In “The Trouble with Wilderness”, William Cronon explores the social history of the concept of wilderness while claiming that rather than being viewed as a peopleless landscape, nature should be considered as part of our home. Cronon states that “if we allow ourselves to believe that nature, to be true, must also be wild, then our very presence in nature represents its fall.” His words imply that if we are to view nature as untouched by humans, only our absence will let its wildness thrive. However, supporting this idea clearly creates a rupture between nature and the human race – similar to McKibben’s view in “The End of Nature”- further cementing our role as conquistadors of the land and not simply members of it. I agree with Cronon in that he aims for men to view themselves as part of the natural world. However, I disagree with the author in that he is disregarding the work of modern environmentalists and that he forgets about the value given to nature by the middle class.
While Cronon envisions humans as part of nature, he rejects the work of many environmental advocates. By quoting the words of a few romantic contemporaries – such as Thoreau and Muir – he ignores the words of many environmentalists that constantly fight to guide us towards the “right nature”. More specifically, he argues that “the modern environmental movement is itself a grandchild of romanticism and post-frontier ideology.” These words imply that all environmentalists define wilderness as a pristine and remote space. However, most environmental groups do not seek to portray wilderness as separated from human societies. On the contrary, they seek to portray humans as part of the natural world, aiming to refine their exploitation of natural resources for a more sustainable planet. In fact, urban planners and many of the advocates of the environment have attempted to bring nature towards our urbanized environment to further enhance human connection to the natural world. Even though Cronon’s argument aims to encourage the connection between humans and nature, he clearly fails to recognize the values and ideas of modern environmentalists who have constantly defended the view he himself supports, the view that men is part of nature.
Additionally, Cronon states that “the nation’s wealthiest citizens [were] seeking out wilderness for themselves.” However, I believe that are mostly middle classes the ones that seek nature. They do this with the intention of being in contact with and feeling part of their surroundings rather than, as Cronon believes, with the intention of evading “responsibilities for the lives [they] actually lead”. When I find myself surrounded by nature, my goal is to enhance my connection to nature and to enjoy the beauty of the natural environment rather than pretend “that our real home is in the wilderness”, as Cronon assumes.
Even though he oversimplifies the views of some modern environmentalists and middle classes, he does suggest us a way to enhance our connection to nature. In one of the last pages of his essay, Cronon ask the reader “How can we take the positive values we associate with wilderness and bring them closer to home?” As an answer, he proposes us to discover a common middle ground that integrates the wilderness to our cities into our home. A home that we should sustain and act upon responsibly. He ask us to find nature anywhere and not only in our idealizations. I find his proposition to be an excellent way to connect to the natural world that surround us and not to a pristine and remote world that does not exist.