The Excitable Scientist

Mostly cheerful, sometimes snarky commentary on life science research and its broader impacts

a love letter to anti-colonial environmentalism October 6, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — excitablescientist @ 10:43 pm

This post was sparked by a video on The Atlantic website, A Love Letter to America’s Wilderness, featuring a classic pairing of impressive nature shots and inspired quotes from white men environmentalists.

Would it be fair to say that ‘wilderness’ in North America is a colonial concept? I think it might be. This effusive nostalgia for wild spaces, which most define as free from human civilization, is uncomfortably close to the doctrine of terra nullius, the idea that most of NA was uninhabited before white settlers came along – the latter being an incredibly oppressive construct, not to mention historically inaccurate. Time and again, I’ve come across nature writers obsessed with protecting so-called wild lands, while completely overlooking the history and modern presence of Indigenous peoples whose lives and livelihoods are inextricably tied to them.

I bring this up because I think it’s past time we environmentalists recognize what Ellen Meloy termed ‘the lunatic hemorrhage of wild lands from the face of the planet’ to be a direct consequence of colonialism, and that our work to protect the natural landscapes we hold so close to our hearts needs to be led by the Indigenous people who have lived sustainably on them for millennia.

Armchair anthropologist analysis aside, there is some seriously gorgeous footage here.


Traditional territory of Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish People), Howe Sound, BC


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