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ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHY. Wilderness versus The Garden.

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wilderness versus the garden
Wilderness versus The Garden
  • The authors of the Bible gave wilderness a central position in their accounts both as a descriptive aid and as a symbolic concept. The term occurs 245 times in the Old Testament, Revised Standard Version, and thirty-five in the New. In addition there are several hundred uses of terms such as "desert" and "waste" with the same essential significance as "wilderness" and, in some cases, the identical Hebrew or Greek root.1
  • The land is the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness.Joel 2:3

1 John W. Ellison, Nelson's Complete Concordance of the Revised Standard Version Bible (New York, 1957) cited in Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind

jean antoine condorcet
Jean Antoine Condorcet
  • (1743 – 1794)
  • predicted that innovation, resulting increased wealth, and choice would provide food in the future and lead to fewer children per family
  • believed that society was perfectable
thomas malthus on population
Malthus, responding to Condorcet, predicted population would outrun food supply, leading to a decrease in food per person.


Populations grow exponentially.

Food supply grows arithmetically.

Food shortages, famine, war, and chaos inevitable.

Thomas Malthus on Population

An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798

romantic wilderness

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Love of the wilderness is born in the great American cities as industrial revolution breeds revulsion to urban life. Artists, poets, and philosophers came to see the wilderness and particularly the untamed American wilderness as salvation for the human soul.

Romantic Wilderness

by Albert Bierstadt

henry david thoreau
Walden, 1845. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

On April 23, 1851 Henry David Thoreau, slight and stooped, ascended the lecture platform before the Concord Lyceum. "I wish," he began, "to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness." Thoreau promised his statement would be extreme in an effort to answer the numerous champions of civilization. ''Let me live where I will," he declared, "on this side is the city, on that the wilderness, and ever I am leaving the city more and more, and withdrawing into the wilderness." Near the end of the address, he concentrated his message in eight words: "in Wildness is the preservation of the World.” 1

Henry David Thoreau

1 quoted in Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American Mind

preservationist philosophy
March 1, 1872 - Ulysses S. Grant sets aside Yellowstone as a national park, the world’s first.

Nature is best when untouched by human hands.

Some areas should be completely preserved in their natural state.

National parks are a fundamental element of this philosophy. It is also an American invention.

Preservationist Philosophy
john muir
“ In God's wildness lies the hope of the world - the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.”

“None of Nature's landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.”

John Muir
john muir 1838 1914
Born in Dunbar, Scotland

Moved to Wisconsin farm as a child.

Award-winning inventor of clocks and machines as student at U. of Wisconsin.

Eye-injury in 1867 changes his goals (regained sight a month later).

After walking 1000 miles to the Gulf of Mexico, he travels to California, via Panama, in 1868.

Walks to the Sierras, across the Central Valley, in 1868. Stays there wandering for years.

1892 founds the Sierra Club

1901 publishes Our National Parks and gets the attention of Theodore Roosevelt.

1913 Hetch-hetchy battle is lost. He falls and dies in the next year.

John Muir (1838-1914)

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

conservationist philosophy
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919): "...The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others."

Address to the Deep Waterway Convention, Memphis, Tennessee, October 4, 1907.

(1901-1908) He set aside as National Parks, National Forests, game and bird preserves, and other federal reservations, a total of approximately 230,000,000 acres or about 84,000 acres per day!

Roosevelt believed that wild lands were necessary for the healthy development of young men and for the economic future of the country.

Conservationist Philosophy
  • Resources are not unlimited. We must conserve them so that there will always be a supply.
  • Use is acceptable, if reasonable and prudent.
  • Sometimes referred to as the “wise-use” philosophy.
george perkins marsh
George Perkins Marsh

Considered by many to be the first environmentalist! He argued for careful use of land and showed that humanity could damage the earth.

  • Man and nature; or, Physical geography as modified by human action. (1864)
  • The Earth as Modified By Human Action. (1874)The book consists of ten chapters:
  • Chapter I - Introductory.
  • Chapter II - Transfer, modification, and extirpation of vegetable and of animal species.
  • Chapter III - The Woods.
  • Chapter IV - The Waters.
  • Chapter V - The Sands.
  • Chapter VI - Great projects of physical change accomplished or proposed by Man.
development philosophy 18 th 20 th century
Forest Service

Floyd Dominy, Bureau of Reclamation

Bureau of Land Management

Army Corps of Engineers

Nature is best when managed and improved upon by humans.

Areas left untouched are ‘wasted’ because they could put to better use to meet human needs.

Development Philosophy (18th – 20th Century)

Glen Canyon, Dam. Page, Arizona

Los Angeles River

aldo leopold and the land ethic 1887 1948
A Sand County Almanac, 1949.

This collection of essays on the ecology of his Wisconsin farmland and forests is his most famous contribution. He is famous for his concern about land conservation (soils, etc.). He worked primarily as a professor at the U. of Wisconsin.

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Aldo Leopold and The Land Ethic (1887-1948)
wallace stegner
Wallace Stegner

Wildnerness Letter(Why We Need Wilderness) in 1960 helps win passage of the 1964 U.S. Wilderness Act.

“We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”

“You don't go there to find something,” he once said about wilderness, “you go there to disappear.”

rachel carson
Rachel Carson
  • Marine biologist Rachel Carson sounded the alarm on synthetic pollutants, particularly DDT, in Silent Spring (1962).
  • Inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970.
  • Ironically, she died of complications from breast cancer, a disease some studies have linked to increased synthetic pollutants.

For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.

- Rachel Carson

neo malthusians
Paul Ehrlich, 1968. The Population Bomb.

"To repeat the old saying, it's the top of the ninth and humanity has been hitting nature hard. But we must always remember that nature bats last.“

300 million people have starved to death since the publication of The Population Bomb. On the other hand, life expectancy has increased by about four years.

"Humanity has already overshot Earth's carrying capacity by a simple measure: no nation is supporting its present population on income - that is, the sustainable flow of renewable resources. Instead, key "renewable" resources, the natural capital of humanity, are being used so rapidly that they have become effectively non-renewable.“

More Ehrlich Quotes

paul ehrlich
"Overpopulation exists whenever people trying to produce food allow soil to erode faster than new soil can be generated, or drain aquifers faster than they can be recharged, or exterminate populations and species that are working parts of the ecosystems that support agriculture and fisheries faster than recolonization and speciation can reestablish them. Today overpopulation prevails worldwide."Paul Ehrlich

Source: World Wildlife Fund. 2010. Living Planet Report.

edward abbey
Edward Abbey

The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need--if only we had the eyes to see.

Edward Abbey, 1982

  • Edward Abbey Quotes

Desert Solitaireis regarded as one of the finest nature narratives in American literature, and has been compared to Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac and even Thoreau's Walden. In it, Abbey vividly describes the physical landscapes of Southern Utah and delights in his isolation as a backcountry park ranger, recounting adventures in the nearby canyon country and mountains. He also attacks what he terms the "industrial tourism" and resulting development in the national parks ("national parking lots"), rails against the Glen Canyon Dam, and comments on various other subjects.

  • About The Monkey Wrench Gang, The National Observer wrote, "A sad, hilarious, exuberant, vulgar fairy tale... It'll make you want to go out and blow up a dam."
  • Many think it inspired the creation of radical environmental group Earth First!
radical environmentalism
Radical Environmentalism
  • GreenpeaceDirect non-violent, media-saavy action against factory whaling operations.
    • Greenpeace “About Us” Web Page
  • Earth First! "No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!"
    • Earth First! Journal
    • Inspired by Edward Abbey’s novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang
Sustainable Development:development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.

Carrying Capacity:the maximum population of a given organism which a particular environment can sustain without a tendency to decrease or increase.

New Science And Social Science ConceptsMost scientists and social scientists now see the economy as a subsystem of the larger earth ecological system, although this view is not widespread yet in economics.

  • Overpopulationan increase in numbers of a population and levels of consumption beyond the natural renewable resource base.