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ENST 2000 Chapter Notes -Wild Beasts, Promin, Endangered Species Act Of 1973


Department
Environmental Studies
Course Code
ENST 2000
Professor
John Wall

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ENST 2000 Oct 16 2014
Reading Notes
The Trouble With Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature
-“In wilderness is the preservation of the world” – Henry David Thoreau
-But is it?
-Wilderness is not quite what it seems
-It is a product of civilization, and its naturalness is therefore a mask
-We kid ourselves when we think that wilderness can be a solution to our civilization-
nature relationship problems
-Nature in itself is no small part of the problem
-Not to say that nature is completely a human invention
-Any profound natural experience is enough to remind one just how
separated and nonhuman it can be
-Yet what made this separation, reminiscence, and natural feeling possible
is entirely a cultural invention
-Today we search for “the wilderness” experience, a thing we can’t seem to find as easily
anymore
-Years and years ago when wilderness was more abundant, you didn’t find people
wandering around appreciating what I had to offer
-You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone
-“Wilderness” used to mean
-Savage
-Deserted
-Desolate
-Barren
-Word’s nearest synonym is “waste”
-Referred to biblically as a place where it was all too easy to lose oneself to
confusion, questioning, and despair
-Moses and his people wandered for 40 years, and almost abandoned their
God for a golden idol
-Christ struggled with the devil and endured his temptations
-Surrounded Eden as a dark and scary place with wild beasts
-By the end of the 19th century, was frequently likened to Eden
-Explorers began to discover America’s natural treasures and beauty
-John Muir: “No description of Heaven that I have ever heard or read of
seems half so fine”
-Wild areas became famous places that people began to see for the sake of seeing
them -Niagara Falls
-Adirondacks
-Yosemite became the first wildland park in 1864, and the US first
national park in 1872

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-First decade of 20th century: biggest debate over whether San Fran was allowed to
augment its water supply by damming the Tuolumne River in Hetch Hetchy Valley,
which was well within Yosemite boundaries
-Opposition lost and the dam was built, but the effort would be the start of a major
movement to preserve wilderness
-John Muir compared opposition’s arguments to those of the devil, saying
that if the dam were not built, there would be so much Tuolumne water
and scenery “going to waste”
-Satan’s home became God’s temple
-This drastic transformation happened under two titles
-The Sublime
-A cultural construct much like romanticism
-Transatlantic influences
-The Frontier
-American cultural construct with European roots,
antecedents, and parallels
-The two converged to make an image of wilderness that carries
with it many cultural symbols and moral values, making it more
sacred -Essentially, even though the devil was present, so was
God, so if enduring the hardships of the wilderness and the
possibility of losing your soul to Satan meant the
possibility of seeing God as well, it was a risk worth taking.
-Not all landscapes were considered sacred or sublime
-It seems only the breathtaking views of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon,
Rainier, etc. were worthy of protection.
-It wasn’t until the 1940s that the first swamp would be honoured, in Everglades
National Park
-There is still no national park in the grasslands
-A sublime landscape was deemed as such primarily based on the emotion it
evoked
-Travelling to the sublime was far from a pleasurable experience
-William Wordsworths “The Prelude” recounts climbing the Alps and
crossing the Simplon Pass
-Describes sitting among the crags, cliffs, and waterfalls as terrifying,
being in the presence of the divine
-As people continued to view nature as a spectacle as opposed to a religious being, it
remained sacred but was very much domesticated
The very sublime that sent people into terrifying awe took on a a much more
comfortable, almost sentimental demeanor
-The frontier (American wilderness) became a place where people moved to escape the
trappings of civilization, rediscover themselves, and invigorate their minds
-It became an essential experience for what it meant to be American
-Frederick Jackson Turner described the frontier, by the 1890s, as disappearing
-Never again would “such gifts of free land offer themselves”
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