For a Grounded Conception of Wilderness and More Wilderness on the Ground

Cafaro, Philip
Talk given at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Berkeley, CA. March, 1999

Recently a number of influential academic environmentalists have spoken out against wilderness, most prominently William Cronon and Baird Callicott. This is odd, given that these writers seem to support two cornerstone positions of environmentalism as it has developed over the past twenty years. First, the view articulated within environmental ethics that wild, nonhuman nature, or at least some parts of it, has intrinsic or inherent value. Second, the understanding developed within conservation biology that we have entered a period of massive anthropogenic biodiversity loss and that landscape-level habitat preservation is essential for combating this. I argue here that Cronon and Callicott are wrong. In fact, an ethics of respect for nonhuman nature and an informed, scientific understanding of what is necessary to preserve it do strongly support increased wilderness preservation.