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Wild Ideas

editor David Rothenberg
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 254
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  • Book Info
    Wild Ideas
    Book Description:

    Blending well-known and new voices, the volume surveys classical and romantic concepts of wilderness, from the scary to the sublime, and shows why neither serves us anymore. Instead, the authors argue for a “wild culture,” in which nature is not opposed to humanity, a mere matter of resources and consumers. Contributors: David Abram, Douglas Buege, Denis Cosgrove, Robert Greenway, Ed Grumbine, Marvin Henberg, Irene Klaver, Andrew Light, Lois Lorentzen, Max Oelschlaeger, R. Murray Schafer, Tom Wolf.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8652-0
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Vance G. Martin

    In the arena of international nature conservation, no concept is fraught with more differences in personality, policy, and particularity than iswilderness.Yet, is there anything more important? Wilderness is our original home, our genetic mother, our biological lifeline, our earthly father, and our future security. It is both the bosom that nourishes us and the stick that ultimately corrects our misbehavior.

    Therefore, the World Wilderness Congress (WWC) was founded in 1977 upon the understanding that a healthy and sane human society is impossible without wilderness, and that the answer to saving wilderness—for our security or for its own...

  5. Introduction Wildness Untamed: The Evolution of an Ideal
    (pp. xiii-xxviii)
    David Rothenberg

    There are at least two ways to sing the praises of wilderness. One is Hopkins’s rhythmic paean to the dank and the squishy muck of the earth in its useless beauty dares us to leave it alone so that we will not sanitize our home out of existence. On the other hand, there is Chip Taylor’s much-covered popular song, “Wild Thing,” which tries to bring down to earth the allure, the guts of romanticism, the satisfaction of wildness making our hearts sing right in the human midst. Wildness as that other least human realm of nature, to love and respect...


    • 1. Wise and Sustainable Uses: Revisioning Wilderness
      (pp. 3-25)
      R. Edward Grumbine

      As the third millennium A.D. approaches, ideas and images of wilderness in North America appear to be evolving toward some as yet unknown configuration. Evidence of these changes may be found in the number of recently published books and articles that critically reexamine various facets of the relationship between humans and wild nature. Philosopher Max Oelschlaeger has provided a developmental history of the idea of wilderness from the Paleolithic to the present.¹ There has been a lively exchange inThe Environmental Professionalover the role of wilderness as a cultural ideal and conservation strategy.² Biologists Reed Noss and Hal Swalwasser...

    • 2. Habitable Earth: Wilderness, Empire, and Race in America
      (pp. 27-41)
      Denis Cosgrove

      The last phrase of Thoreau’s famous proclamation has become thelocus dassicusof contemporary claims for the preservation of geographical areas and regions of wild nature. Rarely, if ever, do we consider the first part of Thoreau’s sentence: “The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild.” Thoreau uses a geographical coordinate (a pure mapping concept with no essential environmental reference) synonymously with “the wild,” and thus with wilderness. In so doing, he not only draws upon what I shall argue is a characteristically American mode of mapping the socioenvironmental geography of nationhood, but he also...

    • 3. Earth-Talk: Conservation and the Ecology of Language
      (pp. 42-56)
      Max Oelschlaeger

      When I recently read E. O. Wilson’sThe Diversity of Life,it was with a growing sense of approval, since I came to realize that here was precisely the kind of scientist that Arne Naess believes essential to the future, a man who dares to say what he knows is true and feels is right, a man who provides “articulate leadership,” to use Naess’s words.¹

      We verge, Wilson argues, on amass extinction of life caused by nothing more and nothing less than human action.His book gives “evidence that humanity has initiated the sixth great extinction spasm, rushing to...


    • 4. Pancultural Wilderness
      (pp. 59-70)
      Marvin Henberg

      Wallace Stegner’s rationale for wilderness preservation addresses the mainstream of North American culture. His words suggest that rationales for wilderness preservation may be specific to one culture or another. Perhaps, as thoughtful people from many different cultures suggest, there is no such thing as a single view of wilderness that will do for all cultures.

      Lacking such a pancultural view of wilderness, the case for preservation must proceed internationally on an ad hoc basis. Cultures that discover internal reasons for valuing wilderness will sprout wilderness preservation movements. Other cultures will not. We seem to get both ourselves and those we...

    • 5. Reminiscing about a Sleepy Lake: Borderland Views of Women, Place, and the Wild
      (pp. 71-80)
      Lois Ann Lorentzen

      Women in Tehri, India, gathered on World Environment Day in 1979 with empty water pots to protest water scarcity and the failure of water supply projects. They said to the district collector, “We have come to tell you that nature is the primary source of water, and we are the providers for our families. Unless the mountains are clothed with forests, the springs will not come alive.”² They recognized that, as Vandana Shiva writes, “the right to food today is inextricably linked to the right of nature to conserve her ability to produce food sustainably.”³ Culturally and socially constructed roles...

    • 6. Confessions of an Eco-Colonialist: Responsible Knowing among the Inuit
      (pp. 81-94)
      Douglas J. Buege

      Anthropologist and social philosopher Hugh Brody begins his bookThe People’s Landwith an anecdote concerning a planeload of white men,Qallunaatin the language Inuktitut, landing at an Arctic settlement in eastern Canada. Air traffic is a rare enough occurrence for word of these visitors to circulate rapidly throughout the Inuit community. Brody spent a half hour with these nine white males, who were looking for information concerning Arctic fishing conditions. In this brief time, he tells:

      [T] hey quizzed me about how the Eskimos fished for Arctic char near the settlement. I reminisced about a few fishing trips...


    • 7. Out of the Map, into the Territory: The Earthly Topology of Time
      (pp. 97-115)
      David Abram

      These reflections are motivated by a hunch: the suspicious intuition that time and space are not really distinct dimensions for any animal, for any animate body, human or otherwise. Yet I am puzzled. Why do my friends and fellow philosophers assume that space and time are distinct dimensions of the world, or even distinct dimensions of their experience? Where is there any element within the sensorial world that suggests or promotes this division between the temporal and the spatial? Everywhere I cast my focus I find space timing or time spacing. How, then, did these powers come to be separated...

    • 8. Silent Wolves: The Howl of the Implicit
      (pp. 117-131)
      Irene Klaver

      Wild is the smoke rising, turning in slow movements, tracing invisible currents of air with its gray white elegance before finally disappearing. Wild are the tracks of the mountain lion in the snow and the scratches on my arms and legs, painful results of trying to follow the animal through the thickets of its trajectory in fields and bushes. Traces. Implicit presences, referring to more than we can say and see: to be wild is to stand out and to disappear.

      The deer standing out against the tree line has vanished as suddenly as it came to the fore, and...

    • 9. The Idea of the North: An Iceberg History
      (pp. 133-149)
      David Rothenberg

      The idea of the North marks a place for the idea of the wild. The idea of the wild is at first something to fear, a dark trait inside us that fights back before civilization emerges. It is what propels the way of life thought to be nasty, brutish, and short, a nature we are supposed to be happy to have escaped from. We remember it still as a latent possibility, lurking inside us, remaining untamed.

      Feared for years, centuries, epochs, this wilderness at the edge of all maps, the country of the unknown. Cultures grow, expand, and conquer, based...

    • 10. The Princess of the Stars: Music for a Wilderness Lake
      (pp. 150-160)
      R. Murray Schafer

      All this has happened during the night. The story continues as the audience arrives at the lake in the darkness before dawn. In the distance we see a pinpoint of light moving slowly toward us from the opposite shore. At the same time the voice of the Princess is heard, singing an unaccompanied aria a kilometer away across the water. Her haunting aria has something of the quality of a loon. Soon other voices from far and near begin to echo it as the light-point continues to move toward us. When it reaches the shore, dawn has broken enough for...


    • 11. Beauty and the Beasts: Predators in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
      (pp. 163-181)
      Tom Wolf

      The killing fields have shifted to our cities. As surely as Colorado’s urban violence escalates, especially in my old Denver neighborhood of Park Hill, our rural violence declines. Having eliminated our competitors, we prefer to prey on each other.

      That’s what gives predators like the wolf, extinct in Colorado for more than fifty years, another chance, maybe more than just another tragic last stand. Colorado’s remote Sangre de Cristo Mountains, oddly enough, present us with the chance of a lifetime—the chance to reinvent our relationship with wild animals, our fellow predators—the chance for mutual respect.¹

      Hope doesn’t have...

    • 12. Healing by the Wilderness Experience
      (pp. 182-193)
      Robert Greenway

      For all the overcrowding of wilderness areas in recent years, a full “experience of wilderness” has become increasingly rare. Certainly few of us live at the boundaries or near trailheads. None of us lives within wilderness. To get to these enclaves of pristine natural processes we must drive in shiny vehicles for hours on freeways, through endless suburbs and intensively managed farmlands.

      Similarly, wanting to discover “truth” about the wilderness experience, we can go there together, or we can cruise around in the cities, suburbs, and gardens of ideas, embedded in cultural forms. And that expresses a first paradox: using...

    • 13. Urban Wilderness
      (pp. 195-211)
      Andrew Light

      Wilderness began as the term that marked out the cognitive space that was not civilization. The wilderness was the jungle, the wild place, not fit for human habitation except for those who were not really fully persons—the barbarians. The wilderness marked not just the geographic boundaries between human settlements and wild nature, but also a cognitive boundary between the civilized explorers and the “savages” they encountered. The wilderness was, in short, the mental and physical boundary between humans and the radical/racial others.

      The ideological transformation of wilderness continued by colonizing new territories as wilderness areas. This movement can first...

  10. Epilogue: Paradox Wild
    (pp. 213-218)
    David Rothenberg

    I got up that morning in the wet Brooklyn rain with this one idea: Tonight I will touch the Pacific Ocean. And then the description of the journey follows—the planes, the waiting, the cars, the sounds, the call of the wild, the waning light, the roar not placid in the least, the archaic image of the West (that is the wild or is not?)—and at last the resolution.

    “The West is another name for the Wild,” announced Thoreau. Enough writers since have quoted this phrase, cast it anew and taken their own journeys from civilization toward the frontier....

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 219-220)
  12. Index
    (pp. 221-225)