|All living creatures are part of the natural world. (1) Nayan586.|
For most Alaskan’s wilderness is right outside our back doors. There are approximately 1.2 people per square mile in this state (1) which makes Alaska spacious. I think of Alaska’s vast wilderness and then I think of all of the communities connected by these wild uninhibited spaces. Boundaries are physical and emotional barriers, dependent upon how we as individuals mould our personal perceptions. In Alaska, wilderness is intertwined with civilization, making boundaries hard to define.
In the article The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature, William Cronon notes that just only a couple hundred years ago that wilderness, “Its connotations were anything but positive, and the emotion one was most likely to feel in its presence was “bewilderment’ or terror;’(2). The previous line gave me a chuckle, as just a couple of weeks ago, I referenced my American Heritage dictionary and had to ponder the definition for a moment when I came across the second definition, “bewildering or threatening vastness.’(3) I recently came across this sense of bewilderment towards the Alaskan wilderness reading Jack London’s Lost Face. London’s character Subienkow conceives Alaska as a place “to die in this far land of night, in this dark place beyond the last boundaries of the world.’(4) Just as Subienkow sees that “threatening vastness’ in Alaska, I could equally sense that same “threatening vastness’ if I were to be plopped down into New York City or Los Angeles. Human boundaries are what create the divisions between inhabited and wilderness.
|Connecting with wilderness on the
Willamette within urban Portland, Oregon. (2) Artist Unknown.
Certainly once in a while boundaries get pushed intentionally or unintentionally. Considering the explorers, hikers, pilots, homesteaders, miners, and hunters which we’ve read about in our text and online readings, we see boundaries strained all of the time in the Alaskan wilderness. Aside from social and geographic boundaries, each person has their individualistic boundaries. I find it hard to determine boundaries for us living amongst the Alaskan wilderness, because it’s very different from person to person. I think for somewhat of a biological stand point in that populations of humans are species coexisting with other species, within communities in various ecosystems. I feel that the natural world is one big wilderness, where boundaries are a human creation.
|Wilderness outside my back door. (3) Murphy 2009.|
Considering this, I appreciated how Cronon tied the wilderness to the nature found at home. Cronon writes, “That is why, when I think of the times I myself have come closest to experiencing what I might call the sacred in nature, I often find myself remembering wild places much closer to home…What I celebrate about such places is not just their wildness, though that certainly is among their most important qualities; what I celebrate even more is that they remind us of the wildness in our own backyards, of the nature that is all around us if only we have eyes to see it.(5)
|Boundaries are a human creation. (4)|
I do believe that thinking about the wilderness as something to be protected or exploited does indeed set up a false dichotomy. We are all part of the natural world, one big wilderness. There is no stopping the impact of human expansion or consumption. Boundaries are human constraints. Without boundaries, there is no wilderness, only a planet which all living organisms are connected to.
(1)”Alaska QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau.” U.S. Census Bureau. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. <https://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/02000.html>.
(2)Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness; Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.”William Cronon. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. <https://www.williamcronon.net/writing/Trouble_with_Wilderness_Main.html>.
(3) The American Heritage Dictionary. New York, NY: Dell Pub., 1994. Print.
(4) Wayne Mergler, Last New Land: Stories of Alaska Past and Present (Anchorage: Alaska Northwest, 1996), 476.
(5) Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness; Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.”William Cronon. Web. 12 Mar. 2012.
(1)Nayan586. On the Fly. Photograph. Kathmandu, Nepal. Animal New York. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. <https://animalnewyork.com/2009/06/parting-shot-on-the-fly/>.
(2)Photograph. Portland, Oregon. Pacific Northwest Vacations. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. <https://pacificnwvacations.com/Kayaking>.
(3) Ceann Murphy. Juneau, Alaska.
(4)Photograph. UTM : Library Blog. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. <https://portal.psz.utm.my/blog/?p=205>.