ISSUE-098

Some people claim that a nation's government should preserve its wilderness areas in their natural state. Others argue that these areas should be developed for potential economic gain.


Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.


In this policy proposal, it is recommended that nations pass laws to preserve any remaining wilderness areas in their natural states even if economic gain can be achieved by developing those lands. In my view, while it is indeed necessary to preserve the wilderness, we cannot fully keep all the wilderness areas in their true “natural states” because human activities have already had far-reaching influences on the wilderness. Instead, nations should actively manage the wilderness land and develop some of them for educational and economic purposes, which can actually in turn facilitate the conservation of Nature.


To begin with, the notion that wilderness areas need protection is certainly well-founded for a number of reasons. First, many wild animals, some of which are endangered, call the wilderness home and rely on the quality of the land to survive. In order to protect those animals, it is natural to pass laws to preserve their habitats. Second, the wilderness actually bears important ecological functions that are beneficial to our society. The Amazon Forest, for example, is called the Lung of the Earth and provides clean air. Another example is wetlands by the cities that offer urban residents access to clean, natural water. As a result, I agree that wilderness areas is in need of protection, in a broad sense.


However, I find serious problems in the argument that any remaining wilderness areas must be set aside from development and be kept in their pure pristine states. The practical reason is that a truly “natural state” may only be an illusion. The wilderness, as a part of Nature, is constantly changing and human beings are part of that as well. For instance, natural variability of weather patterns could have changed the behaviors of the animals and the distribution of plants. In geologically active zones landscape can be dramatically altered with a short period of time. Even without human intervention, wilderness areas are in constant change and efforts to preserve all of them in one natural state are likely to be in vain. Furthermore, with human activities near and afar, the wilderness areas are more or less under human influence. For instance, the burning of fossil fuels leads to warming and subsequent climate change that has a global scale impact. Airborne pollutants can travel to remote wilderness carried by the wind. In sum, to preserve the wilderness in their natural states may just be a wishful thinking that we can govern Nature, while in reality the so-call “natural state” has never ceased changed.


Instead of preserving all remaining wilderness areas, I argue that nations should pass laws to actively manage such lands in a sustainable fashion. This means that the protection of the land and the proper development for economic gain are not mutually exclusive. The advantage of wilderness development can be at least two folds. First, developing wilderness into a land that the public can access and enjoy promotes environmental education. It can hardly disagreed upon that one of the best way to instill someone the sense of environmental protection is to immerse him or her in the magnificent Nature itself. The National Park system across the globe is a vivid example of how some of the best public lands can be turned into a classroom for the public to watch and learn. People who have visited Yellowstone, the oldest National Park in the world for example, will likely appreciate the grandeur of Nature and the delicacy of life, and may more likely contribute to the conservation of Nature.


Additionally, developing a wild land for economic gain is not necessarily negative as the policy implies, as long as the development does not destroy Nature. On the contrary, proper development can create economic benefits essential to the conservation of the wilderness itself. Let’s still take the concept of National Parks as an example. While access to many of those parks are free of charge or only associated with a nominal fee, the economic benefits from tourism cannot be underestimated. In the United States alone, many towns benefit greatly from the proximity to those public lands and almost exclusively rely their economy on tourism, such as Jackson, WY on the Yellowstone and Beatty, NV on the Death Valley. The tax income from the tourism can then be put into the research and conservation of the wilderness.


To summarize, while I am in favor of preserving the wilderness, it does not mean zero development policy for the sake of conservation. Indeed, it may even be futile to try keeping the wilderness in its pristine states because of the never-ending change of Nature. Instead, governments should actively manage the public lands and properly develop them for educational and economic purposes, which can in turn contribute to the preservation of Nature in the long run.


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