Wilderness is the driving force for more exploration in

Wilderness has etymological roots in the
Saxon and Celtic history – wyld-deor-ness – in rough translation meaning wild
animal territory; a place of non domesticated land (Nash, 1967). The
troublesome definition of wilderness is contested and misunderstood due to its
subjective nature, however a commonly agreed upon understanding illustrates and
area of Earth that is not affected by human activity. If this definition is
taken at face value then we can categorically analyse that there is no
wilderness left on Earth as every place is effected by increased carbon dioxide
through anthropogenic emissions, as one example. Empirical research suggests that the conceptualization of
“wilderness” is indeed profoundly subjective (Lutz, Simpson-Housley, &
Deman, 1999).  Through
the last 60 years we have troubled the planet with the greenhouse gas emissions
and thus this has had a directly negative influence on the wilderness through
the drying of land, extreme weather fluctuations and rising sea levels.  


Section 1: How wilderness influences science

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Scientific research has been taking place in
the wilderness for centuries, the discovery of new species, genetics and understanding
is the driving force for more exploration in these areas. These areas provide
the landscape for this exploration to take place and thus the wilderness
influences the operations of scientific research. This is seen particular in
the science of psychology – where there have been great advances in the study
of Wilderness Therapy. This is the use of the wilderness and nature to allow
patients with psychological instability to participate in clinical sessions,
reflection and social connectivity alongside trained psychologists. The guided
experience of this therapy requires the collection of data to understand the sights,
sounds and scents of the wilderness and enhances these factors to retrain the brain
back into regular functioning (Selhub & Logan, 2012).

In the last decade there has been a great
increase in the proportion of young people facing mental health disorders
comparative to other age groups (Department of Health and Ageing, 2013; World
Health Organization, 2001), sparking the Wilderness Therapy initiatives as an
alternative option to provide help for those suffering. Due to the subjective
nature of this form of therapy, the impact of the wilderness experience is
dependent on the individual experiencing it and thus there are many theories
expressing the number of interactions, however a promising avenue is that the
role of nature acts as a replenishment process for cognitive thinking (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). A country that
has advanced their method of using the wilderness to help psychological
patients is Australia, through the development of the Wilderness
Adventure Therapy (WAT) model was created by Simon Crisp (Crisp, 1997, 1998;
Crisp, Noblet, & Hinch, 2004). The WAT model illustrates the development of
social-emotional skills of the patient through adventure experiences in the
wilderness. This therapy programme lasts 10 weeks in which nature expeditions,
activities and group work is carried out under the control and guidance of the practitioners.
After 9 weeks of carefully guided trips, the final week is a point of
reflection and learning in which identification of goals achieved and unmet
goals. Figure 1 below shows the split of the 10 week programme for patients.

1992 and 2003, the WAT model was firstly put into use in Australia for those
adolescents with severe symptoms of psychological, behavioural and
psychiatric problems. Through the realisation of the power of wilderness and
its positive effects, the WAT model was in place across high schools, family agencies
totalling 190 programmes across these years. ‘Since 2003, other WAT programs
have been conducted in independent and government schools as community and
early-intervention programs’ (Bowen, Neill and Crisp, 2016). A particular
example was of a 15-year-old girl named Susan ‘with psychological and social
problems’ (Bowen, Neill and Crisp, 2016). She was enrolled on the course and
through her time on it, it was noted that her self confidence, assertiveness,
personal clarity and sociability had all increased. Upon leaving the programme,
within two weeks she was enrolled in full time education again, and 6 months
later she had enrolled into several extra curricular activities. Examples of
Australia’s success story of Susan and countless others illustrate the power of
the wilderness and how it has an influence not only in our minds but in the
scientific work behind psychological recovery. The whole programme is based
upon the availability and feasibility of using nature and the wilderness – key
variables which Australia have in abundance.

 Australia has a deep historical root with nature
and the wilderness through cultural connections and aboriginal spirits that are
intrinsic to the country; this indigenous identity is shared across all
Australians. The wilderness has provided the perfect landscape for centuries
with the Aboriginal people to todays scientists (Svieby & Skuthorpe, 2006),
thus it has always provided a landscape for research, an area of escape and is
inherently therapeutic based on ‘simple heuristics’ (Nevin et al., 2017).

 There has been a greater appreciation for the
role wilderness assists in scientific understanding and therefore there has been
a significant movement in recent years to increase, restore and deepen the
connection and bond we have with the wilderness and nature for a wellbeing
purpose (Scott, Amel, & Manning, 2014). This is seen in Canada, Norway,
Sweden and Finland as there is ongoing process of implementing action plans for
Wilderness Therapy –  who all have
similar historical background and availability to the wilderness as Australia.

 Section 2: How science influences wilderness­­­

 However, in alternative cases scientific
studies and research helps nature in an evolutionary, advancement and
maintenance aspect. Science within wilderness has become intrinsic through
advanced technology of the 21st century and a deeper knowledge of
the past and future projections. Through these variables science is able to assist
in the survival and protection of the wilderness through the introduction of
Facilitating Adaption, otherwise known as Gene Modifying and thus creating a
transgenic landscape. This is the direct genetic manipulation of genes within
an organism for an intended purpose using biotechnology and has come into a
large field within science due to climatic warming. Climate changes pose a
great threat to the existence of species on Earth through the inability to
adapt to changing temperatures, precipitation patterns and phenology, giving
the projection of 1 in 6 species is likely to be threatened by 2050 (Urban,

In general, there are two schools of thought
for wilderness protection, first by Ron Sandler in 2013 argues that ‘species
preservation ought to be deemphasized as an ecosystem management goal’; whereas
Fred Pierce, 2015 argues that we should ’embrace the new’ and not try and
‘preserve the old’. The advancements of science have now allowed the
possibility of Facilitating Adaption, to make the specie more ‘resilient to
changes in the climate’ (Palmer, 2016). This technology is already being
utilised but in the form of creating higher yielding crops to help serve the
growing population. However, due to the still infant technology of gene
adaptions, there are no conclusive examples of tweaking for the purpose of
survival to climate changes and wilderness preservation. The developments
however, have allowed the inclusion of thought experiments among many species
such as the American Pika. This lagomorph specie is found in Western United
States and South-Western Canada, this specie is found in relatively high
latitudes and is an ideal indicator for climate change effects (Beever & Smith,
2011); due to its particular insular habitat choice, low reproductive rate and
extreme sensitivity to warm temperatures.

The genome of the Pika is under ‘substantial
research’ (Beever & Smith, 2011), with some focussing on limited Pika
outliers living in alternative conditions and that could possess the genetic anomaly
to warmer climatic conditions (Henry and Russello 2013;
Robson, Lamb, and Russello 2015). These adaptions allow
scientists to draw out the alleles from the better adapted Pika and directly
transfer them into the gene pool of the original Pika population. Overall using
scientific findings and experiments to influence the survival of the American
Pika, through making it more adaptive and resilient to live in a warmer climate.


Castillo et al., 2014 illustrates the
powerful tool of using science in the mountain wilderness as ‘exceptional
opportunity to quantify effects of contemporary climate change on wildlife
species and their habitats’. Studying the mountainous regions and the American
Pika have allowed the understanding of a positive feedback felt through warming
climate decreases the effect of albedo and thus the high latitude may feel
future climatic effects more severely than other areas (Walther et al., 2005; Beniston, 2003;
Pepin & Lundquist, 2008; Oyler et al., 2015; Root et al., 2003). Further
studies allowing discoveries of spatial movement, genetic variability and other
variables have allowed the understanding of climatic effects on the ecosystem
and wilderness in all areas across the globe.


Scientific analysis allows the ability of
simulation to create ‘alternative hypotheses’ of how the change in wilderness
effects the landscape and genetic structure of the environment. These data sets
are an important step in to the understanding of the population of the American
Pika and there spatial and genetic variability to climatic influences (Hafner 1993; Beever et al. 2003). Studies allow the
ability to inform future research and possible preventative actions to help the
survival of the American Pika, its habitat and thus the wilderness.


Section 3: Do they compliment each other?


Science in the wilderness causes controversy
due its potential short term destructive nature to the overall cause. The
research on the wild areas must be carried out as the area itself provides
answers for previous states of the earth, and thus provides the landscape to solve
problems ‘particularly relevant to its own conservation’. Yet the degrading
nature of scientific experiments on the wilderness has been politically ensured
that only specific research can be carried out, by only specific organisations
and after it has gone through extensive restrictions on aspects such as sample size
and duration of research. Illustrated through the understanding that genetic
adaption may help save wild animals like the Pika, allowing it to roam from the
risks of climate change, but this comes at a cost of keeping ‘wild places wild’
(Beever & Smith, 2011).  The cautious
nature of these experiments show the imposition of the short term negative
effects on the landscape (Madhusudan et al., 2006).


Furthermore, the research of the Wilderness
Therapy has two primary effects on patients: firstly, the self concept of there
individual character and secondly, the improvement of developing social skills
– both which are greatly encouraging. The
inference that the patients were positively influenced by both the wilderness
and the clinical sessions are inconclusive as some patients may, patients may
have only benefited of being in the wilderness regardless of the therapeutic
process, training or clinical goals (Berger, 2006; Berman, Jonides, &
Kaplan, 2008; Chawla, 2015). However, the core understanding of the wilderness
is that of being untouched by humans and thus facilitating adaptions and
intruding on the land makes it intrinsically not ‘wild’, which is further
enhanced through the activities based in the wilderness for those participating
in Wilderness Therapy.


This controversy has allowed the
understanding to raise environmental efforts, increase land-based learning opportunities
and recognise indigenous knowledge and practice into an indoor education
programme in Canada and several other countries (Harper, Carpenter, &
Segal, 2012; Lowen, 2009; Mullins, Lowen-Trudeau, & Fox, 2015; Mullins
& Maher, 2007; Raffan, 1993; Tuck, McKenzie, & McCoy, 2014). Canadian
specialists have called for the integration of scientific knowledge of the
wilderness in a systems theory approach (Taylor, Segal, & Harper, 2010),
which recognises the narratives of change and metaphorical realisations of the
wilderness (Hartford, 2011). This has been recognised by global specialists to
heighten the awareness of land dwelling principles, skills development,
culture, biological conditions (Mullins & Maher, 2007), and indigenous
understanding implemented into therapy (Mullins et al., 2015; Ritchie et al.,
2015). Therefore, allowing the power of nature to come indoors whilst using the
power of nature as a therapeutic effect. This will alleviate the destruction of
wilderness of land in terms of use for human well being.


Science and the wilderness both influence
each other in both positive and negative aspects, however the preservation of these
areas through science mainly comes down to the intrinsic value that we place on
that area of wilderness and the habitat it holds – and thus, the preservation
or extinction of the given area.