Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (William Cronon)
“The only thing we have to preserve nature with is culture; the only thing we have to preserve wildness with is domesticity.” (Wendell Berry)
The time has come to rethink wilderness...
Learning to honor the wild—learning to remember and acknowledge the autonomy of the other—means striving for critical self-consciousness in all of our actions. It means the deep reflection and respect must accompany each act of use, and means too that we must always consider the possibility of non-use. It means looking at the part of nature we intend to turn toward our own ends and asking whether we can use it again and again and again—sustainably—without its being diminished in the process. It means never imagining that we can flee into a mythical wilderness to escape history and the obligation to take responsibility for our own actions that history inescapably entails. Most of all, it means practicing remembrance and gratitude, for thanksgiving is the simplest and most basic of ways for us to recollect the nature, the culture, and the history that have come together to make the world as we know it. If wildness can stop being (just) out there and start being (also) in here, if it can start being as humane as it is natural, then perhaps we can get on with the unending task of struggling to live rightly in the world—not just in the garden, not just in the wilderness, but in the home that encompasses them both.
The above is excerpted from a long, thought provoking piece by environmental historian, Prof. William Cronon. The paper is titled, "The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature." Read the full work here.