Defining Wilderness: a review of history, cultural perspectives and current discussions relevant to Antarctica
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
The term 'wilderness' is used directly in the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection (the Madrid Protocol).' Article III of the Protocol states: "The protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems and the intrinsic value of Antarctica, including its wilderness and aesthetic values and its value as an area for the conduct of scientific research, in particular research essential to understanding the global environment, shall be fundamental considerations in the planning and conduct of all activities in the Antarctic Treaty area." Furthermore, "... activities in the Antarctic Treaty area shall be planned and conducted So as to avoid... degradation of, or Substantial risk to, areas of biological, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness significance". Following the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, terms were not defined, and considered to be self-explanatory. The appearance of the term 'wilderness' in 1991 rather than 1959 reflects the growth of widespread concern about ecological issues in the intervening years, with related calls for protection of certain types of landscapes. Biodiversity has been implicated in some but not all of these areas (as will be seen below, synonymy of wilderness and biodiversity cannot be assumed). Unlike geology, when it comes to interpretation and values the present is not always a key to the past; significant changes of attitude have taken place overtime. The use of the wilderness concept in the Madrid Protocol may represent what Callicott and Nelson have called "the received wilderness idea", which can be characterised as dramatic landscapes, devoid of human habitation and limited human activity. This contemporary Western version of wilderness forms the basis for significant challenges by extra-Western Cultures; this will be reviewed in more depth below. The wilderness topic is therefore set against the context of changing interest in, and use of, varied Antarctic landscapes by scientists and other visitors, raising important questions about current and future acts of use and preservation. The debates around definition have consequences for those dealing with the ATS and Madrid Protocol; the review below gives an overview of key issues and texts on this subject.
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