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William Cronon “The Trouble with Wilderness”



English 1301

18 March 2014

William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness” Norton 533

William Cronon’s work on environmental philosophy The Trouble with Wilderness is most perceptive work ever produced. It has thoughtful impacts for everyone who revolves around the discussion of the environment.

The Cronon argues that individuals have to change the way of our thinking about wilderness. Cronon’s article Getting back to wrong nature or the trouble with wilderness describes that the wilderness, as individuals see, has no direct relativity to nature. He is of the opinion that people have excluded nature from their Western Culture. The main idea of Cronon’s text is that people can find a solution of their  environmental disturbance if they stop thinking of wilderness as “a dualistic picture in which the human is completely outside the nature” (Cronon). The concept of wilderness in people’s mind was of an aggressive and horrifying desert.

The author argues the issues and troubles with wilderness by using the frontier and sublime thoughts. The author argues that there are two primary thoughts that explain this evolution: the sublime and the frontier. The sublime is about the idealistic origin of a wonderful site that stimulates the inner reflexes. In his article, he wrote about sublime landscape. In his opiniom, it is a place where “one might meet devils and run the risk of losing one’s soul, but one might also meet God”. This religious thought of wilderness was an embryonic thought (Cronon).

In the second attention of wilderness philosophy of Cronon, he describes the relationship with the American frontier. It also helps in creating the notion that wild lands and people were “truer, freer and more natural” than those educated. They are able to take advantage of wilderness areas, and they were almost exclusively wealthy sportsmen and elite urban tourists who venture their time frontier fantasies onto the American landscape and created wilderness in their own image. Moreover, many of the places were previously prohibited by inhabitant people.

The writer does not show any apprehension regarding protection of wild places; instead, he is focusing on inclusion of such cultural elements in our homes, especially in the backyards. The writer has further emphasized the idea of wilderness as it teaches us to be dismissive and perceive such places and experiences as contemptuous. According to the author, there is no difference between a tree top, the remote mountain top, or the top of the tree which is planted next door; it is only the way to perceive things. Therefore, the author has introduced the wilderness showing that how people are forgetting the nature. The inclusion of wilderness will direct our attention toward the nature, and will help people to respect nature which they have forgotten to recognize (Cronon).

The American concept of wilderness has been criticized by various writers, and one of them is William Cronon, who regards wilderness as ethic or cult. The author is very concerned about the negative effects of industrialization which is affecting the planet. By the end of 2007 it is estimated that humanity’s total ecological footprint will be 1.5 times of the planet Earth according to which human are utilizing the ecological services 1.5 times quicker as Mother Nature can renew them. Similarly, other aspects are calculated that include the Earth’s complete biocapacity to produce natural resources, providence of land for residing, building and dwelling along with the ability to absorb wastes. It is projected that by the end of 2050, the human population will be using around 2 percent of Earth’s renewable resources. The Earth takes 1.5 percent time for re-producing and regenerating the natural resources. All this will lead toward a scarcity of resources where 2.7 billion people on Earth are facing water scarcity problem (Cronon).

The local authorities can take substantiate measures along with the community support for maintaining a smooth strategy. People nowadays have exceeded the Earth’s limit by 39%, whereas the resources which our planet can provide us with are limited; people still have surpassed all these limits and have not taken any initiative to preserve nature. The associated effects are clearly visible on Earth, and the situation has started worsening within the next few years to come with the increase of global footprint. The natural resources are categorized as things which people utilize for daily consumption; these are being depleted with the passage of every other day.

The natural resources have not completely dissappeared at an increasing rate. If the number of humans is increasing, eventually the greenhouse gases emitted by humans will also increase and will get accumulated in the atmosphere. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that many greenhouse gas levels are expected to increase in the years to come.

Cronon has used figurative literacy technique for describing the central function of the architect. According to him, the buildings are supposed to be in places where humans can reside and live close to nature as it is a place that provides insulation. These buildings should be conceptually designed for openness and interaction of individuals with nature. It is the architect’s job to expand the individual buildings and neighborhood cities, and by working in collaboration with the city planners, the cities can be designed well and close to the reality which is outside the nature. These elements create a lot of problems to understand people’s place in the world. It might be another aspect that people used to reside in the urban and industrial civilization, they have to pretend that their home is in the wilderness. So, they tend to show their disinterest in nature by ignoring their responsibility to preserve nature around them. When Cronon takes the argument to its logical extreme, the arousing part comes out. “If nature dies because we enter it, then the only way to save nature is to kill ourselves.”(Cronon) This confused concept obviously does not present optimistic or useful results. The issue is that people have classified nature and humans as totally unsuited opposites without scope for coexistence.

The fundamental belief of environmentalism revolves around purity. It is considered as a pure and immaculate environment which is an island in the polluted sea of urban and industrial modernity. This is the concept of human construct and is merely the latest version of an evolving human association to the wild. A few centuries back, people used to think of wilderness as a hostile and terrifying position where wilderness also had biblical connotation. It also possesses some literal sense that can be used for describing the darkness on the other side of the Garden`s of Eden wall.

Work Cited

Cronon, William. Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1995. Print.



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