This bill increases wildness, protects endangered species, and detoxifies — once and for all — the word “wilderness.”
In an op-ed piece by Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, writer Rick Bass offers a look at the collaborative process that has resulted in the “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act” (known as the "Tester Bill" after Senator Jon Tester", which would be the first wilderness legislation, the author claims, in Montana in 26 years. Find the original op-ed here.
I would love to see such collaboration here in Otaki Village. In a recent Asahi Shimbun 朝日新聞 article (no longer available online, but I can send copies to anyone interested--Japanese only), the author quotes residents as saying that national forests are "foreign country" and that local people have little or no say in management decisions. On the other hand, officials from the forestry agency are quoted in the article as saying that they consult with village residents once and a while and that they are listened to. Obviously there is a disconnect.
The quote at the top of this post is from Rick Bass. I like his choice of words when he talks about "detoxifying" the concept of wilderness. I'm not sure if it is his intention, but I'd like to think that he is posing a critique of "wilderness" as it is used in the U.S., as an area untouched by humans. In Japan, it's 自然 shizen, usually translated as "nature", that is the conceptual stumbling block that impedes discussions of how to best use lands.
Terms like "wilderness" or "shizen", with there associated conceptual baggage, are too easily grasped upon, purified, politicized and used by one group or another to forward their own agenda while attempting to intellectually pulverize "opposing" agendas. It seems to me akin to the increasingly willy-nilly use of the term "Nazi" to express dissent of the Obama administration's healthcare proposal.
Good democracies, like good ecologies, demand open space and diversity. Our human languages, unfortunately, are often not geared to this. It's important to employ critique and self-reflexivity to make sure that we don't get bogged down in the world of words. . .which is often much more complex than the physical world.