Nature is gone. . . . You are living on a used planet. If this bothers you, get over it. We now live in the Anthropocene—a geological epoch in which Earth’s atmosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere are shaped primarily by human forces.1
“Wild” is process, as it happens outside of human agency. As far as science can reach, it will never get to the bottom of it, because mind, imagination, digestion, breathing, dreaming, loving, and both birth and death are all part of the wild. There will never be an Anthropocene.2
- The Anthropocene has arrived and humans are now de facto planetary managers;
- If “pristine wilderness” ever existed, it is all gone now; moreover, focusing on wilderness preservation has poorly served the conservation movement;
- Nature is highly resilient, not fragile;
- To succeed, conservation must serve human aspirations, primarily regarding economic growth and development;
- Maintaining “ecosystem services,” not preventing human-caused extinction, should be conservation’s primary goal;
- Conservation should emphasize better management of the domesticated, “working landscape” rather than efforts to establish new, strictly protected natural areas.
- Conservationists should not critique capitalism but rather should partner with corporations to achieve better results.
As for those who would take the whole world
To tinker as they see fit,
I observe that they never succeed:
For the world is a sacred vessel
Not made to be altered by man.
The tinker will spoil it;
Usurpers will lose it.7
(Lao-Tzu, 6th century B.C.)
1. E. Ellis, “Stop Trying to Save the Planet,” Wired, May 2009. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/05/ftf-ellis-1/.
2. G. Snyder, pers. comm., 2013.
3. E. Abbey, The Fool’s Progress (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1988), p. 150.
4. C. A. Bowers, “Toward an Eco-Justice Pedagogy,” 2003. http://www.bath.ac.uk/cree/resources/ecerbowers.pdf.
5. D. Ehrenfeld, The Arrogance of Humanism (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1979).
6. E. Ellis, “Neither Good nor Bad,” New York Times, 23 May 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/05/19/ the-age-of-anthropocene-should-we-worry/neither-good-norbad.
7. Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching, R. B. Blakney translation (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1955), Signet Classic edition 2001, p. 29.
8. K. Sale, After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domestication (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), p. 120.
9. B. Kingsolver, Small Wonder (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002), p. 40.
This essay is the introduction to Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of Earth, ed. G. Wuerthner, E. Crist, and T. Butler. (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2014), ix–xv. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.