Stalking #3: Wildness: Local, Global, and Driven by Infringement

Wildness in a local sense is dual and dynamic, and contained in particular places. It is subject to different approaches to keep it from changing, control that change, or clean up the damage if any is caused as a result of said change. In Central America, wildness is much more present. As we learned in the introduction to Samuel Bridgewater’s book A Natural History of Belize: Inside the Maya Forest, despite being decimated for resources as a result of the inevitably exploitative hand of human nature, the forests of Belize and Guatemala are known as some of the most significant ecological areas in the world, covering hundreds of thousands of hectares in some parts (3).   Just as important is the Mesoamerican reef, which is the second largest reef system in the world behind only the Great Barrier Reef. It draws the vast majority of attention as traffic flocks to its cays and atolls. Within it also is South Water Caye Marine Reserve where we spent the final days of our time in the region. According to the website sponsored by the Belize Fisheries Department, as the largest marine reserve in Belize this second manifestation of wildness covers an area of 117,878 acres (sec. 1). Additionally it is heavily valued ecologically and economically. It is the constant focus of approaches to preserve it, conserve it, and restore it, as its reefs especially are stressed to a concerning degree. Most notably, as a result of its management, the area serves as an example of forward thinking response to and mitigation of infringement derived from man and other external sources. Therefore, wildness both locally and globally is dual and dynamic for the reason that it exists at the nexus between autonomy and intervention. It is contained in particular places, and subjected to different management efforts. Completely roping these areas off is impossible, but it is entirely possible for wildness to be exploited to a dangerous degree. This makes the direction from here one that seeks to bridge the gap between tensions such as ecology and economy, local and global, and sustainable, responsible management. Such a step could be the force that provides a restorative touch to wild places in the Chesapeake and abroad.

During our time at South Water Caye, as part of a series of natural science lectures, we learned all about the threats and management strategies that are experienced by this coastal area and the reserve. The threats involve trends like agricultural runoff, intense overfishing, and coastal development. There are three zones that provide areas for different schools of management: the preservation, conservation and general use zones. These managed access areas, through a strategy called Integrated Coastal Zone Management, bring together decision-making entities and seek to resolve issues and ensure restoration and revitalization in these ecosystems and communities as a result of that collaboration. However, what with the size of this area and the deep establishment of exploitative practices such as overfishing, people are always doing things that compromise the sovereignty of areas such as these mentioned here. In other words, just because something is roped off as the preservation zone doesn’t mean that people are going to follow that. Examples of such activities could be anything ranging from fishing for Conch around and under marked boundaries, fishing at odd hours to get around law enforcement, and crossing international borders to do either of those. As a result, any kind of enforcement of regulation must be done on a discretionary basis, and the coast guard has been instated very recently to assist in handling the fine line between strict authority and flexible enforcement. The effort going into the future seems to be enriching these managed access areas, but that requires extensive resources and could just end up as a vicious cycle because regulation and protection inherently wont be followed as humans will naturally try to exploit.

To wrap things up, it is prudent to refer to a more humanities based perspective. In Preserving Wildness, Wendell Berry makes the following assumption: “to use or not to use nature is not a choice that is available to us; we can live only at the expense of other lives. Our choice has rather to do with how and how much to use. This is not a choice that can be decided satisfactorily in principle or in theory; it is a choice intransigently impractical…by necessity, the practice will vary somewhat from one locality to another” (518). For one more perspective, William Cronon alludes to this trouble as well in his piece Trouble with Wilderness; or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. He says, “There is nothing natural about the concept of wilderness. It is entirely a creation of the culture that holds it dear, a product of the very history it seeks to deny” (8).   In the Chesapeake, as well as Central America and possibly other places in the world, wild places exist in a complicated and multifaceted way. There are many different places in which it can exist, and those places are subjected to management that inevitably succumbs to exploitative human nature or incomplete protection. The only place to turn going forward is how management strategies and policies can allow us to bridge the gap between the needs of the environment and society at large

Works Cited

Cronon, William, ed. The Trouble With Wilderness; or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. New York: W. Norton & CO., 1995. Print.

Berry, Wendell. “Preserving Wildness”. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. Ed. Bill Mckibben. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 2008. 516-530. Print.

Belize Fisheries Department. South Water Caye Marine Reserve: A Jewel in the Belize Barrier Reef Marine Reserve System World Heritage Site. BFD. 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.

Bridgewater, Samuel. A Natural History of Belize: Inside The Maya Forest. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012. Print.

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