Concerning the Wild

by Trevor Goward

Seasons repeat themselves but the tree
shading the yard keeps growing

—Carl Dennis

We sing of wild places, here specifically Wells Gray Provincial Park in east-central British Columbia; but that’s just a for instance.

This website is dedicated to the proposition that wilderness strongholds like Wells Gray are sacred ground, places of rejuvenation, places of heritage, even world heritage.

Wild places writ large are wilderness. Consistent with the so-called laws of supply and demand, wilderness in a shrinking world has been increasing in value since the opening days of the industrial revolution, perhaps earlier.

Though hard, likely impossible to measure, it seems indisputable that wilderness in a rapidly humanizing world has more inherent value today than it did, say, fifty years ago – and that it will have much more value still fifty years hence than it is today. Whether everybody alive today understands this or even accepts it is not relevant to the case.

To come at this another way: In the act of depleting the world’s wild places of their essential wildness, of making them over into resource ghettos for our convenience, we have effectively been bracketing the designated wilderness preserve, causing it to stand out in high relief in a widening ocean of human effect.

Wilderness preserves alone are made to last. Museums, galleries, archives aside, wilderness preserves are unique in a period of deepening human dominion – the “anthropocene” – a time when the only common currency is human-mediated change.

Only in this one remarkable case, the designated wilderness preserve, has society solemnly undertaken to cherish what we have received from the past and transmit it, undiminished, to the future.

We are born, we live, we die. In the interim, we spend our life energy engaged with the transient things of this world: home, hearth, family, country, fame and fortune, the hungers of the soul. But we also, I would argue, have responsibility to sustain the many intransient things as well: the golden rule, temperance, our own transmitted history, beauty. However you look at these, they are prerequisite to all civilized human existence.

I would also argue that designated wilderness belongs in this latter category, if only as a latter-day remnant of a world order that generated human existence in the first place.

To wilderness, our responsibilities are three in number:

  • 1. To remain always open to what it has to teach us: biological literacy, humility, deep connection to the green living planet, transcendence.
  • 2. To refrain from transforming it into by-products of our own intention.
  • 3. As required, to speak out for its intact transmission to the next generation rising.