Against the Social Construction of Nature and Wilderness

Crist, Eileen,
Environmental Ethics Vol. 26/1 (2004), pages 5-24

The application of constructivism to “nature” and “wilderness” is intellectually and politically objectionable. Despite a proclivity for examining the social underpinnings of representations, constructivists do not deconstruct their own rhetoric and assumptions; nor do they consider what socio-historical conditions support their perspective. Constructivists employ skewed metaphors to describe knowledge production about nature as though the loaded language use of constructivism is straightforward and neutral. They also implicitly rely on a humanist perspective about knowledge creation that privileges the cognitive sovereignty of human subject over nature. Politically, the constructivist approach fails to take the scientific documentation of the biodiversity crisis seriously; it diverts attention toward discourses about the environmental predicament, rather than examining that predicament itself; and it indirectly cashes in on, and thus supports, human colonization of the Earth.