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SAAP Annual Meeting 2018

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Anti-Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Wilderness Tradition

“Anti Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Wilderness Tradition”

Abstract: The history of wilderness preservation is generally treated, by friend and foe, as a particularly American history, tied into to peculiarities of national identity, frontier nostalgia and federal land acquisition. National parks are “America’s best idea” and they are our cathedrals. I argue that the helpfulness of this nationalist framing has run its course. It distorts the origins of wilderness appreciation and preservation, which has as much to do with international movements in science as with frontier nostalgia in the states. It twists our understanding of the motives and values of American thinkers like Thoreau and Muir. And it truncates the canon we use to teach environmental history and philosophy.

David Henderson
Western Carolina University
United States


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