Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

This year is the 50th anniversary of two monumental pieces of legislation: the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act. Though these two laws exist within different arenas of public affairs, both have had significant effects on American society.

The Wilderness Act was signed into law in 1964 with almost unanimous support, at a time when American society overwhelmingly supported its passage. Since 1964, wilderness has been criticized as an elitist ideal representing a small interest group in the United States. As our country becomes increasingly diverse, and public lands protection loses popular support, making wilderness more relevant to minority populations is vital.

This project examines the social constructs of wilderness in the United States in response to a changing demographic on our public lands. In this project, I aim to 1) evaluate current recreation trends of African Americans in the United States, 2) discuss criticisms of wilderness and how a focus on the social foundations of the wilderness movement can help to ameliorate those criticisms, and 3) propose changes to future wilderness education in order to increase relevance of the wilderness idea.

Research for this project focused on recreation trends, history of the wilderness movement, and modern wilderness criticisms and commentary. I collected interviews from nine individuals whose work involves the link between wilderness and society through management, education, outreach, and stewardship. Collectively, this project aims to suggest tools for wilderness education that will make wilderness, both in theory and in practice, accessible to a broader populace, hopefully increasing its relevance and assuring its existence into the future.

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Social Sciences

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Apr 11th, 1:40 PM Apr 11th, 2:00 PM

Wilderness as a Social Movement: Expanding Cultural Relevance in the 21st Century

This year is the 50th anniversary of two monumental pieces of legislation: the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act. Though these two laws exist within different arenas of public affairs, both have had significant effects on American society.

The Wilderness Act was signed into law in 1964 with almost unanimous support, at a time when American society overwhelmingly supported its passage. Since 1964, wilderness has been criticized as an elitist ideal representing a small interest group in the United States. As our country becomes increasingly diverse, and public lands protection loses popular support, making wilderness more relevant to minority populations is vital.

This project examines the social constructs of wilderness in the United States in response to a changing demographic on our public lands. In this project, I aim to 1) evaluate current recreation trends of African Americans in the United States, 2) discuss criticisms of wilderness and how a focus on the social foundations of the wilderness movement can help to ameliorate those criticisms, and 3) propose changes to future wilderness education in order to increase relevance of the wilderness idea.

Research for this project focused on recreation trends, history of the wilderness movement, and modern wilderness criticisms and commentary. I collected interviews from nine individuals whose work involves the link between wilderness and society through management, education, outreach, and stewardship. Collectively, this project aims to suggest tools for wilderness education that will make wilderness, both in theory and in practice, accessible to a broader populace, hopefully increasing its relevance and assuring its existence into the future.