Wilderness Quotations

  • "In Wildness is the preservation of the World." Henry David Thoreau, "Walking" (1862).
  • "A wilderness in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Wilderness Act, 1964.
  • "Historians believe that one of the most distinguishing characteristics of American culture is the fact that it emerged from a wilderness in less than four centuries." Roderick Nash, "The Value of Wilderness," Environmental Review (1977), p. 14.
  • "We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with tangled growth, as 'wild.' Only to the white man was nature a "wilderness" and only to him was the land 'infested' with 'wild' animals and 'savage' people." Chief [Luther] Standing Bear, Land of the Spotted Eagle (1933), p. xix.
  • "Upon close scrutiny, the simple, popular wilderness idea dissolves before one's gaze. . . . The definition enshrines a bifurcation of man and nature. . . . Second, the popular wilderness idea is ethnocentric. . . . Nash . . . skates rapidly over American Indian complaints that the very concept of wilderness is a racist idea. . . ." J. Baird Callicott, "The Wilderness Idea Revisited," The Environmental Professional, 13 (1991): 236-7.
  • "We mistake ourselves when we suppose that wilderness can be the solution to our culture's problematic relationships with the nonhuman world, for wilderness is itself no small part of the problem." William Cronon, "The Trouble with Wildernsss, or Getting back to the Wrong Nature" in Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground, 1995, p. 70.
  • "The root for "wilderness' in Old English is wil-deor-ness: self-willed land. Self-willed land has fire, storm, and ecosystem change. It has wild beasts who don't cotton to being pushed around by puny hominids." . . . "No other challenge calls for self-restraint, generosity, and humility more than Wilderness preservation." Dave Forman, "Wilderness Areas for Real" (1998), in Callicott, ed., The Great New Wilderness Debate, pp. 405, 404.
  • "According to the dictates of the imperium, which claims total control, wildness must be, or at least must seem to be brought into the system, brought under the rule of law. . . . Reformist factotums follow a subtle strategy of 'cooptation' or appropriation, through making a place for wildness within the imperial order and putting wildness in this place. The place that is made is the prison, or the asylum. When this place is made and wildness is incarcerated in it, the imperium is completed." Thomas H. Birch, "The Incarceration of Wildness: Wilderness areas as Prisons" (1990), in Callicott, ed., The Great New Wilderness Debate, p. 449.
  • "Within the Western tradition the idea of wilderness is closely linked to its function as a salve for a spiritually battered workforce. . . . Nature was reorganized so as to meet the spatial, economic, and psychological needs of capitalism." Carl Talbot, "The Wilderness Narrative and the Cultural Logic of Capitalism" (1998), in Callicott, ed., The Great New Wilderness Debate, p. 326.
  • "Defining our wilderness experience as a quest for the presence of wild nature, not the absence of humans, creates conceptual space for the interwoven continuum of nature and culture, and for that recognition of the presence of the wild . . . both in wilderness and in places closer to home. . . . This may be what we need to help us end the opposition between culture and nature, the garden and the wilderness, and to come to recognize ourselves at last as at home in both." Val Plumwood, "Wilderness Skepticism and Wilderness Dualism" (1998), in Callicott, ed., The Great New Wilderness Debate, p. 684.