I feel that a measure of respect is essential when making a living within the “Wilderness”. I don’t feel that wilderness and humans are mutually exclusive, but there is little denying that humans on the whole have a habit of stripping the “wilderness” of any useful natural resources; it is for this reason that some sections of the wild should be set aside and protected. I think it is impossible to separate the protection and exploitation of nature because without one, there is no need for the other.
Cronon plays into the logical fallacy that correlation implies causation, as when he asserts that “If one saw the wild lands of the frontier as freer, truer, and more natural than other, more modern places, then one was also inclined to see the cities and factories of urban-industrial civilization as confining, false, and artificial.” I would argue that the juxtaposition of nature with urbanity could just as easily show the strengths of each as it would the strengths of one and weaknesses of the other. Living for a year in a waterless, powerless cabin was an experience I would not trade for the world. I did feel a communion with nature; I did feel as though I was part of a grander tradition of living off the land that both the indigenous people and the hardy pioneers of our great state began. I also loved, and I mean loved moving into an apartment and flipping a light switch, taking a hot shower, and drying my clothes in an electric dryer as I pleased.
Cronon only very briefly touches on the inherent battle of humans vs. nature that has been waged since man came down from the trees. Of course the wilderness was once the enemy; as such it was portrayed that way in literature and in the public mind. In the eyes of most societies, even those with a deep and abiding respect for nature, nature was respected as the formidable enemy that it was. In Velma Wallace’s masterwork Two Old Women, excerpted in the Last New Land, the titular women wage the battle against the fiercest elements imaginable. “It awaits us, this death. Ready to grab us the moment we show our weak spots…If we are going to die anyway, let us die trying!” (pp.474)
I feel that in Cronon’s zeal to prove his point – that there is no true “wilderness”; that what there is is made ugly and artificial by its sad history – he ignores the fact that there is, indeed, still some semblance of nature to be enjoyed. Just because he disagrees with the methods of the American people and their abuse of the landscape does not make the glaciers and bays and ranges of Alaska, for instance, any less majestic. Nor does it cheapen the appreciation of and the ability for us to enjoy that “wilderness” that is still available to us, especially here in the Last Frontier.