It is an island in the polluted sea of urban-industrial modernity, the one place we can turn for escape from our own too-muchness. For many Americans wilderness stands as the last remaining place where civilization, that all too human disease, has not fully infected the earth.It is not a pristine sanctuary where the last remnant of an untouched, endangered, but still transcendent nature can for at least a little while longer be encountered without the contaminating taint of civilization.Instead, it’s a product of that civilization, and could hardly be contaminated by the very stuff of which it is made.To be a wilderness then was to be “deserted,” “savage,” “desolate,” “barren”—in short, a “waste,” the word’s nearest synonym.
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The more one knows of its peculiar history, the more one realizes that wilderness is not quite what it seems.
Far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity, it is quite profoundly a human creation—indeed, the creation of very particular human cultures at very particular moments in human history.
(7) In its raw state, it had little or nothing to offer civilized men and women.
But by the end of the nineteenth century, all this had changed.