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Environmental Ethics

Volume 12, Issue 1, Spring 1990

Thomas H. Birch
Pages 3-26

The Incarceration of Wildness
Wilderness Areas as Prisons

Even with the very best intentions , Western culture’s approach to wilderness and wildness, the otherness of nature, tends to be one of imperialistic domination and appropriation. Nevertheless, in spite of Western culture’s attempt to gain total control over nature by imprisoning wildness in wilderness areas, which are meant to be merely controlled “simulations” of wildness, a real wildness, a real otherness, can still be found in wilderness reserves . This wildness can serve as the literal ground for the subversion of the imperium, and consequently as the basis for the practical establishment of and residence in what WendeII Berry has called the “landscape of harmony.” Here all land becomes wild sacred space that humans consciously come to reinhabit. In this subversive potential lies the most fundamental justification for the legal establishment of wilderness reserves.

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