I think we need not to be so pedantic and academic and strict about what we consider wilderness. It’s whatever in undisturbed nature that can stir the innate wild in men and women. Wildness lives in all of us; wilderness is whatever it takes to wake it up. And some people can get it watching birds and squirrels in their backyard, and other people are like me, they need endless hunks of tundra with big bears and jaguars, tigers, polar bears. That whole formula of going back into the wilderness to heal your wounds, it works. It’s amazing. Hemingway in his Nick Adams stories…after the war, Nick fishes his way towards the swamps of the Big Two Hearted River to save his sanity — it’s the same story. The wilderness is a great place to go to do your healing.
I went out to Rockford, Illinois to give a talk. They have a 369 acre — not very big by Western standards — nature preserve along a river, called Severson Dells. Man, does that magical place transform not just the character of that country, but it’s an inspiration to countless people who go there, canoe, walk around and connect with nature. That kind of experience can be had in Europe where civilization has been marching along with whatever Pleistocene remnants, even if the areas are not very big, and animals like wolves and brown bears that live there are few, people draw inspiration from their survival. That’s a source of hope.
Beware of the corporate lawyer, inside approach; paper monkeywrenching is not going to affect real change. The system is now the enemy and all that’s a sideshow. Am I saying: Go out and make yourself a spear and sharpen it over the fire? Possibly. I think activists need to know the wild, get out into it as much as feasible. Much of our job is still to go out and save a bear or a prairie dog or a bird or a goddamn forest.