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Conundrum and Continuum

Conundrum and Continuum

One Man’s Wilderness, from a Ditch to the Dark Divide

(p.12) 2 Conundrum and Continuum
Robert Michael Pyle
University of Chicago Press

This chapter teases apart the various distinctions between wildness and Wilderness by exploring the author’s own experience of the wild continuum, from a modest drainage ditch in suburban Denver, Colorado, to the de facto wilderness of the Dark Divide in Washington State. Attention is given to the “sliding scale” of wildness, graduated not in numbers but in degrees of differentiation from the human quotidian. Much of what defines the wildness of any place, the author argues, is its unknown otherness—which sometimes means that certain areas must be protected from human use and remain places, in the words of the Wilderness Act, “where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” While underscoring the importance of wildness “in its most compressed, contained, and essential forms,” the chapter defends the necessity and anti-elitism of Wilderness lands (“the Big Wild”) and wilderness experiences at the far end of the wild continuum. Human uses that respect and enhance the relative wild should be celebrated, the author contends, but we also must remain vigilant in protecting wilderness from human abuse.

Keywords:   Wilderness Act, wild continuum, Dark Divide, Big Wild, relative wild

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