Is wilderness out there? Turner would say it is, at least on the outskirts somewhere. Meyer would argue that wilderness might return in millions of years. Plumwood does not explicitly say wilderness exists, but her near death crocodile experience might have convinced her that wilderness exists despite our best efforts. I think wilderness exists in the sense that Turner describes it as “quality” (107).
People can be wild; however acting too wild can place one on the outskirts of society. While we are unwilling to act as wildlings or savages, we are also unwilling to play by the rules put forth by the land we live on as described by Wendell Berry. This hypocrisy, has put us into a perpetual cycle where “‘the business of America is business”’ (Berry, 199). Wild can mean lacking supervision or restraint. In this sense does capitalism not promote wild behavior when it comes to extracting as many natural resources as possible to increase profits? Does this fact not become even more ominous when it seems the “business of the American government is to serve, protect, and defend business” (Berry, 199)?
This cycle has led us into the lifestyle that Berry warns destroys our land because it forces us to rely on larger and larger factory farming. It also correlates to what Plumwood describes as reducing animal lives “in factory farming systems that treat them as living meat” (8). We separate ourselves from nature or wilderness, but we act erratically and often hypocritically. For example as Plumwood lays forth, we look at animal attacks on humans as an atrocity as if we are not and never were part of the food chain. We could never see ourselves in the same situation we force upon our supply of chickens and cows. When an animal attacks a human we respond by trying to shoot it. If that does not sound like the definition we give for wild or savage I don’t know what does.
However, I prefer to look at wild as a description of quality. Perhaps I will never see the true quality of wilderness but I think I can understand the essence or spirit of the word. In a sense it describes freedom, it can even describe health or a healthy state. The word sustainable comes to mind when I think of wild because while we can stifle wilderness I don’t think we will ever be able to rid ourselves of the feeling, state, or being. If we were to let the world act in a wild state, it would work in cycles where life blooms and decays and blooms again. We as humans tend to bloom using resources from distant lands, then decay in a tightly sealed box where we do not become part of the nutrient cycle (or at least we try our best to separate ourselves).
Looking back on this semester, there have been many instances showing how we try to control nature and treat it, as Turner put it, as a patient. Humans constantly simplify things and often end up making matters worse. For example, applying widespread pesticides to the invasive fire ants ended up causing collateral damage. We looked for the simple, uniform answer and it ended up backfiring.
One criticism I have with Turner is that he thinks we cannot solve our problems scientifically. I think we need to take more time and look at the whole rather than a control group. This seems to be different than most science we have been exposed to, but the truth is we need a new science to solve the complex problems. We need to understand that not only are we dealing with a complex system but also a system that changes and adapts to its surroundings. The dynamic nature or “wild-ness” of these ecosystems means either backing off or thinking in a different sense. Maybe we need to understand the world more like the aborigines brought up in Plumwood’s article. Maybe we need to change the way we think about science. Maybe we need to just back off and let wilderness take its course. The latter seems unrealistic to me because we have already made a lasting impact and if we were to take this course Meyer could be right when he says it would take millions of years for wilderness to return.