May 2, 2023 | By:

Wilderness Walking: The Strategy (Part 2)


(Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay)

If I am correct that we must (aesthetically) walk in (real) wilderness to reach utopia (or at least a significant approximation to it), then the most fundamental problem we face is that the remaining fragments of wilderness around the world are disappearing at an alarming rate, and they will probably be gone, or broken into smaller pieces, in a few decades. How can people walk in wilderness if there is no wilderness to walk in? This tragic situation makes the establishment of a world-wide wilderness system (amounting to half-wild) the highest priority on Earth, which means that we need an accelerating world wilderness movement now.

I see three tendencies toward this goal of a wild Earth. One, some (few) people across this planet are highly conscious of their wild selves, which means that they can still think dialectically. They can still discern and determine what is of true value in life. These folks are the potential leaders/educators, a sort of avant-guard, for a world wilderness movement. Their primary task is to translate and link spontaneous and piecemeal projects and protests for saving the Earth into the vision of half-wild, to articulate this vision and spread it by word of mouth, and by all possible means and tactics.

Two, the wild self still lives in everyone (or almost everyone), and although it is severely repressed and isolated in the vast majority of people it continues to push for re-union with wilderness. The wild self is not entirely repressed and it finds some expression among the general population in what E. O. Wilson calls “biophilia.” This innate love for wild nature can be activated and mobilized, and it is the only possible basis, in my view, on which to build a radical challenge to the Development Model of Progress because human relationships, at least in the so-called advanced societies, have already deteriorated to the point where peace and social justice movements will probably continue to fail. Only our innate love for wild nature can hold us together tightly enough and long enough to do what must be done—namely, to overcome a global economic system that is devouring the planet for material wealth and profit. Love for wild nature is probably the only non-ambivalent relationship of which we are capable, given the growing suspicion, cynicism, and even hostility of humans toward others around the world. So disappointed have we become with one another, thanks to living in a competitive, aggressive, and acquisitive Culture, that only innate love for wild nature can save us now. This does not mean dismissing social justice issues, but it does mean that if you are not part of a world-wide wilderness movement, then you are part of the big problem. This big problem is the extinction of life on Earth and the loss of wilderness around the world. This big problem requires a big solution: Half Wild. We are not Left or Right, but Wild, and everyone who supports Half Wild, or who sincerely wants to learn more about it, is welcome to our consciousness-raising Movement and gatherings, though of course, reasonable limits concerning the participation of hateful groups and individuals should be drawn and enforced.

Three, this global economy of death-propelling productivity is creating its own gravediggers because its commodification of wild nature is raising the awareness of the values of wild nature. It is creating and promoting the images of a world of snow-covered majestic mountains, unspoiled rivers and lakes, silent colorful canyons, and forests teeming with wildlife in order to sell ATVs, RVs, boats, cabins, golf courses, subdivisions, and second-homes—in short, to sell the toys and trappings for a way of life in contact and peace with wilderness, while at the same time, this economy continues (in reality) to destroy wilderness everywhere for profit, leaving people disappointed and frustrated because it does not deliver what it promises. Tourism, one of the largest growing sectors of the global economy, is raising the desire and demand for untrammeled wild places, including in some of the most remote places on Earth, while loving them to death through the development of a world-wide infrastructure of airports, hotels, restaurants, vacation rentals, condos, jeep-tours, helicopter rides, and so on. World tourism destroys wilderness in order to exalt it, but taking place behind the back of the adventure capitalists is a growing awareness and need among the general population for the real thing.

These three tendencies in actually existing civilization could propel a world-wide wilderness movement that is inherently revolutionary because this movement must eventually, as it grows, come into direct conflict with the Endless Development Model of Progress that perpetuates itself through the devastation of wilderness everywhere. Revolution, if it happens at all, will be driven by radical consciousness and radical sensibility (biophilia) and guided by the science of conservation biology, but a clear Vision of the ideal relationship between wilderness and civilization is also necessary. The goal of Half Wild can get us beyond the pursuit of endless material wealth, but it cannot get us to a positive Alternative of what will replace the Mega-machine, which people struggling for a new future have a right to know. What would a free and happy civilization look like? We need a vision of utopia, a clear understanding of the proper relationship between wilderness and civilization, and the human place or home on this planet.

It is impossible to provide a blueprint or greenprint for a future free civilization, but I see three basic structural features and stages for the emergence of an alternative to the Frankenstein steel-glass silicon-concrete monstrosity we have unleashed upon this Earth. One, after the revolution, after the dismantling of this global economy of malignant growth, the first stage of a new civilization is the completion of the world wilderness preservation system to Half Wild. A lot of work on designing a global wilderness preservation system has already been done, and it continues to be done by scientists and wilderness activists, lovers, and indigenous fighters. Led by the science of conservation biology, thousands and thousands of people around the world are working on plans and projects to save biodiversity by putting a wild foundation under it. In America, The Rewilding Institute, founded by the late legendary wilderness leader Dave Foreman, together with its sibling group Wildlands Network has a long history of mapping wild areas, identifying hot spots and species of special concern, bringing together scientists and wilderness-lovers who are dedicated to a scientifically designed continental-scale wilderness network based on the “3Cs:” Protecting Cores, Corridors, and Carnivores.

Cougar © MasterImages

Cougar © MasterImages

Two, the relocation of humanity to the Edge. The inconvenience of relocating humankind to the Edge reflects the intrusive nuance and nightmare we have made of ourselves everywhere, but it is unavoidable given the ontological truth about human nature that we are the passage between two worlds, wilderness and civilization. It is worth noting in this regard that global warming is bound to necessitate mass migration of people and wildlife, so why not design and implement a social plan that corresponds correctly and favorably to human nature and truly satisfies all of life on Earth, a civilization that is far more intensive and far less extensive. It is also well documented that more and more people are moving to cities that occupy only a few percentages of the surface of the Earth, freeing up a lot of rural and semi-wild land, creating opportunities to restore and re-wild these areas by simple actions such as closing roads, ranches, and mines. Especially important in this regard is the end of farming, particularly animal farming, replacing it with new systems of food production such as microbial food production, as advocated by George Monbiot.

Once we have relocated to the Edge, the real history of humankind begins because the destructive contradiction between wilderness and civilization that has characterized human history over the last 12 thousand years will be replaced by the peaceful co-existence and co-equality between them, and the passage of human beings between wilderness and civilization will generate real progress in civilization (towards high civilization as a work of art). The contradiction between wilderness and civilization will remain in the sense that where the one is the other is not, for there is no avoiding the need for these two qualitatively different realities, but the latter will no longer terminate the former. The human being will dwell on the Edge and experience (on foot) the best of both worlds. The ideal human place on Earth is not at the Center of reality, not any kind of anthropocentrism, and not “in” the wilderness like the birds and bees and Stone Age humans, but rather on the Edge, where we can stretch between past and future, memory and potentiality, content in the present in the only way in which we can be content and complete, by journeying (on an everyday basis) between the two worlds of wilderness and civilization.

The half-wild wilderness ideal does not mean dividing the planet into hemispheric halves, or securing wilderness only in Alaska, Siberia, Antarctica, and other faraway places from where many people live, but rather as E. O. Wilson said: “In the mind’s eye it is possible to link a premier terrestrial wildlands system into a single global system, and envision traveling in a near-continuous journey through it all.” This is the kind of planetary-scale wilderness that we need: one that begins out our back door, or out our front door, and spreads its wildways around the whole planet, reviving our nomadic prehistory and sustaining all of life on Earth (in natural patterns and distribution of wildlife similar to what existed prior to modern civilization in the Pleistocene Era. George Monbiot asks, “Why shouldn’t everyone have a Serengeti out their back door.” This goal is not only possible but necessary.

The third structure and stage of a new civilization is Wild Democracy, which means that everyone who walks in the wilderness makes the decisions about the major economic, social, and political affairs of everyday life. Thomas Jefferson argued that a successfully functioning democracy presupposes an enlightened electorate. However, the power and persuasion of modern propaganda have gone far beyond anything Jefferson could have imagined, and sophisticated scientific propaganda has now eclipsed objective truth to the point that no amount of facts and information can enlighten the people, so we need an injection from the deep mind, from the wild self, to discover and discern truth. The complexity of modern society makes it impossible to know all that we need to know through Reason alone, so the spirit of the Enlightenment cannot save us now, and only those who walk in wilderness, or who still clearly hear the call of the wild, are qualified to determine and decide the common good. Many things that now seem incomprehensible and indeterminable will become self-evident again once we walk in the wilderness on a regular basis. Wild Democracy is the political form of a free society, but until everyone walks in the wild it remains only a goal. In the meantime, who decides? Those people who have proven themselves as leaders/educators and supporters of the Revolution for a Wild Earth, perhaps under the institution and direction of a World Wilderness Council representing all beings of the Earth?

Beyond these three architectural features of a new civilization: one, the construction of a world-wide wilderness preservation system that amounts to half-wild; two, human life on the Edge; and three, the political institution of Wild Democracy, it becomes difficult and inappropriate to define or stipulate the future. The future must be left as open as possible because we (the people) are at this historical moment so infused and confused by false and misleading information that we are not in a position to advise generations to come (if there are generations to come) more than this very basic framework.


(Image by Noel Bauza from Pixabay)

If you do not see and feel the beauty of wilderness, then you are not in your right mind or body, and if you favor destroying it for money or trading it for unnecessary goods and services, then you are not in your right mind. The preservation and expansion of wilderness (to half-wild) is not a matter of majority vote, or the Will-of-All, or what indigenous people decide (although they are, generally speaking, saner than the rest of us with regard to respecting and caring for the Earth). The best scientists know that the solution to the Sixth Extinction does not depend on scientists, or on geological processes. Rather, it depends on what sane people (everywhere and nowhere) feel and think. It depends on understanding Who We Are. “Know Thyself” is carved in stone at the entrance to the temple at Delphi in Greece, but tragically we have misunderstood our true nature as dialectical creatures for thousands of years, and now we find ourselves in a situation where we have destroyed so much of wild nature that we are living off the prehistoric knowledge of evolution that survives within us, which is fading evermore.

Large-scale industrial production for the world market is inseparable from the destruction of wilderness, and the global ruling elite (unipolar or multipolar) will not and cannot accept Half Wild without collapsing the economic system from which their wealth derives. Half Wild is a revolutionary goal because it cannot be met by this global wilderness-terminating mode of production, and this is precisely its strength. A world-wide movement for Half Wild contradicts the powers-that-be, who will never cease destroying the Earth unless they are stopped by transcending needs that take us beyond reforms that are containable within capitalism and its various manifestations in China, Russia, India, and elsewhere. We need to overcome capitalism (as market or plan) before it overcomes us, and I see no way to do this except through a non-violent revolutionary wilderness movement for half-wild. Struggles for higher wages, Medicare, free higher education, etc. are important, but they are futile if they are not parts of a world-wide wilderness movement that addresses and removes our cancerous Way of Life. If we do not stop the spiral of death, then we are all going to die. This is not hyperbole, not scare-tactics, not cynical misanthropy, not unrealistic rhetoric. It is the truth, confirmed by science and philosophy, and those who do not see the truth, or dare not speak it, are perpetuating a myth of progress that is fatal.

I see no substitute for the goal of a wild Earth, and no good reason to de-emphasize it in favor of lesser forms of land and water protection. The strategy of protecting as much as we can as fast as we can, even if it is not wilderness, is too little too late because we only have (probably) a few decades to overcome our insanely materialist lifestyle. Lesser forms of land and water protection are more practical and doable, and this is precisely their weakness—namely, they can be satisfied by the existing power structure and its global financial institutions. They do not take us beyond this death-dealing culture. There is no grace period in which we can sustain or hold biodiversity and functioning ecosystems in semi-protected reserves, ranches, or mixed landscapes (perhaps for re-wilding later) because we are already in the end-game. There are no stop-gap measures left. What is achieved, at best, by the strategy of securing lesser levels of land and water protection is offset by the further loss of wilderness around the world, which is already accelerating the Sixth Extinction. Given the crisis of civilization, that we are facing Exterminism, whatever is achievable within the established world-order is not enough, and that is why it is achievable. We need a revolution in favor of Life over Death, now or soon, before our descent into madness becomes irreversible. What will bring about a revolution? A revolutionary movement for half-wild.

Why is a Movement for Half Wild inherently revolutionary? Because it sets the standard for land and water protection at a high enough level, qualitatively and quantitatively, that the World Bank, the IMF, and the major multinational corporations cannot possibly meet the standard of Half Wild. Since the 1964 Wilderness Act, beauty has been recognized as an essential part of wilderness, as the Form or Face of wilderness, and beauty is fragile in the sense that it takes very little human alteration to destroy it, which means that the international business community cannot use wilderness in any way for anything, so they want lesser levels of land protection for the sake of profit and plunder. They cannot accept a concept of protected land that retains its “primeval appearance,” its beauty, because that requires a completely hands-off approach, an aesthetic relationship to land and water. It is because wilderness is beautiful that it resists all commercial utilization of it. The goal of Half Wild is inherently revolutionary because beauty cannot be compromised!

Only real wilderness can sustain biodiversity in anything like its pre-modern abundance and distribution, and quite frankly the whole management-mentality of designing elaborate patterns of wildlife and habitat protection is hopeless, rather like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with numerous pieces missing and unknown. We do not understand how a single cell works, let alone macro-ecosystems and wild evolution. What hubris and arrogance to think that this is the way to save life on Earth! In fact, our existing designated wilderness areas (the highest level of protection for land in America) have huge internal problems such as livestock grazing, mining, private holdings, and constructed road-like trails that must be removed, and the National Wilderness Preservation System as a whole must be diversified, connected, and expanded to Half Wild World-Wide. Environmental activists who want “to do something” need to understand that unless we are working on a world-wide wilderness preservation system (WWPS), we might as well say good-by to life on Earth.


(Image by Joe from Pixabay)

We happen to be in a unique historical situation where implementing the most important findings of the science of conservation biology will dismantle the Megamachine of limitless consumption, so if there was ever a time to speak the scientific truth, and not be concerned with scaring the public or donors, it is certainly now because this scientific truth can save all of life on Earth, and it trumps all arguments concerning the difficulties and inconveniences of realizing this goal. The best science of conservation biology justifies a deconstruction of global capitalism (including State-controlled capitalist enterprises that may go by other names).

When we aesthetically walk in wilderness the original forms of life are sensuously present to us, and everything appears and feels so familiar and right because it is our distant past that we are re-experiencing, and we are being flooded with emotions, intuitions, and ideas that are largely beneath the level of conscious awareness, but still very active within us. It is a very powerful personal experience that opens up the world we have lost, and when we re-connect with it there is immense joy and freedom because we have been given the opportunity to go home again. From this place, although we cannot intellectually explain it, thoughts happen: Where Are We? Who Are We? Why Are We?

Wilderness is a pre-civilized reality that must stand forever outside of civilization. It re-defines reality. It has its own laws that are not those of civilization. It resists civilization, which means that it cannot be incorporated into civilization without ceasing to be itself. We cannot govern within it. In order to experience wilderness we must accept it on its own terms, and that means that we must change ourselves according to the defining and determining conditions of its existence, and it is by changing ourselves in the wilderness that we change civilization when we return to civilization.

In sum, the human being is the passage between two worlds—wilderness and civilization—and the Edge is the proper dwelling place of humans on Earth.

Spread Rewilding Around the Globe!
Subscribe To Comments On This Article
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x