Michael McFadyen’s article which appeared in the Central Western Daily on January 29 should be of concern to all.
Written from the perspective of a former National Parks employee, Mr McFadyen makes reference to the deterioration of the state of our national parks due to under-funding, a reduction in on-the-ground staff and the loss of experienced staff due to redundancies.
This is of concern because our society needs wilderness areas, and has always done so.
For the purpose of this article wilderness is regarded as land which contains plant and animal communities which remain essentially unchanged by human activity. Most wilderness occurs within National Parks and nature reserves where threats to wilderness values should be actively managed.
Wilderness areas are essential for the provision of refuges for many ecosystems and species from the threats of climate change, habitat depletion, disease and weed and feral animal invasion. Wilderness areas represent the most intact and undisturbed expanses of natural landscape, protecting the biodiversity in natural systems and allowing systems to evolve without interference.
They are also storehouses of genetic material which may be valuable for generations to come. Wilderness provides clean air and water and can be a place of solitude and inspiration.
The latter perspective is of particular interest to Richard Sylvan, an environmental philosopher who echoes the thoughts of many environmentalists when he asserts that it is morally wrong to destroy wilderness areas because they have value beyond that which is useful.
He believes that wilderness areas should be retained in their own right, to be appreciated for their awesome beauty and their potential for spiritual renewal as well as for their environmental and recreational utility.
Unfortunately there is strong evidence to suggest that if we continue our current practices, our wilderness areas will disappear at an alarming rate, to the extent that in a century from now, experts warn us that wilderness will cease to exist.
Our population is set to reach nine billion this century, which will place additional pressure on land use to meet an increasing demand for food, water, fibre, shelter and recreation, making wilderness preservation less of a priority.
Whether we perceive wilderness as an ecological refuge, as mitigation against climate change, an opportunity for recreation or something to be valued for its beauty and intrinsic value, most of us believe that our wilderness areas are worthy of protection.
How we treat wilderness will determine how much of the natural world we will be able to hand down to future generations.
The knowledge that we need to ensure that our grandchildren can also enjoy wilderness should motivate us all to ensure the survival of wilderness areas. If we are to be successful in doing this, we must have the necessary resources.