Wildernism or Wildism? (Letter to the Editor)

Dear Editor,

Hi, I just learned about your magazine, but I’m a little confused. You named your magazine The Wildernist, but you’re a part of the wildism network? Are the two things the same?

— Joyce from Colorado


Hi, Joyce.

The name of the magazine, as we explain on our about page, is a reference to a general tendency amongst wilderness-lovers. The tendency is sometimes called “wilderness purism,” and it is simply a no-compromise stance on what wilderness is — no roads, no techno-gadgets, no strong and invasive influence of culture. This idea has existed for a while, but our readers are most familiar with the attitude as it is expressed in the modern conservationist movement by the likes of Dave Foreman, David Brower, and others. This magazine is for that faction of the conservationist movement and any peripheral audiences that might be interested. It’s important to remember, though, that saying someone is a “wildernist” is not like saying they are a “communist.” There is no developed ideology called “Wildernism”; the wildernists are just conservationists who take the wilderness seriously. Again, “wilderness purists.”

“Wildism,” on the other hand, is a developing ideology, and it’s the official editorial position of the magazine, as outlined in our editorial blog, Hunter/Gatherer. For our first issue, we published a Statement of Principles written by some friends in Spain, and we formed a network of groups who have accepted the principles and are willing to act on them. The basic idea behind Wildism is that wild Nature ought to be valued and those things that work against it ought to be discarded. In particular, industry has caused a lot of trouble: once the Industrial Revolution began, population, species extinctions, and carbon emissions have skyrocketed; depression and suicide rates are much higher in cities than in rural areas; and there is, generally, a widespread feeling of purposelessness in the world, a purposelessness that is again a lot more present in the city. Wildists, in other words, recognize our love of wild Nature is incompatible with the continued intrusions of industrial society, and we would like to see industrial society go.

You don’t have to agree with the editorial position to submit to, read, enjoy or even work (as staff) for The Wildernist. The magazine is for and by “wilderness purists,” and no matter what, we see a lot of value in conservation stemming from that ethic. But is conservation enough? If we had the opportunity to cut at the root of the problem — industry — shouldn’t we? We think so, and Hunter/Gatherer, our editorial blog, exists precisely for those of us purists who are willing and able to openly advocate this. For everyone else not quite ready to advocate a world without industry and a movement to make that happen, we have published and will continue to publish articles on wilderness protection campaigns, environmental legislation, and so on. We all agree that that work is important and shouldn’t be forsworn. Besides, as I said to my co-editor when we were discussing the potential and very serious consequences of our Wildist ideas: “If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the wild matters. At the very least we should spread the value of it.”

— John F. Jacobi

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