Presumptuous management of the environment

Other Names:
Arrogant management of ecosystems
Misconception of parkland as wilderness
Environmental management tends to define natural systems as a resource base for human use thus failing to address the question as to whether humans have the wisdom to manage the natural systems by which they are sustained and by which they were engendered. This perspective is characterized by a strict conservation position that calls for a better management of present development practices so as to reduce adverse environmental impacts to a minimum. A technical approach to environmental problems is stressed. This approach lacks a historical perspective and does not see environmental work as a tool to produce historical changes. Relationships with other social initiatives is minimal and little attention is given to reflection on such questions. There is a tendency to deal with symptoms rather than with the causes of the problems addressed.
1. There is a misfit between the motivations of the nature advocate and the tools of the environmental movement. Many persist in believing that techniques are value-neutral and can be put to any use. The tools of resource management require an assumption of the existence of resources. But resources are simply human categories, indices of utility to industrial society. They say nothing of experiential value or intrinsic worth. The predominance of "resourcism" tempts us to try to translate any sensed value into resource terms and thus to save by subterfuge what could not be protected by argument. The original value is effectively eliminated in the transformation from experience to commodity.

2. This century has seen the insinuation of the term "wilderness park" by the technocratic bureaucracy and its ready acceptance by conservationists. In this manoeuvre the state has adroitly undercut the question raised by wilderness, and has reduced all wilderness issues to the status of managerial techniques. Dangerous negative perceptions are thereby deflected into positivistic enterprise. When the principle of management has been accepted by everyone, then the containment of wilderness will be virtually complete.

3. A park is a managerial unit definable in quantitative and pragmatic terms. Wilderness is unquantifiable. Its boundaries are vague or non-existent, its contents unknown, its inhabitants elusive. The purpose of parks is use; the earmark of wilderness is mystery. Because they serve technology, parks tend toward the predictable and static, but wilderness is infinitely burgeoning and changing because it is the matrix of life itself. When we create parks we bow to increased bureaucracy and surveillance, but when we speak for wilderness we recognize our right to fewer strictures and greater freedom. Regulated and crowded, parks will eventually fragment us, as they fragment the wilderness which makes us whole.

Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
06.02.1997 – 00:00 CET