C. R. Warren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


For much of history, wilderness was a pejorative word used to describe places which were regarded as threatening and/or useless, the antithesis of civilization. From the nineteenth century onward, however, it was progressively invested with positive meanings until wilderness areas came to be seen as the most precious parts of nature. Wilderness preservation emerged as a key objective of the environmental movement, leading to the creation of national parks worldwide. By the late twentieth century, the term had gained considerable sociopolitical power, and the traditional conceptualization of wilderness areas as 'pristine' places, free from human modification and habitation, had become firmly established in popular and political discourses. However, recent decades have seen the ideas and practices of wilderness preservation come under sustained attack. Four main critiques are that: (1) no place on Earth is now free of human influence, (2) wilderness is a cultural construct, (3) conceptions of people-free wilderness are misanthropic, (4) wilderness ideas threaten indigenous peoples. Contemporary debates surrounding 're-wilding' raise many of the same practical and philosophical issues. Such arguments are leading some to emphasize 'wildness' in place of 'wilderness', and to explore new ways of integrating people and nature. Despite the powerful critiques, wilderness remains a potent concept in contemporary culture.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780080449104
ISBN (Print)9780080449111
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • Conservation
  • Ecological restoration
  • Nature
  • Preservation
  • Wilderness
  • Wildness


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