What is Wilderness? (Part 2)

“For many aboriginal people, wilderness offers no cause for fond nostalgia. Rather, it represents a tract of land without custodians.”
Martin Thomas, 2003, The Artificial Horizon. pg 29.

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‘The Three Sisters’ – A rock formation in The Blue Mountains. Photographed May 4, 2008.

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What is Wilderness? Part 1, August 15, 2005

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10 Responses to What is Wilderness? (Part 2)

  1. rog May 5, 2008 at 9:56 pm #

    I think wilderness is a concept of a place untouched by man – a psychological safety valve for those troubled by their humanity.

  2. tamborineman May 5, 2008 at 10:10 pm #

    There are varying degrees of wilderness, from hostile through to friendly.
    Aboriginals, like normal people, tried their best to make that which was hostile as friendly as possible.
    There are varying degrees of people…..

  3. gavin May 5, 2008 at 10:15 pm #

    Nice blue sky day hey

  4. cinders May 5, 2008 at 10:34 pm #

    From someone or something called JANIS comes this definition. Wilderness – land that, together with its plant and animal communities, is in a state that has not been substantially modified by, and is remote from, the influences of European settlement or is capable of being restored to such a state; is of sufficient size to make its maintenance in such a state
    feasible; and is capable of providing opportunities for solitude and self-reliant recreation (NFPS 1992).
    Wilderness is a cultural concept that relates to large areas of essentially undisturbed land, and it encompasses a range of natural and cultural values.
    The consistent nationwide approach for identifying wilderness quality should be to apply the results of the National Wilderness Inventory (NWI) (Lesslie and Maslen 1995) through a co-operative process agreed to by the Commonwealth, States and Territories.
    The NWI measures wilderness quality on a class scale by adding scores derived from four standard
    indicators:
    · remoteness from settlement;
    · remoteness from access;
    · apparent naturalness; and
    · biophysical naturalness.
    Each of the indicators is scored out of 5, resulting in a maximum score of 20. For the Regional forest agreement the benchmark for high quality wilderness was a minimum NWI rating of 12!

  5. Pirate Pete May 6, 2008 at 7:30 am #

    A couple of years ago, I came across a bunch of urbanite 30 year olds who were going to Fraser Island for a wilderness experience.

    For those of you who are not conversant with Fraser Island, on a busy day it is like Bondi Street in peak hour

    But they really believed that it was wilderness. So I came to the conclusion that wilderness is a comparative term.

  6. Neil Hewett May 6, 2008 at 7:53 am #

    I’m quite sure that people of aboriginal origin are not, by implication, abnormal. Wilderness, on the other hand, is an expression of an individual’s perspective of their own relationship with a natural landscape.

    An indigenous presence within a wilderness landscape confers a harmonious synergy, whereas a traveler lost in the same unfamiliar wilds is at the very depths of despair.

  7. Schiller Thurkettle May 6, 2008 at 8:23 am #

    This is very disturbing.

    What is called “wilderness” can be defined as belonging to nobody, or belonging to everyone. Which is pretty much the same thing.

    The result: ‘the tragedy of the commons’.

    Those who harp upon this theme then emerge as rent-seekers. Green groups want to establish an autocracy over lands of unestablished ownership.

    The next thing you see is “eco-tourism”, which is to say, only non-taxed corporations (many of them, multinational) may do things “in the Wilderness”.

    For a (tax-free) fee, of course.

    The world will not run out of charlatans any time soon.

  8. Ian Mott May 6, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    I like the forest workers definition of wilderness as “the vacuum between a greenie’s ears”.

    Sorry Schiller, I generally agree but this “tragedy of the commons” notion is bull$hit with minimal historical basis in fact. It was certainly the case in the UK and, one must assume, in all those other european cultures that routinely exchanged rulers by way of marriage and/or conquest, that most of the commons were governed by strict regulations as to their use. The number of animals allowed to graze was clearly defined and vigorously policed by the other users.

    But it was not just grazing rights that were handed down over many generations.There were numerous hereditary entitlements and “profit-a-prendre” (right to take) arrangements that are far more sophisticated and more clearly defined than any of the current semi-coherent swill being administered by government “environmental guardians” (oxymoron).

    In fact, they appear to have been relatively well managed right up to the point when local barrons began to dispossess the users through the abuse of the enclosure laws. It was only then that claims of environmental degradation and neglect began to surface as some sort of moral justification for what the dispossessors were doing. Does that sound familiar?

    I agree with your conclusion that the term “wilderness” is used to imply that an area is owned by no-one. In Australia the term “Terra Nullis” was used to enable the crown to commit the crime of “fraudulent conversion”. Conversion is the term used to describe a theft where the object taken is not removed but the perpetrator merely denies the pre-existing ownership of the aggrieved party.

    It is a concept that is almost as old as civilisation itself but that does not give it any moral legitimacy. The Romans, for example, saw it as their right to enslave all conquered people, and conveniently, slaves could not own property so all property belonged to no-one, and was available for free acquisition.

    In the ancient mesopotamian city states, the heiroglyphs for ‘slave’ had two elements. The first was male or female gender and the second was ‘mountain’. That is, anyone from the mountains beyond their own settled agricultural domain was fair game for enslavement and fair game for the free acquisition of their property.

    It is ironic that all of the civilisations that have advanced due in no small part to the secure property rights of their own people have also had a neat moral blind spot that has allowed them to take the property of those they perceive to be beyond their community.

    And from this one can only conclude that the greens have invented the concept of wilderness as a way of identifying those places that they wish to acquire for their sole use. And given the conditions that the greens have demonstrated a capacity to produce in such places after acquisition, we must also conclude that environmental values have very little to do with it.

  9. yorkie May 6, 2008 at 1:07 pm #

    One of my happy memories from my days in a conservation and land management agency was of a meeting with environmental activists about a proposed new wilderness area. The leading fanatic was complaining bitterly that the proposed wildnerness area was too small, because he could not “walk all day without coming to a road”. One of my colleagues asked “Have you tried walking more slowly?” and this caused such poorly constrained amusement on our side of the table that the meeting had to be terminated.

    In 2007 the WA government declared a large sector of our southern forests as a wilderness, and are proceeding to close off the road access within it. Thus, in the full knowledge of what they are doing, the government is (i) making the area more difficult to defend from wildfire; (ii) making firefighting more dangerous for firefighers; and (iii) reducing the safety of bushwalkers.
    An ironic aspect of the whole affair is that these southern forests are generally too dense and prickly to walk through, although it is possible to crawl on hands and knees, thus ensuring it takes plenty of time to get from one road to another.

    My view is that the number of people who will want to do this will be very tiny; the main beneficiaries of the wilderness will be city environmental sympathisers who like the idea of wilderness but will never go near the place. In the meantime, thousands of people each year are walking the Bibbulmun Track, much of which is located on fire trails, former logging roads or tramways, and which has a network of huts and campsites….far from true wilderness, but loved and used, and indeed, regarded as wilderness by most walkers.

  10. Travis May 7, 2008 at 8:07 am #

    An infamous media type said “In essence we’re a conceited naked ape but in our mind we’re a divine legend and we see ourselves as some sort of God that we can walk around the earth deciding who will live and die and what will be destroyed and saved.” Wilderness has no gods or one almighty. All is equal in life and death and just simply being. The rich tapestry of a wilderness includes the naked ape, but does not sustain those that want to dominate it. It then becomes something else.

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