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JUG320S: The Canadian Wilderness

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  1. JUG320S: The Canadian Wilderness Week 2: What is Wilderness? Professor Emily Gilbert http://individual.utoronto.ca/emilygilbert/

  2. Today’s Themes I: Defining Wilderness? II: Cronon on the Trouble with Wilderness III: The Canadian Wilderness

  3. Conservation International 2002 study of Earth’s wild places Wilderness: fewer than 5 people per km2; 70% original vegetation Size at least 10,000 km2 = 46% of earth is wilderness (176 million km2), comprising only 2.4% of world’s population (144 million people) only 7% of this wilderness land is protected I: WHAT IS WILDERNESS?

  4. II: CRONON AND THE TROUBLE WITH WILDERNESS • “The time has come to rethink wilderness.” William CrononFrederick Jackson Turner & Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin - Madison

  5. Why rethink wilderness? • “Far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity, it is quite profoundly a human creation—indeed, the creation of very particular human cultures at very particular moments in human history” (69) • “we mistake ourselves when we suppose that wilderness can be the solution to our culture’s problematic relationship with the nonhuman world, for wilderness is itself no small part of the problem” (70)

  6. Anglo-western legacy of wilderness • 18th c. ‘deserted’, ‘savage,’ ‘desolate’, ‘barren’, a ‘waste’ -- ‘bewilderment’ or ‘terror’ (70) • King James bible: • where Moses and his people wandered for 40 years • where Christ endured temptations of Satan for 40 days • where Adam and Eve were exiled • early US settlers have aversion to wilderness: landscape to be tamed through settlement

  7. 19th century transformations • Increase in tourism: eg Niagara Falls, • Creation of national parks in US: Yosemite (deeded in 1864); Yellowstone (1872) • Damming the Tuolomne River in the Hetch Hetchy valley in Yosemite National Park (completed 1923)

  8. Why the change in perspective? • Influence of idea of the sublime and the frontier Sublime: • The transcendent in the landscape: power, heroism, awe, veneration • Importance of 18thc. romanticism: emotion, imagination, freedom, individualism • “sublime landscapes were those rare places on earth where one had more chance than elsewhere to glimpse the face of God”

  9. The Prelude (1850) The immeasurable height Of woods decaying, never to be decayed, The stationary blasts of waterfalls, And in the narrow rent at every turn Winds thwarting winds, bewildered and forlorn, The torrents shooting from the clear blue sky, The rocks that muttered close upon our ears, Black drizzling crags that spake by the way-side As if a voice were in them, the sick sight And giddy prospect of the raving stream, The unfettered clouds and region of the Heavens, Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light– Were all like workings of one mind, the features Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree; Characters of the great Apocalypse, The types and symbols of Eternity, Of first, and last, and midst, and without end. William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

  10. An Essay on American Civil Disobedience (1849); Walden (1854) Transcendentalism: intuition, mystic spritiualism, rejection of traditional authority In 1862 wrote famous line: “In Wildness is the preservation of the World” “It was vast, Titanic, and such as man never inhabits. Some part of the beholder, even some vital part, seems to escape through the loose grating of his ribs as he ascends. He is more lone than you can imagine… Vast, Titanic, inhuman Nature has got him at disadvantage, caught him alone, and pilfers him of some of his divine faculty. She does not smile on him as in the plains” Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)

  11. John Muir (1770-1850) • John Muir, father of US National Parks, a founder of the Sierra Club • Said “Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man” • “These blessed mountains are so compactly filled with God’s beauty, no petty personal hope or experience has room to be. Drinking this champagne water is pure pleasure, so is breathing the living air, and every movement of limbs is pleasure, while the body seems to feel beauty when exposed to it as it feels the campfire or sunshine, entering not by the eyes alone, but equally through all one’s flesh like radiant heat, making a passionate ecstatic pleasure glow not explainable”

  12. “Frontier thesis” at 1893 World Columbian Exposition the frontier helped immigrants “to shed the trappings of civilization, rediscover their primitive racial energies, reinvent direct democratic institutions, and thereby reinfuse themselves with a vigor, an independence, and a creativity that were the source of American democracy and national character” But “The frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history” Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932)

  13. Frontier Romantic attraction of primitivism: vigor, independence, direct democracy, freedom Anti-urbanism and anti-modernization Place of national interest: monuments to US past, tribute to future American exceptionalism and drive for expansion

  14. Cronon’s critiques of wilderness • Masculine and elitist: creating wilderness in their own image

  15. Cronon’s critiques of wilderness I have no more land I am driven away from home Driven up the red waters Let us all go Let us all go die together -- Anonymous Creek Woman • Erasure of Aboriginal peoples "This war did not spring up on our land, this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land without a price, and who, in our land, do a great many evil things... This war has come from robbery - from the stealing of our land." Spotted Tail, Sioux Chief

  16. Cronon’s critiques of wilderness • Illusion of escape • “The flight from history that is very nearly the core of wilderness represents the false hope of an escape from responsibility, the illusion that we can somehow wipe clean the slate of our past and return to the tabula rasa that supposedly existed before we began to leave our marks on the world” (80)

  17. Cronon’s critiques of wilderness • Human and nature are separated • Claims for biological diversity; remote areas and modern imperialism • Bill McKibben (1989) The End of Nature

  18. Dave Foreman, Earth First! • “we must return to being animal, to glorying in our sweat, hormones, tears and blood” • “The preservation of wildness and native diversity is the most important issue. Issues directly affecting only humans pale in comparison” Are you tired of namby-pamby environmental groups? Are you tired of overpaid corporate environmentalists who suck up to bureaucrats and industry? Have you become disempowered by the reductionist approach of environmental professionals and scientists?

  19. Cronon’s conclusion • “If wildness can stop being (just) out there and start being (also) in here, it if can start being as humane as it is natural, then perhaps we can get on with the unending task of struggling to live rightly in the world—not just in the garden, not just in the wilderness, but in the home that encompasses them both” (90)

  20. Critiques of Cronon • Cronon’s use of cultural representations is selective • Wilderness is not an attempt to create a role for humans amid nature, but to create a role for nature amid humans • Environmental problems extend beyond one’s own backyard • Wilderness spaces and the wilderness ideal are conflated • Questioning wilderness opens the door to anti-environmentalists

  21. III: THE CANADIAN WILDERNESS • Wilderness and Canadian identity: exclusivity • HIREN MISTRY: “What is the language of Canada’s wilderness and how is it already set up as a barrier, for instance, to a South Asian family moving to Mississauga? Why do they not get excited about it? Does it have something to do with the language of experience? Land, we are told, is something that is appreciated universally. But the thing is, in certain places you’re taught to love the land in very particular ways. However, if you do not love the land in those particular ways, is the land really open to you?”

  22. PHILIP: “What interests me is that the language of the wilderness has been so influenced by the European. I’m convinced that people from Africa or the Caribbean or people from rural areas in Asia would be able to relate to certain aspects of how First Nations people view the land. For instance, in the Caribbean, you can go outdoors and pick the herbs you need to make a cup of bush tea to use as remedies. So there would be those areas of resonance for many of the peoples who come here, in terms of how First Nations people live and work within what is called the wilderness. But because the European has settled it in such a way and has developed this myth of the wilderness, it’s almost like an unknown language for us which we can’t penetrate unless we own a cottage or a boat”

  23. PHILIP: “There are so many images of Africans being hunted in the woods by slave catchers” • MISTRY: “The metaphor of the Canadian wilderness is not neutral, but rather it is a powerful and power-wielding symbol” • PHILIP: “You contain it [wilderness] or you create these parks that really aren’t what Canada’s all about. What interests me is memory. Whose memories get celebrated and what do you do with your memory when you move into that space?”