Wilderness Ethics by Guy Waterman

Wilderness Ethics

Wilderness Ethics by Guy Waterman is a philosophical book that examines the purpose of wilderness preservation and evaluates outdoor activities and technologies as they affect the adventure, silence, and sense of remoteness from the outside world that make up the wilderness experience. The book looks beyond the ecology of the backcountry to the factors that make it “wild”. It is a philosophy of preservation, aiming to keep the wilderness from being destroyed by those who love it.

The book tackles the subjects that people are sometimes hesitant to talk about and that include publicizing specific areas to save them vs loving them to death, what mode of travel is compatible with keeping places wild, bringing people into the wilderness vs limiting numbers, making a Wilderness Area safer (more signs, more trails, more amenities) at the expense of the wildness of the area, etc. The subtitle of the book is the real point of the text: Preserving the spirit of Wildness.

The writing style of the book is very witty, a bit playful, engaging and is more in the tone of a favorite college professor asking questions that make you think. The book is not a fire and brimstone lecture from a pulpit. At a little over two-hundred pages, it is a quick read as well.

Useful takeaways from the book include staying on established trails, not littering, practicing minimum impact camping, camping in well-used and established sites, and respecting the mystery of the wilderness. The book is an excellent read for anyone who cares about the outdoors as something more than a bucket list of things to check off or a way to get new toys. It is a book for those seeking the wild in our wilderness.

What I Liked

I loved how the book really digs into the what it takes to preserve the idea of Wilderness beyond the physical checklists of Leave No Trace.

What I Did Not Like

This book gets deep into the weeds (no pun) and might turn off some political allies of Wilderness, but I’m also fully aware that sometimes ideals are worth holding and not compromising on.

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