Pacia Purcell: “The Trouble with Wilderness” and The Meadowlands

The Trouble with Wilderness”

After looking at several different definitions of wilderness the first week of class, I found this essay to provide a refreshing and insightful definition. Many people believe that wilderness only consists of those big open areas with mountains, valleys, or some other landmark that people are unable to conquer, but still see as beautiful. I enjoyed Cronon’s outlook that many people fail to see what real wilderness is.Wilderness only exists to most people in the form of great wonders of beauty and amazement, however the wilderness that surrounds each person daily is often overlooked. Many people put others down for not caring about the environment, but they themselves are hypocrites. True environmentalists are hard to come by and most who claim to be do not care for all environments and organisms, but just the ones pleasing to the eye.  I agree with Cronon’s belief that wilderness surrounds everyone and everything.

The Meadowlands

Keeping with the same theme of Cronon’s essay, Sullivan speaks of the meadowlands as a true wilderness, although it is an eyesore to many of the people in the surrounding areas and those who visit. It is seen as a wasteland to many people, because of all of the failed attempts to cultivate and industrialize the land. However, humans have still managed to transform the meadowlands. I enjoyed the language Sullivan employed to talk about the transformed meadowlands. Speaking of their polluted, human-degraded state in a way that showed they were still wilderness just not the same as they used to be. However, even though the meadowlands are still considered to be wilderness, humans have damaged them possibly beyond repair. At the end of the book Don Smith tells of his unsuccessful efforts to replant the trees that once grew in the meadowlands. They all died and Don Smith believes it is because the meadowlands have been altered so much by human interference. However, I also agree with Don Smith saying that because we as humans messed up the meadowlands that we also need to help fix them, but the question remains as to how we can fix them without accidentally harming them further? Maybe the best way is to let the environment take its own course.

Cronon’s definition of wilderness is a perfect fit for Sullivan’s description of the meadowlands. The meadowlands are a real wilderness that exist in people’s backyards, but are unseen as the important natural wilderness that they are which has led to their polluted, toxic state. Like both Cronon and Sullivan I belief that true wilderness is worth preserving and using in a healthy, sustainable way.

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