This week your assignment is to write a blog post that discusses your understanding of the Alaskan Wilderness. What are its boundaries for those of us living here? Talk about how you understand the concept. Do you think that we have a role in protecting the Wilderness? If we think about the Wilderness as thing to be either protected or exploited, does that set up a false dichotomy, like Cronon seems to think, that ultimately gets us into trouble?
No matter how modern Alaska becomes, the wilderness maintains a presence. I did my first year of college in Anchorage, where the dorm parking lots and the walking path to the campus had to be closed on occasion due to the number of moose wandering around. Even in our most technologically advanced cities we still have problems with the wilderness. As Alaskans, we have to find ways to coexist with nature because the Alaskan wilderness has no boundaries.
I do think we need to protect the wilderness. However, I think Alaskans place more emphasis on surviving the wilderness than they do on protecting and preserving it. In Fairbanks, we have one of the largest temperature variances in the world. We go from 90 degree weather in summer to -50 degrees in the dead of winter. If we crash our car on a deserted road in the middle of winter, there is a real chance that we could freeze to death. A lot of the Alaskan Wilderness, like the extremes in the weather, is regarded in a cautionary fashion. A charging moose can kill you. Stumbling upon a bear can you get you killed. Alaska is a dangerous place, something that most Alaskans respect
As one of the last truly wild places in the country, we place a lot of emphasis on the balance between protecting and exploiting our natural resources. We want to support moose populations, but that doesn’t stop us from hunting them for food in the fall. We can’t view the wilderness as something either needs to be protected or exploited. We need to find a balance between the two or risk denying our own dominant role. As humans, we change our environments to suit our needs just as much as the native wilderness will.