Note — Oct 17, 2021

‘Pristine Wilderness’ without Human Presence Is a Flawed Construct

Seen in → No.192

Source →

An overview of a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which looks at the concept of “pristine wilderness,” The authors argue that it’s “an erroneous construct that doesn’t reflect the reality of how many high-value biodiverse landscapes have operated for millennia.”

During the Enlightenment came the view that humans are isolated from the surrounding world, separate from a nature that needed to be tamed. A framing later imposed on Indigenous Peoples, pushing them aside and obfuscating the millennia through which they took care of their lands. The “wild nature” “discovered” by European conquest was actually made of biodiverse landscapes tended by its inhabitants. Today, “fortress conservation” is the principal way in which preservation is planned, still obfuscating millennia of knowledge and a symbiotic relationship without which these ecosystems might falter.

We shouldn’t be surprised to find this out, humans have been the dominant species on Earth for a while now, of course ‘we’ have changed nature everywhere we’ve been. Just look at how a simple wolf reintroduction changed the Yellowstone ecosystem, it’s not hard to imagine that a people that respects nature might have a massive impact, which might not look like a concrete jungle.

“Mounting evidence confirms that Indigenous Peoples and other rural rights holders possess the knowledge and ability necessary to successfully conserve and manage biodiverse ecosystems more effectively than governments and at a fraction of the cost, particularly where their rights are recognized, respected and supported.” […]

[M]ore than half of the spatial landscape of the Amazon has seen and lived along with human activity over the last 10,000 years, to the extent that the region is shaped by it.

Southeast Asia and New Guinea, humans have been hunting and using horticulture techniques, such as swidden, for more than 40,000 years.