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A Good That TranscendsHow US Culture Undermines Environmental Reform$
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Eric T. Freyfogle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226326085

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226326252.001.0001

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Wilderness and Culture

Wilderness and Culture

(p.135) Six Wilderness and Culture
A Good That Transcends

Eric T. Freyfogle

University of Chicago Press

Wilderness both as place and idea has become contested, and for reasons that, when probed, help illuminate contemporary struggles to understand the natural world and to live well within it. Controversies about whether wilderness really exists—about the social construction of nature—stem from basic confusions about the distinction between ideas and language, which are always human created, and the realities of physical nature, which exists apart from humans even as we face limits on our ability to know it and cannot live without altering it. As a human construct, wilderness as idea and term can take many different forms: by some definitions, many wilderness areas still exist, by other definitions no wilderness remains. How we define wilderness and why we might protect it all call for human normative choices. Those choices in turn are best made through an all-things-considered assessment of how we might wisely distinguish between the legitimate use of nature and the abuse of it, and how wilderness protection might help efforts to keep on the right side of that normative line. It ends considering the ways wilderness and wilderness protection can help foster broader, essential cultural change.

Keywords:   wilderness, human construct, normative choice, social construction of nature, wilderness

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