The preservation of wilderness is one of the major problems of the modern society. However, often the significance of this problem is underestimated as people view the preservation of wilderness solely as the preservation of the wild nature and protection of their natural environment. In actuality, the problem is much deeper than it may seem to be at first glance because wilderness is an essential part of human life and the life of the entire planet. Therefore, the extinction of wilderness is a direct threat to the mankind, its normal development and to the entire planet. Moreover, the steady disappearance or, at least, limitation of wilderness which occurs under the pressure of the civilized world leads to qualitative changes in human society since, along with wilderness, freedom disappear. In such a context, the threat to wilderness and its disappearance is not only an environmental problem but it is also the problem of the individual freedom and democracy as one of the fundamental concepts which lay a foundation to the free society of people where each individual is free and has equal rights and opportunities.
In actuality, wilderness is traditionally closely associated with the past of the USA. To put it more precisely, many specialists (Stegner, 1998, Abbey, 1977, Sharpe, 2005) relate the concept of wilderness to the beginning of the American history, when European settlers have started to expand their territory and “invade”ť the wilderness. In a way, the epoch of colonization, when the frontier was an important part of the life of the American society and which definitely shaped the traditional American character, the very American spirit, and, to a significant extent, traditional American values and ideals, was closely intertwined with the beginning of the process of the spread of the civilized world into the wilderness, but still it was the epoch, when the wilderness was still stronger than the civilized world. Civilized people confronted numerous challenges and difficulties to survive in the frontier and only few could afford such a lifestyle.
In the course of the 20th century, the situation has started to changed and, today, many authors (Abbey, 1977, Stegner, 1998) warn on the dramatic change in the relationship between the civilized world and wilderness. In fact, the invasion of wilderness by the civilized world has dramatic effects on the life of people. In fact, Abbey (1977) and Stegner (1998) agree that the disappearance of wilderness is a serious environmental problem. Obviously, the spread of the civilized world was accompanied by the fast industrialization of the world, which led to the pollution and emergence of a number of environmental problems. No wonder, Abbey (1977) and Stegner (1998) warn against the total disappearance of wilderness which they view as dangerous perspective the modern society can confront if it keeps ignoring environmental problems.
However, the problem of the conflict between the civilized society and wilderness is much deeper than the conflict between the civilized world and the nature. Abbey (1977), Stegner (1998) and Sharpe (2005) argue that wilderness is an essential part of the organization of human society. For instance, Stegner (1998) refers to the past, to the epoch of the frontier as one of the key points in the history of the formation of the US nation. In other words, he stands on the ground that wilderness has shaped the American nation and its fundamental values. Abbey (1977) supports this idea expending it to the present epoch. He argues that wilderness is an essential element of democracy and a form an individual freedom which is likely to disappear along with the disappearance of wilderness and total domination of the civilized world. In this respect, Sharpe (2005) supports the idea that wilderness is crucial for the organization of the society and, what is more, the author stresses the fact that wilderness contributes to the unification of communities. At this point, Sharpe’s position is similar to that of Stegner in regard to the formative role of wilderness in the course of the development of communities and society at large. Sharpe (2005) focuses on the positive effects of wilderness on the community development because it gives people an unparalleled sense of togetherness, which they can be deprived of being stripped of wilderness.
In this respect, Abbey (1977) and Stegner (1998) goes even further in their pessimistic forecasts of the development of the society which is deprived of wilderness. They argue that the limitation of wilderness or its elimination can lead to the elimination of individual freedom, liberties and democratic rights. In fact, Abbey (1977) views a threat to wilderness as a threat to democracy because the elimination of wilderness and the lack wilderness in an individual’s mind and spirit get people rid of their natural freedom. Stegner (1998) supports this idea and stresses the importance of wilderness for the formation of democracy in the USA.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the conflict between wilderness and the civilized world is not just an environmental conflict but it is also a threat to individual liberties and democracy within the modern society.