Wild in the Age of Man

Anthropocene – The Age of Man. The current theory is there is no place on earth that hasn’t been affected by humans, primarily through global climate change, but also by other factors such as pollution and nuclear testing. As a species we have increased the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere; we have cauterized the planet with radio waves; every square mile of the planet has been photographed by satellites; GPS and satellite phones allow us to know our exact location as well as the ability to communicate with others no matter where we are on the planet.

What is really ‘wild’ in the Age of Man? Can we still have ‘real’ adventures in the Anthropocene or are all modern day adventures contrived in some way? To the latter, the answer is, at least to me, easy. Yes, you can still have adventures; wonderful, mind blowing, life changing adventures. Will some adventures be less ‘pure’ than if they had been done 100 years ago? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an adventure to the person pursuing it. (You can read my views on the topic at: adventure-a-different-perspective/)

The topic of what is ‘wild’ is far more complex, nuanced, and well beyond the scope of this blog or my meager literary and intellectual abilities. Thankfully two distinguished authors, writing nearly twenty years apart, deal with the subject of the wild in a compelling way.

The Abstract Wild by Jack Turner (1996) and Satellites in the High Country by Jason Mark (2015) are thought provoking books which ask difficult questions and may cause the reader to rethink their own positions on what is wild and what is wilderness, and while they guide the reader, each in different ways, to think about these topics in new ways, they don’t entirely answer the question for you. The authors also challenge the way the government manages wilderness. Is wilderness management (i.e. managing the wild) an oxymoron? And to what end?

For me ‘adventure’ and ‘wild’ go hand-in-hand. You can have adventure without the wild, but, and this is my personal view, you are left with a feeling that something was missing. It’s akin to sex without love. Sure you can do it, but it’s not nearly as satisfying. Going back to my recent trip to Point Reyes, there was a marked difference in experience with the managed feel of the dirt paths (roads) and assigned campsites, to that of the wild and exposed shore between Wildcat Camp and Alamere Falls. (Point Reyes is the subject of the first chapter of Satellites in the High Country.)

Point Reyes Backpack - 05-11-2017__0044_Edited
Approaching Alamere Falls

This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the hike into Wildcat camp and my night there, I did; however my experience going to/from Alamere Falls was far more intense and memorable. (The cliff crumbling as I pasted by it may have had a little something to do with it too.)

Point Reyes Backpack - 05-11-2017__0039
Dust rising from where the cliff crumbled

If the subject of ‘wildness’ interests you, both these two books are well worth reading.”

“In Wildness is the preservation of the World” – Henry David Thoreau