An area which has generally been affected more by natural forces than by human agency; a region little affected by people. Some 77 000 km2 of the USA have been designated as wilderness areas, under the Wilderness Act of 1964. These are, ideally, areas which have never been subject to human manipulation of the ecology, whether deliberate or unconscious, and which are set aside as nature reserves to which human access is very severely restricted. Roads, motor vehicles, aircraft (except in an emergency), and any economic use are all forbidden.
The idea of wilderness is socially constructed: Baker (2002) Space & Cult. 5 argues that ‘the spatial production of wilderness is enmeshed in late capitalist economics and politics, whereas its consumption is structured to reproduce class distinction’. Hintz (2007) Eth. Place. Env. 10, 2, writes that ‘wilderness, we are told, can no longer be seen as a scenic playground for weary humans—it is, rather, an ecological necessity for the conservation of biodiversity’.
Some constructions of wilderness omit the works of people. P. Gobster and B. Hull, eds (2000) write of ‘re-wilding’ the landscape, an ideal shared by Noss (2000) USDA, Rocky Mountain Research Station Proceedings 15, 1: ‘the goal is not just to save existing wilderness, but to ‘re-wild’ much of what has been lost.’ This view has led to the expulsion of indigenous people from designated wilderness areas (W. Cronon1995); Warren (2007) PHG 31, 4 observes that ‘native species and wilderness areas are accorded high value precisely because of their naturalness, and “natural” typically carries the force of a moral imperative: this is the way things ought to be. But the belief that nature, to be natural, must be human-free, is rooted in a binary separation of nature and culture which is now widely regarded as false.’ Whatmore (1998) TIBG 23, 4 observes that animals have not been helped by the term ‘wild’: ‘Even as they are caught up in the assemblage of global regulatory networks designed to “protect” them, they find themselves objectified again in the urgent business of “wildlife management”.’
Subjects: Science and technology