to civilisation Thoreau urged its protection in parks and preserves for inspiration and our true recreation.
A century and a half later the need for the balancing role of wildness in our lives in the sense argued by Thoreau is greater than ever, and in wilderness, as he himself acknowledged, we can experience wildness in its fullest sense. But, in our current situation of a world where the process of environmental modification threatens to destroy our ecological life support systems, has wilderness even more to offer?
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