Reading List
Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)
John Muir, Travels in Alaska (1915)
Mary Austin, The Ford (1917)
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)
Roderick Frazier Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (1967; rev. ed. 2001)
John McPhee, Coming Into the Country (1976)
Richard Nelson, The Island Within (1989)
Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild (1990)
Rita O’Clair, Richard Carstensen, and Robert Armstrong, The Nature of Southeast Alaska: A Guide to Plants, Animals, and Habitats (1992)
Barry Lopez, The Rediscovery of North America (1990)
Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer, eds., Haa Kusteeyí, Our Culture: Tlingit Life Stories (1994)
John Krakauer, Into the Wild (1996)
Gary Snyder, The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry and Translations (2000)
Shepard Krech, The Ecological Indian: Myth and History (2000)
Robert Finch and John Elder, eds., The Norton Book of Nature Writing (2002)
Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus (2005)
Julie Cruikshank, Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination (2005)

Nash Chapters

Chapter summaries from Roderick Frazier Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (1967), fourth edition 2001

Chapter One: Old World Roots of Opinion
Mary Byard

Wilderness, often perceived as an area not meeting the needs of or maintained by civilization, took on different meanings to different cultures. Western society viewed wilderness as uncultivated, rugged, beyond control, and dangerous. Middle Eastern cultures saw it as arid, unforgiving land, and again beyond control, while Eastern civilization viewed wilderness as a way to link the universe and the essence of God to each other. Each culture and civilization used their religious understanding of wilderness in ways to threaten, punish, or even enlighten the people of their culture.

Primitive man understood and appreciated what supplied his basic needs of survival. Therefore, he feared what he could not control. Man attempted to dominate wilderness in three respects: fire, domestication, and cultivation. Fire created heat and a way to extend food preparation. Domestication started with dogs and progressed to cattle, horses, sheep, and other animals. Cultivation advanced through the ability to control the land and water to raise crops. The best land, in Western Society’s opinion, stretched out flat and fertile and contained a fresh water supply.
The comparison of paradise and wilderness took place in biblical terms in Western cultures. The prime example exists in the book of Genesis with the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion out of the Garden of Eden into the wilderness. In this case, God uses wilderness as a punishment. The expulsion forces Adam and Eve to utilize the wilderness as a means of survival. God also uses wilderness as a form of punishment in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. He turns the city to salt pits and thorn bushes as a correction for the sins of the people.   
The Christian Bible also uses wilderness as a way to seek refuge, a place to rededicate and purify one’s life. The Israelites seek refuge as they wander for forty years in the wilderness in order to prepare for a life in a paradise granted to them by God. Noah takes refuge on a boat that God instructs him to build in order to survive the flood. Both of these examples show the trust the men hold in the deliverance God will send. Satan tests the pure son of God for forty days, only to have Jesus exit the wilderness as “rededicated” and “sanctified” to speak God’s word.  
Eastern society viewed wilderness as a way to blend a unity between the universe and God. Man was one with nature, and nature was not an object to fear. To fear nature would consist of the person fearing himself or herself. Wilderness and nature did not possess evil or unholy objects. According to Eastern society’s philosophy, wilderness was where one found the essence of God. In India’s religions, man was to show compassion to living things; man was not to rule over the creatures of the earth but to live in harmony with them.
Our culture develops the perception we hold of the world we live in. Many will develop the idea to live in harmony with the wilderness around us, while others will still hold true to the idea of fearing what we do not understand. If one cannot live in harmony, then they will find ways to control their surroundings. 
Discussion Questions
“One man’s wilderness may be another’s roadside picnic ground” (Nash 1). Keeping this quote in mind, describe what your idea of wilderness was upon entering this class. Has this opinion changed? Include in your description what physical attributes your original wilderness contained, the emotions that come forth, and the mental mind frame you hold while in your wilderness.    
Chapter one also mentions the mystery of the wilderness in reference to stories of mythological creatures that different cultures developed. What “creature” stories come to mind when you think of wilderness?
Since chapter one focuses on the viewing points of wilderness from both western and eastern society, discuss if wilderness is something that should be controlled (like western society believes) or should it be viewed as man and nature are one (like eastern society believes). Is there a common ground using both view points?

Chapter Two: A Wilderness Condition
Palmer Seeley

Conditioned by the Anglo-Saxon and Christian traditions that wilderness harbors evil and that goodness—nay, righteousness—lies in physical, intellectual, and spiritual cultivation, the American pioneer sought the wilds of the frontier in order to conquer the chaotic in the name of order and progress.

Alexis de Tocqueville noticed a contrast between how he, a European, and the American pioneer approached wilderness in the mid-1800s: while the European consciousness dwelt on notions of the wild, the American was unconscious of the wilds in which he dwelt. America’s frontier wilderness arrested Europe’s imagination, whereas the American vision saw through wilderness’ veil to nature subdued by manipulation and civilized by settlement. Extending as far back as the Mayflower’s William Bradford, settlers—necessarily living in proximity to the wild—have eyed American frontier wilderness with “defiant hatred” (Nash 24).
The American pioneer’s defiant attitude toward wildness paradoxically stems from the instinctual urge to survive. Basic needs such as food and shelter could be carved only out of wilderness; security established only by driving away the wildeor, be they beast or human, and transforming their forested haunts into cultivated fields and pastures. The pioneer, therefore, considered the wild an obstacle to be overcome akin to Moses’ desert sojourn. And since the Judeo-Christian tradition held that wilderness was a dark region devoid of morality to which the light of Christianity ought to be extended, the pioneer considered the civilizing of wilderness his moral duty, the successful application of which constituted the source of his pride.
The adversarial relationship between pioneer and wilderness encouraged the use of militaristic diction to describe the pioneer’s wilderness condition. Repeated references to the wild “as an ‘enemy’ which had to be ‘conquered,’ ‘subdued,’ and ‘vanquished’ ” endowed wilderness with conscious mentality if not corporeality, furthering the need to be on the offensive and entrenching in the American lexicon phrases which pit the individual against the wild (Nash 27).
Writers relied on European traditions of exaggerated creatures to describe wilderness’ dangers. Tales of “Dragons” and “Droves of Devils” not only presented fantasias on the physical hardships which the pioneer suffered, but also metaphorically related the very real temptation for a person to behave in a liberated (read “amoral”) manner when separated from society’s civilizing efforts (Nash 29). Thus, early New England settlers organized towns rather than seeking solitude in the wild. They aimed not for urbanity but sought the rural, as distinct from wildness
In the pastoral landscape of rural spaces the early pioneer who sought to fulfill God’s first commandment (Genesis 1:28) that humanity increase, conquer the earth, and have dominion over all living things actualized progress. While wilderness symbolized hardship, the pastoral represented the reward of an easier life, for “Americans hardly needed reminding that Eden had been a garden” (Nash 31). Many historic collegiate mottos and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s books bear witness that the waste-to-garden vision served as a metaphor for the Christian mission to cultivate the mind and thereby the spirit.
Those pioneers who did not approach wilderness from a deeply rooted Christian outlook advanced instead a utilitarian “waste-to-garden” vision, citing the uncultivated as “absolutely useless” or “unimproved” (Nash 32-33). Thus, in the lexicon of progress (as with godliness), wilderness signified “obstruction.” Only when a wilderness’ wildness appeared already tamed such that the landscape resembled a garden did it appeal, baring intrinsic aesthetic utility.
Discussion Questions
Nash writes that “Americans hardly needed reminding that Eden had been a garden” (31). Could we read this statement in the present tense? Does this statement remain true? Has anyone noticed the gardens on campus as superbly kept and yet strikingly discordant from the surrounding landscape?
The Puritans took pride in subduing the wilderness for they believed they had vanquished the haunts of sin. How is this ironic? Great irony in the Puritan notion that they’d vanquish sin by subduing the wilderness, for wildness survived and lived on in the colleges and cities founded by Puritans. (Nash 39)
How does the notion of the pioneer in Willa Cather’s novel O, Pioneers! complicate Nash’s explanation of the American pioneer’s “wilderness condition”? “For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning” (Cather 33).

Chapter 3: The Romantic Wilderness
Charles Danhof


At the close of the 18th century, while pioneers conquered the land and people still feared wilderness, most people, to some degree, began to look favorably upon the wilderness of America.
As scientists in Europe opened up the door to the Enlightenment, the view of wilderness began to shift. Rather than viewing nature as a dark and scary place, Europeans saw it as sublimely beautiful. This idea of the sublime brought nature in close relationship with God, and it became popular to praise wilderness rather than hating or fearing it. 
Nature as sublime really took hold in the hands of the Romantics who would rather have enjoyed the wild than a cultivated garden. Some of the Romantics, called Primitivists, “believed that man’s happiness and well-being decreased in direct proportion to his degree of civilization” (Nash 47). This belief stemmed in part from the legend of the “Wild Man,” who was brought out of the wilderness and placed into society. Ironically, many felt that the “Wild Man” could teach the lessons to the civilized, and that those in cities should head to the woods to learn more about themselves and to escape the immorality and materialism prevalent in cities. The Romantics excitement about wilderness soon trickled over the pond to America.
Understandably, people of all sorts who traveled in America during the 17th and 18th centuries thought of the wilderness here as being close in relation to God. The pioneers saw themselves as people to control and conquer the land while botanists, naturalists and others set out to explore the land. They went through the land feeling like primitive humans, and they also viewed all aspects of nature as sublime. The mountains, forests and deserts all struck awe into the travelers who saw them. 
There did, however, exist a divide in how settlers in the New World viewed the wilderness. Some were impressed and struck by the land tamed by the pioneers while others were more in awe of the unspoiled countryside, land that mostly remained in the West. 
In the mid-1800’s it became hip to appreciate nature and wilderness, so many people left cities and towns and took short excursions to the country. By this time, most of America had been traveled to, but new discoveries of the land and areas took the form of books that popularized the countryside for the general public. Also, while there still existed a divide between those who wanted to conquer the land and those who wanted to appreciate the land, the trappers, pioneers and others who conquered the land showed more common instances of being awed and inspired by the land.   
The Romantics succeeded in developing a greater appreciation of nature in American life, but there still existed a struggle between those who wanted to cultivate the land and make it civilized and those who enjoyed undisturbed nature. Naturally, most people fell somewhere between the assumption that, as a society, they needed to control the land in some respect but that it was also a place and a thing to be admired. People now respected the beautiful and sublime nature of the land, but the fear of land still prevailed. 

Chapter 4: The American Wilderness
Evelina Zarkh

Americans looked to the “wildness” of their landscape as a defining characteristic of their national identity, but even significant literary and artistic contributions known for their nationalistic celebration of the American wilderness were fraught with ambivalence about the relationship between wilderness and civilization.

In the early years of nationhood, Americans attempted to define their culture as distinct from the traditions of the Old World. The rise of Romanticism encouraged the appreciation of wilderness as a uniquely American “asset” to the project of shaping a national identity (67). The expression of national pride through nature first manifested itself in false comparisons between individual natural features in America and Europe, but these comparisons were not convincing enough to form the basis of a distinctive national character. Nationalists began to look to the “wildness” of the American landscape as the definitive quality that would guarantee America cultural superiority over Europe (69).
Early nationalist writers assumed the Romantic viewpoint that experiencing the American wilderness in its vast and “awful” scope would inspire generations of artists (70). Despite their efforts to exalt American wilderness in the visual imagination through “scenery albums,” even nationalists could not ignore the cultural capital of centuries of European tradition (71). Washington Irving, his fame as an American author notwithstanding, exemplified the tension between appreciation of New World scenery and veneration of Old World history because, ironically, both invoked his Romantic tendency to “lose [him]self” (72). 
Eventually, the wilderness did become a dominant motif in both Romantic and nationalistic writing, though not without the complexity and ambivalence embodied by Irving. Both William Cullen Bryant and James Kirke Pauling turned their eyes West in search of inspiration and “novelty of subject” (75). James Fenimore Cooper’s literary fame resulted from his Leatherstocking tales, easily identifiable as quintessentially American for being rooted in the American environment. Furthermore, Cooper’s Natty Bumppo, whom “the holiness of wild nature” imbued with morality and respect for the wilderness, became an archetypal hero of American Romantic literature (76). Nevertheless, Cooper’s own views valued the advancement of civilization into the wilderness, but without the pioneer emphasis on conquest. 
Like Cooper, landscape painter Thomas Cole celebrated wilderness in his work while being ever drawn to encroaching civilization. Though sweeping vistas and extraordinary natural features dwarfed the presence of humanity in many of his canvases, Cole’s fear of absolute solitude in the sublime wild increased his affection for civilized society. A trip to Europe in 1829 further complicated his understanding of the relationship between wilderness and civilization; he associated the untouched American landscape with spiritual sanctity and closeness to God, but embraced the “human interest, incident, and action” that would render more complete the aesthetic appeal and the intellectual resonance of that landscape. Thus, an ideal society that combined “the wild and the civilized” would help Americans appreciate wilderness as the defining element of their national character (81). Two generations of landscape artists who followed took up Cole’s legacy, turning their palettes and cameras ever farther westward in their quest to capture a uniquely wild landscape and the national identity they would have it represent.

Chapter Five: Henry David Thoreau: Philosopher
Zoe Roben

Thoreau’s famous quote, “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World,” shed a new light on the value of wildness in American culture. One of the major intellectual trends shaping Thoreau’s views was Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism was essentially the belief that “a correspondence or parallelism existed between the higher realm of spiritual truth and the lower one of material objects” (85). Transcendentalists distinguished intuition and imagination from rational understanding and believed that through the former, they could discover spiritual truths about themselves and the natural world. 
The Transcendentalists aligned wilderness with religion and looked to wilderness rather than civilization for moral guidance. Within their philosophy, wilderness was not the frightening and immoral realm that early settlers imagined. They believed that humans are basically good and thought of wilderness as a beneficial environment for finding God.
Thoreau’s conception of wilderness was also formed by his disdain for the materialistic side of civilization. Towns were growing rapidly by the mid-nineteenth century, and Thoreau looked down upon the technological progress that distracted people from a simpler way of life. Thoreau argued that earlier civilizations fell because they lost touch with their wild origins. 
He valued wilderness primarily as intellectual stimulation and believed that it represented each individual’s greatest potential. Living a free and simple life was conducive to discovering truths about oneself and the nature of reality. These ideas fit well within the nationalists’ conception of America’s greatness being rooted in wilderness. He believed that America had more potential than Europe because America’s potential had not yet been consumed by civilization. Within his theory that earlier nations failed because they grew away from their inherent wildness, America’s relatively untouched landscape represented a land of possibility. 
Despite his high regard for wilderness, his writings about his trips to Maine express his lingering fears of wilderness. In Maine, he found a wilderness that reflected a savage or pagan lifestyle and questioned some of his assumptions about feeling closest to God in nature. He saw a negative side of primitive culture that changed his ideas about good being found only in wilderness and began to see the good in civilization. He theorized that poets and philosophers such as himself were more capable than Indians of achieving great insight in the wilderness.
Through this experience, Thoreau began advocating a balance between civilization and wilderness. He appreciated the vitality and toughness of the wild but also the refined sensitivity and intellect of civilization. He tried to live his own life by going back and forth between the two to achieve the most productive balance. Rather than subscribe to a pastoral ideal that achieved a middle ground by blending wilderness and civilization, Thoreau believed in incorporating aspects of both extremes. Thoreau was not alone in his philosophy; other writers and thinkers were picking up on his ideas, including Charles Lane, Orestes Brownson, and Francis Parkman. Thoreau was a major supporter of the intellectual revolution that re-conceptualized wilderness as attractive and beneficial to American culture, rather than threatening.      

Chapter 6: Preserve the Wilderness!
Brian O’Shea

A growing appreciation for wild spaces, and the lament at the losses that had been seen throughout Europe and parts of the Americas, laid the groundwork for the United States government to begin planning for national preservation areas.

As appreciation for wilderness grew throughout the consciousness of the Americas, a sense of sadness at the losses already incurred began to emerge as well. Problems arose, though, as to what could be done about this loss “especially,” as Nash says “in view of the strength of rationales for conquering wild country” (96). The same Romantic ideals that bore the concept of nature appreciation, though, began to combat the laissez faire attitudes of those resigned to the fate of the wild as being a casualty to progress by conceptualizing and making steps toward creating areas permanently protected from “the transforming energies of civilization” (96).
The ideas that eventually gave way to preservation originated in the same realms, the literary and artistic circles of the East Coast, as those that lead the charge on nature appreciation. The first voices of this movement were writers and artists that aired concerns over the loss of wildness to progress, among whom were John James Audubon, author of Birds in America. Audubon, who wrote in his book “’that in a century the noble forests . . . should exist no more,” was soon joined by many writers of the Romantic bent who echoed his sentiments, among whom were Thomas Cole, William Cullen Bryant, Washington Irving and James Fennimore Cooper. Many of the writings that flowed from these authors were harshly critical of the unchecked exploration, conquering and civilizing of wild spaces, and often bordered on diatribe and scolding. Even historian Francis Parkman, Jr. historical take on wilderness and its role in the New World took pessimistic tones, from warnings about the absence of nature in Europe leading to the fall of great empires to the continually revised prefaces to The California and Oregon Trail, the “light and breezy tone” of which was contradicted by the 1873 condemnation of the train “which broke ‘the spell of weird mysterious mountains’” and his surrendering line of “’the Wild West is tamed, and its savage charms have withered’” (99-100).
The move beyond regret to the want to preserve natural lands was promoted at first by George Catlin, a painter, in the 1830s, who saw the loss of not just natural lands, but also native cultures, as a detriment to his country, and something that should be preserved. His ideas for creating a “magnificent park” in which all lands and peoples would remain unspoiled was echoed by many, though often for reasons beyond mere aesthetic appreciation. Cole argued that Europe had been decimated by unchecked civilization, Henry David Thoreau “defended wilderness as . . . intellectual nourishment for men,” and Horace Greely argued that it was essential for Americans to preserve wildness for the sake of remaining “American” (101-103). Samuel Hammond, a lawyer who was on record for noting that he quite enjoyed the fruits of civilization, such as telegraphs and locomotives, argued that there must be some way that both progress and wildness could flourish because nature was a place where he felt a man could renew his spirit, and, by extension, be more productive and a better citizen (103-104). George Perkins Marsh added to the argument for preservation that forests were necessary in order to maintain the water balance of the land so that the “drought, flood, erosion and unfavorable climatic chances,” seen in areas that had been clear cut would not manifest themselves in America (105).
Because of this movement to preserve wild lands in America, the government began to feel itself responsible to preserving areas for the people to commune with nature. Acts passed that preserved the Yosemite Reservation, an area protected from private ownership, and laid the foundation for continued government action in the area of wilderness preservation.
Chapter Eight: John Muir: Publicizer 
Brian Tippy

Drawing on previous ideas about the relationship of humanity to wilderness, John Muir exerted enormous influence on both public perception of untouched places and the political protection of such areas.

Before John Muir entered the public scene, the “creation of Yellowstone National Park and the Adirondack Forest Preserve marked a weakening of traditional American assumptions about uninhabited land” (122), but focused on the utilitarian, not the aesthetic or spiritual values of those areas. Raised a Calvinist, Muir learned that “Only slackers or sinners approached nature without axe or plough” (123), but eventually developed a sense that untouched nature “appeared to have a liberating influence conducive to human happiness” (123). At the University of Wisconsin, Muir was exposed to other models for viewing the natural world, models that allowed spirituality and natural science to coexist and compliment one other. Even so, it took a traumatic injury, sustained in a machine shop, to convinced him to blaze out a life outside of the realm of civilization.
Consequently, Muir made his first wild trek, a thousand-mile journey south to the Gulf of Mexico, writing a journal along the way that contained “the seeds of most of his basic ideas” (124). Malaria kept him from pursuing a course further southward, and he “sailed for the colder climate of northern California” (125).
Transcendentalism became Muir’s “essential philosophy for interpreting the value of wilderness” (125). Emerson’s ideas, in particular, shaped Muir’s approach to understanding the natural world. Muir began to see nature, especially “wild nature” (125) as the most direct connection a human being could have with the divine. Muir ultimately came in personal contact with Emerson himself, and though Muir still idolized his mentor, Emerson’s version of wilderness was too tame for him. Muir wanted to “dispense with civilization entirely” (127).
Muir began to develop a sense that in nearly all ways, the wild was preferable to the civilized; It was civilization’s “stifling effect on man’s spirit” (128) that Muir identified as its most deleterious quality. It was society’s disturbance of the harmony of creation that had “distorted man’s sense of his relationship to other living things” (128). Believing a man could not reach his spiritual potential within the confines of civilization, Muir “took as his life’s mission the education of his countrymen in the advantages of wild country” (129).
Just as Muir was developing his sense of the value of the natural world, the country was struggling to define its political stance toward undeveloped land, and a number of conservation-oriented groups were brought together initially by concerns over the “rapid depletion of raw materials, particularly forests…” (129). A deep rift developed, however, between those like Gifford Pinchot, who wanted to manage the exploitation of forest resources, and those like Muir, who wished to preserve wilderness for its own sake. Muir struggled to reconcile the need for economic benefit and his own deeply held conviction of the value of untouched nature; he eventually rejected the foresters as allies and worked to preserve wilderness areas as sacrosanct.
Muir helped create and publicize a plan the ultimately successful plan for the protection of Yosemite; he also founded the Sierra Club to act as a watchdog for the continuing preservation of the area. Muir both helped develop a new American focus on the value of wilderness and benefited in his struggles from that burgeoning popularity.
Questions for discussion

What is the most fundamental aspect of Muir’s influence on public perception of wilderness? Was it is his reconciliation of Christian spirituality and his worship of nature? Was it his extreme and contagious appreciation for the beauty of the natural world? Was it his advancement of the concept of wilderness as an area of retreat from the corruption influence of civilization? or was it something else?

What’s the most powerful legacy of Muir’s work? Is it the national parks he helped create? Is it his influence on the concept of wilderness itself? Consider that, while his sense of its beauty and positive effect on human character seems to have lasted, preservationists today rarely employ rhetoric about God’s place in nature.
Was Muir correct in his argument about the necessity of the unspoiled? Is there anything wrong with Pinchot’s vision of managed wilderness? Though the idea of management negates Muir’s definition of wilderness, what’s truly “wrong” with it?

Chapter 13: Toward a Philosophy of Wilderness
Peggy O’Leary 

As the American continent has been increasingly “tamed,” many people have struggled to protect the nation’s wilderness areas. Over many years, wilderness advocates have developed a persuasive philosophy supported by strong arguments favoring the preservation of America’s wild places.  

Well into the twentieth century, intense controversies over the management of America’s wilderness lands have persisted. Wilderness supporters needed to develop a clear and persuasive philosophy to articulate the underlying principles of their campaign. Unfortunately, since wilderness defense action generally involved individual emotional struggles over specifically threatened places or creatures, their arguments were sometimes limited to signs, chants, and other brief statements identifying the destructive action they sought to prevent. Activists seeking to “Save the Grand Canyon! or Stop Slaughtering Baby Seals!” felt that the reasons were self-evident; to them, “Wilderness appreciation was a faith.” (238)
Wilderness preservation, however, was not everyone’s faith. Its proponents needed to formulate arguments to counter those of people like Robert Wernick, who as recently as 1965 saw man and nature in an adversary relationship and declared that wildness had to be stifled, both in nature and in the human heart. Humans must “look after our own interests as best we can, and no more consider the feelings of the eagle and the rhinoceros than they consider ours.” (238-239) Other wilderness critics argued that uncontrolled nature was useless and wasteful; “a wild river was an insult to man’s capacity to modify his environment.” (240) Eric Hoffer argued that man should “wipe out the jungles, turn deserts and swamps into arable land, terrace barren mountains, regulate rivers, eradicate all pests, control the weather, and make the whole land mass a fit habitation for man.” (241)
In 1980 microbiologist René Dubos wrote The Wooing of Earth, in which he advocated “humanized nature,” meaning a world modified by man into “new environments that are ecologically sound, aesthetically satisfying, economically rewarding, and favorable to the continued growth of civilization,” (242) and Eric Julber declared that the Swiss Alps, made “readily accessible by mechanized conveyances,” were just as beautiful, and more enjoyable, than mountains lacking such improvements; and that unlike mountains without such modifications, the Alps were open to everyone, not just the wealthiest and most physically fit. (243) Julber advocated similar conveyances to carry people into the Grand Canyon and to a mountain top overlooking Yosemite Valley, arguing that accessibility would create more wilderness lovers. 
Another popular view evolved which held that people required both civilization and wilderness. For example, in 1939, environmental planner Benton McKaye stated that people have both solitary and gregarious characteristics. Sometimes a person wants company, and sometimes s/he would like to go to a lonely mountain top. In 1946, he expanded the idea, holding that a person has “three sides to his inward nature: wanting to be a pioneer, the caretaker or farmer, and the townsman,” and he argued that environmental planning had to allow for all three. (244) Consistent with these arguments, compromises were sought that would meet the needs of civilization while still managing to preserve ample areas of wilderness. The politics involved required diplomacy, and preservationists had to be careful to acknowledge the importance of civilization. Even the Sierra Club took part, issuing a leaflet which bore the subtitle, “Sound Development and Unimpaired Parks: A Way to Have Both.” (247)
In the 1960s and 70s, many Americans identified their personal lifestyle as “counterculture,” and found great value in wilderness. “Many Americans in the 1960s began to think of wilderness and, parenthetically, of Indians, as victims of the same fixation on progress, growth, and competition which threatened counter-cultural values such as peace, freedom, and community.” (251) They had decided that wilderness was good and valuable because it was uncontrollable. Gary Snyder proposed that Americans should “delight in wild country and wild thoughts,” and institute an “ecologically-sensitive harmony-oriented wild-minded scientific-spiritual culture,” in which people could live close to nature. (252) This “neoromanticism” valued uncontrolled wilderness as essential for the survival of civilization. (253)
Wilderness arguments that have carried weight with increasing numbers of Americans include:
·The wild is no longer a threat to civilization; rather, it is one of its “distinguishing and valuable assets.” (248)         
·Excluding Alaska, approximately 98% of American land has already been altered by human effort. There is no justification for taking more. (248-249)         
·Wilderness has been shrinking steadily as civilization has grown; save some wilderness before it and its benefits are all gone. (249)         
·Preservation of wilderness is necessary for ethical as well as economic reasons, and the survival of humanity depends on the survival of the ecosystem. (254)         
·A better term than “conservation” is “environmentalism,” with the distinction being that the first was concerned with running out of resources, while the latter, citing ecological interdependence, recognizes that the survival of man is dependent on the survival of nature. (254)         
·With man’s power to control and change nature comes a corresponding responsibility NOT to do it unless absolutely necessary. (256)         
·A “nonanthropocentric” approach recognizes that we have to use restraint in relation to the wild and act with concern for “the entire ecosystem.” (257)         
Newer arguments that have more recently taken hold include:
·We need a reservoir of normal ecological processes and of a diversity of genetic raw materials, including “representative samples of the world’s major ecosystems.” (257-258)          
·Diversity contributes to stability—the species preservation argument is a strong (and even utilitarian) one. (258)         
·The evolutionary process seems more involved in wilderness than in controlled places. (258-259)          
·Preservation is needed to retard the rate of species extinction in the world. (259)         
· As Aldo Leopold warned, “The first law of successful tinkering is to save all the parts.” (259)         
·Wilderness is important to history, especially American history. (260-261)         
·Create a “wilderness bank” for the future. (261)         
·Wilderness is a symbol of American freedom. (262)         
·Nature inspires creativity and is vital to fresh thinking and mental health. (263-268)         
·Even if wilderness isn’t a direct reflection of God, as Muir saw it, for many people it is still sacred in its own right, in the sense of inspiring awe and reverence. (268-269)         
·In the nonanthropocentric view of philosophers like Alfred North Whitehead, “Wilderness has a right to exist for its own sake, independent of whether mankind values it or not,” while others assert that “Injury to wilderness is best understood as injury to people who value wilderness,” and it is their rights that are in issue.”         
Nash concludes, “The most effective defenses of wildness seem to be rooted squarely in the needs and interests of civilized people. The essential premise is that wilderness and civilization are no longer in an adversary relationship. Modern civilization, it is said, needs wilderness, and if wilderness is to exist it surely needs the protection of a self-restraining civilization.” (271)
Chapter 14: Alaska
Nick Lewis 

In a word “They liked our land,” states Nora Dauenauer; creating Alaska and the repercussions of attempting to reconcile viewpoints on the territory: civilize, preserve, or balancing a touch of both?

Alaska, the great “last frontier,” experienced hostile controversy unbeknownst to the land itself over its future especially in the 20th century. The heat of the debate arose from the classic dynamic: civilize the land by means of human progress or preserve the land as a land in and of itself.  

The Environment: “Alaska represents inhospitable environmental qualities in extremes unprecedented in previous American Experience,” Nash explains (274). 85 percent of the vast expanse contains permafrost (as the name suggests, the underlying soil or rock remains permanently frozen). Contending with such constant gelid conditions reflects a major obstacle to human growth and progress. The polar seasons of extreme climate difference add to the impression that Alaska is not a nice host. Alaska seemed to create a new definition of wilderness, one that is without paths, tracks, or any discernible lines: a “wilderness mecca,” (275).
Technology: With the industrial revolution and human’s amazing capacity to create tools of progress, the wilderness became vulnerable to the desires of modern man. “For a time in the history of the West,” Nash states, “lack of technology held in check human desire to modify the land,” but this changes with time (276). 
Natives: Indians who populated At gutu, (the Chilkoot word for wilderness) have received constant displacement historically. The Americans of the past tended to shove these inhabitants aside and designate (diminishing) specific areas (if any at all) proper for their existence. Because Alaskan Natives were basically ignored for the century following the US purchase of Alaska, the native issue did not arise in terms of national interest until the 1960’s. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 71 “allowed Alaskan native to choose forty-four million acres of federal land for outright ownership, awarded them a billion dollars, and established a series of native-run regional and village corporations to manage and promote native lifestyles,” (277). This unprecedented act may have been a Federal reaction, as McPhee believes, to relive guilt over the past. The reservation does not exist here and natives continue to have a subsistence lifestyle although clearly modified from the past. 
Wilderness: Vehement fervor reached new heights as the 20th century continued for the “wild.” The symbol of wild became Alaska since the rest of the US’s wild had been systematically demolished. Alaska could not become “Californicated.” “Pure,” “trackless,” “sublime,” “Godly,” and of course “GLORIOUS,” echoed Muir’s perception which vastly contributed to public desire for wildness. As Muir’s images broke down traditional thought that Alaska simply was a huge block of ice, tourism began to ensue and the age of the formidable cruise began. The draw became the scenery and this evolved into a key concept: using the scenery for economic value. Nash says “the interior could be valued as a reservoir of wilderness,” (283).   Of course the gold myth attracted many but as the Museum in Haines states “Like most gold seekers of the days of 98’, they returned with many memories and little gold.” The appeal became not as much for gold but rather to be a manly man and survive in a powerful environment. The image of defying death gradually shifted because of men like Charles Sheldon who viewed it as a place crying for protection. He understood that this place was far too large to be civilized like the rest of the US. But is it?
Debate raged over the Alaska’s future. “On every frontier in the nation’s past, man’s economic interest had been pitted against wilderness in an either-or relationship. And wilderness, in general, had fared poorly,” Nash reflects. One end of the grand spectrum sat the preservationists (such as John Kauffmann) who firmly believed in Alaska’s intrinsic value. Cleverly they used the argument that its resource and value lied in itself and not what it could become: “Alaska’s leading industries – hunting, fishing, and tourism – depended on preserving wilderness,” (293). Publicity flourished in all varying art forms, showing the beauty of the land which led to an increasing flock of people to the wild: “Wilderness was calling as never before,” (295). President Carter fought for a balance: preserve the land for its beauty and develop it for human progress. 
Alaska had several unique circumstances when weighing the decisions of its future. It contained several “complete ecosystems,” and had an entire culture dependent upon subsistence living for an identity. How do you reconcile the native population, the desires of frontiersman to build cabins, and the desires of men like Robert Atwood who wished to exploit the land for lumber, oil, soil, and a little bit of gold/minerals?
Atwood comprised the central ideas opposed to the preservationist camp. He saw Alaska as a land of more opportunity to keep the country “self-sufficient.” Research the land don’t simply lock it down and find the places that one can extract goods for the betterment of society. Many floated somewhere in between this polarity. They wished for some development and some wilderness: “a cozy, loving pair.” How do you use Alaska in a way to be economically beneficial (use the land ‘carefully’) while at the same time sustain the wild, a so called “working wilderness” (314)?   Nash’s today states that in the end, “Alaska emerged from two decades of controversy with almost exactly the same pattern of land ownership as a typical Western state,” (315).   The 1980 act divided the land (12 percent state in native hands, the State 27 percent, national interest parks, preserves, etc. 27 percent, and the federal government 33 percent as public domain). He concludes the chapter with a call to us, in order to maintain the uniqueness of Alaska so that future generations can experience the same feeling we can while venturing to this enchanting land, it will take effort and will.
Important names, places, and dates for further information:
1980: Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (Jimmy Carter)
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline
1971: Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
John Muir (see Brian Tippy for a reading)
1st Grand Cruise: June 1899
Charles Sheldon
Rampart Dam
Ginny Hill Wood
Alaska Rep Morris Udall
H.R. 39
The Alaska Coalition: the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society, Friends of the Earth, the National Parks and Conservation Association.
Alaska Governor Jay Hammond
Native Voice: Chuck Hunt
Robert Atwood
John Kauffmann
Robert Weeden: biologist at UofA


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s