Key Words of Conservation and Environmental Discourse

Mark Meisner “Key Words of Conservation and Environmental Discourse,” Wild Earth Vol.3, No.4, pp.75-81, Winter 1994.

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Meisner-Key Words of Conservation and Environmental Discourse

Published in Wild Earth Vol.3, No.4, pp.75-81, Winter 1994.
by Mark Meisner

There is a growing recognition within the environmental/conservation movement of the importance of language. Critical environmental thinkers have begun to realize the limitations of existing vocabularies and ways of speaking for articulating the practical and philosophical dimensions of a non-anthropocentric and non-resourcist sensibility of Nature. In other words, the language does not seem to be keeping up with the changes in attitudes, values, beliefs, and ways of conceptualizing Nature that are emerging in such areas as deep ecology and ecofeminism. This means that those of us who advocate for wild Nature are forced to continue using the language of the dominant Western industrial view of Nature. Often, we do this uncritically, without even being aware of the contradictions implied in our word choices. I would liken environmentalist’s present situation to that of feminists using sexist language.

As a new view or sense of Nature emerges, so too should a language that faithfully articulates and evokes it. Until then, old concepts and old words will be needed for the transitional discourse and dance of change. I want, then, to explore here some of the potential problems associated with some widely-used words of conservation/environmental discourse. As well, I will advocate a critical and self-reflective awareness of the language being used by Nature advocates.

In his book Keywords, Raymond Williams discusses what he sees as the key words “of the practices and institutions which we group as culture and society.” Each of these words became significant to him “because the problems of its meanings seemed to [be] inextricably bound up with the problems it was being used to discuss.” He defines keywords thus: “they are significant binding words in certain activities and their interpretation; they are significant, indicative words in certain forms of thought.”1 A number of the words Williams considers are relevant to environmental discourse, including “ecology,” and “nature.” However, it is Williams’ observations about the characteristics of keywords that are most important here, since they suggest why the words I am about to discuss are so important.

Peggy Rosenthal’s book Words and Values is a detailed, multi-dimensional look at several clusters of “leading”–that is normative, positive, appealing–words related to the ideology of humanism. The groups of words she looks at are self-feelings-inner, growth-development-evolve-fulfillment-potential, relative-opinion-consensus, and relationship-whole-system-community-environment, all of which are important for those concerned with transforming human relationships with non-human Nature.2 Rosenthal’s essays are excellent biographies of the lives of these and related words.

Dolores LaChapelle’s Sacred Land, Sacred Sex contains an extensive glossary of both familiar and relatively obscure terms related to deep ecology and neo-pagan spirituality. She seeks to reclaim language and offers brief old and/or new definitions and evocations of many words.3

Finally, I have found John Button’s A Dictionary of Green Ideas to be the most useful of the environment dictionaries. His entries show more awareness of the philosophical dimensions of environmentalism than the others I have seen.4

Drawing on these and other diverse sources, I present here a brief critical glossary of what I see as some of the keywords of environmental/conservation discourse.5 The notes on these words are of course incomplete, but should serve the essential purpose of suggesting why we ought to pay close attention to how these words are used. Paralleling Williams, I feel these are words whose meanings form part of the problem of the anthropocentric-resourcist view of Nature, and yet these words are central to and perhaps even necessary (at least for now) for the discourse of change now going on. And, I do not attempt closure with these words, since to do so would falsify the reality of their ambiguities and contradictions.

CONSERVATION, CONSERVE, etc. [noun, verb]

“Conservation,” along with “preservation,” has been used in loose and sometimes contradictory ways by those calling for some sort of action to promote the continuation of some aspect of the natural world. Not only are there no agreed-upon conventions for what these words mean, there is also no neutral word to encompass the concepts of “conservation,” “preservation,” “protection,” “saving,” and so on.

While definitely a step up from unrestrained exploitation of Nature, the concept of conservation is often associated with a resourcist view. “Preservation,” however, tends to have fewer resourcist connotations, but still retains elements of this view.

According to John Button, “‘conservation’ is a difficult idea to pin down because it has been used as the foundation for many conflicting views on resource use; like GREEN it has political and commercial appeal, and its use needs careful monitoring.”6 Indeed, “conservation” sounds well intentioned, but that may conceal exploitive agendas. For example, the World Conservation Strategy and Our Common Future, which advocate global conservation, have turned out to be simply plans for the technical and economic rationalization and domestication of Nature. They are anthropocentric-resourcist documents which pretend to be about protecting Nature.

“Conservation” implies a concern with wise use and utility. Implicit in the word is an understanding of the world as a collection of resources. Warwick Fox suggests that conservation derives its meaning from its etymological roots, namely “con,” meaning together or with, and “serve,” meaning a slave. Thus for Fox “conservation” means the wise enslavement of aspects of Nature.7 John Livingston puts it a little more gently: “Very generally, by convention, ‘conservation’ has meant the care of ‘natural resources’ and their protection from depletion, waste, and damage, so that they will be readily at hand through perpetuity.”8 Livingston feels that “conservation” is an easily coopted word. Furthermore, many people use “conservation,” “preservation,” and “protection” interchangeably, thus blurring the distinctions between them.

“Conservation” also covers the thoroughly sensible idea of using as little of a “resource” as is required to meet a particular need. Even an ecocentrist would agree that it is good to conserve water by using less of it when we shower, for example. The risk again is in perceiving those things to be conserved simply as resources, and the use of “conservation” as an all encompassing goal encourages such a view. As Livingston says, it is the application of the term to all of wild Nature that is so troublesome.

Thus, when speaking about what humans should do for Nature, “conservation” should always be clearly defined, and accompanied by such other related norms as preservation, protection, healing, and letting be, although there seems to be a gap in the vocabulary here.

PRESERVATION, PRESERVE, etc. [noun, verb]

Quite often “preservation” and “conservation” are used synonymously. Like “conservation,” “preservation” is a loosely and contradictorily used word. Often thought to mean not using aspects of Nature at all, the term turns out to be somewhat less altruistic.

For many people, especially those whose business it is to exploit “resources,” preservation has the negative connotation of locking Nature away from human use. As John Livingston says, for them, “preservation smells of reaction, retrogression, primitivism, and worse.”9 However, in reality many “preserved” areas are actually suffering degradation from ever-increasing amounts of so-called non-consumptive uses such as tourism. They are not usually being materially converted into human artifacts, but they are being degraded nonetheless.

Thus, “preservation” is now recognized as a resourcist term, although less so than “conservation.” According to Warwick Fox, the etymology of “preserve” suggests that it “carries the sense of ‘before slavery,’ which in turn carries the suggestion of preventing something from becoming a slave.”10 For him, preservation means keeping those aspects of Nature intact so that humans may benefit from them in that state.

Like the conservation of those aspects of Nature we must use, the preservation of aspects of Nature (presumably those we use in non-transformative ways) is a laudable goal. However, given the recognition that it too is ultimately resourcist, it also should be recognized as inadequate on its own. Conservation and preservation are not enough to the ecocentrist; there must also be healing and letting be.

So, although “preservation” may have positive connotations for Nature advocates, it is not necessarily the solution, since resourcism is still implied in the word. However, it may be a useful word, since it is recognizable and can be used to specify the protection of Nature from material conversion. It also seems less likely to be coopted than “conservation.”

PROTECTION, PROTECT, etc. [noun, verb]

“Protect” and its derivatives are used in the same ways as “preserve” and “conserve” and their derivatives to suggest the idea of acting to see that at least certain facets of Nature do not entirely succumb to rampant exploitation by humans. It is also used to mean defending Nature. The essential problems with this word are its ambiguous meaning, and divergent connotations.

What “protecting” an aspect of Nature means is unclear, perhaps even less clear than what “conserving” and “preserving” mean. One would think that it is supposed to mean preventing any human use of, and impact on those facets of Nature. In that sense the word has a negative “locked up resources” connotation for would-be users. For those who advocate such protection, the word’s connotations are more favourable.

The word can also lead to further divergent interpretations. For example, consider the difference between “protecting” Nature through direct action and civil disobedience to stop the killing of whales, for example, and “protecting” Nature by creating a national “park.” The former is a literal form of protection, as in defending, whereas the latter is a form of extortion, a “protection” whose price is extracted in terms of recreational uses.

Thus there is ambiguity as to whether this word is a metaphorical or literal expression. Is Nature literally under attack from humans, and therefore in need of protection, or is It only metaphorically being attacked in that humans are using too many of Its “resources,” and polluting It too much?

ECOLOGY [noun]

The word “ecology” derives from oecologie, a word coined by Ernst Haeckel in 1866. It was derived from the Greek roots oikos and logos, together meaning the study of the household. Haeckel intended the word to mean “the science of the relations of living organisms to the external world, their habitat, customs, energies, parasites, etc.”11 Since then, its meanings have grown to cover three essential areas: 1. ecology as way of knowing; 2. ecology as environment or Nature; and 3. ecology as metaphor, paradigm or worldview. Of concern are both the contradictory meanings associated with the word, and the ambiguous and muddled uses of it.

According to Donald Worster, whose book Nature’s Economy is all about this, ecology as a way of knowing was first the study of “the economy of nature” and has since become even more of a cybernetic economistic science. However, in parallel, but in contrast to this “imperial” ecology was an “arcadian” tradition which approached the study of Nature from a romantic, sympathetic, non-utilitarian and holistic perspective. As a way of knowing Nature, this might be considered “natural history.”

Neil Evernden points out that although these two ecologies are in fundamental tension, this has not stopped the environmental movement from conflating them by revering the holistic ecology while using the scientific ecology to legitimize the movement’s claims.12 Furthermore, Evernden argues that neither of these two ecologies, nor any of the variations on them, can reveal the truth about Nature, since all “ecological knowledge” is a social construction of Nature.13 However, as he also says, because of the perception that “Nature knows best, and ecology knows nature,” ecology has come to be a normative concept.14

This brings us to the related view that sees ecology as a metaphor or worldview. Ecology in this sense is a holistic view of all Nature as a web of interdependent relationships. Thus we have “the ecological view,” the “age of ecology,” and the “ecological paradigm.” For example, consider Andrew McLaughlin’s description:

The emerging ecological model involves a fundamental change in metaphor, denying the metaphor of nature as composed of discrete atoms in external relations with each other, and imaging nature as an integrated system, in which each part is only what it is in virtue of its relation to the whole(s) of which it is a part.15

The fact that “ecology” is becoming a paradigm is problematic because, as Evernden and others have shown, what ecology “tells us” is not revealed truth, and as McLaughlin says, it remains a conceptual abstraction. According to Evernden, what seems to be happening here is that the ecological paradigm is just another case of using Nature to legitimize and justify culture, albeit in this case it is meant to suggest an ‘environment-friendly’ culture.

Of somewhat less consequence are the uses of ecology as a synonym for Nature or “the environment,” such as “save the ecology,” and “the global ecology.” With any knowledge of the origins of “ecology” one can see the silliness of such uses.

In addition to these three general areas, ecology is sometimes used as an adjective to seemingly mean having to do with Nature or with human relations with non-human Nature, as in “the ecology movement.” This probably comes from the generally fuzzy uses of “ecological” and “environmental”.

Compounding these essential differences in the meanings of “ecology” is the fact that the word itself is often used loosely and ambiguously, making it unclear which idea of ecology is being presented. It remains an open question whether these differences of meaning and usage can be resolved. This is an important word in the discourse, and not one that is likely to be given up by any of the parties.

ECOLOGICAL, ECO- [adjective]

As an adjective, “ecological” (or its short form the prefix “eco”) is widely used to suggest either 1. having to do with or of Nature, as in “ecological systems”; 2. having to do with human/nonhuman Nature relations, as in “ecological problems”; 3. being “natural,” “green,” environment-friendly, good for Nature and so on, as in “ecological attitude”; or 4. of ecology (as way of knowing) in its different senses, as in “ecological science.” Essentially, the contradictions and ambiguities of “ecology” are also reflected in the uses of “ecological.”


In the past two decades, the word “environment” has become the euphemism of choice for those who have forgotten about “Nature.” “Environment” and its derivatives are probably the most widely used of the keywords discussed here, and yet the term is unexpressive, vague and problematic. As John Button says, “environment” is a “much used, much abused word, almost impossible to define.”16 Or, in the words of Stan Rowe:

Of all the words commonly used in discussions of ecological integrity and deterioration, “environment” is surely the vaguest. That it stands for something important is attested by the many agencies and departments of government that busy themselves with managing its parts and by the army of environmentalists eager to defend them.17

Rowe also suggests that “environment” is a weak word that simply reflects back to humans their preoccupation with themselves.

Typically, “environment” means the human environment, however defined. This immediately makes it an anthropocentric concept, since it implies that “environment” is that which surrounds humans. It is also dualistic in that it implies a separation of humans from “the environment”; “environment” is that which is external to humans. And furthermore, it is a reification of Nature; it suggests that Nature is a static thing.

Neil Evernden sums this up in the closing paragraphs of The Natural Alien:

If the environmentalist is only concerned about a thing – environment -then that concern is easily resolved, either by safeguarding and repairing that thing, or by showing that it is of no consequence. But environmentalism, in the deepest sense, is not about environment. It is not about things but relationships, not about beings but Being, not about world but the inseparability of self and circumstance. In talking about the mountain the environmentalist seems to be defending a physical entity. But implicitly and emotionally he or she protests the categorization of ‘mountain’ – protests the isolation of portions of the world as things to defend or consume. The environmentalist resists the circumstance that makes it necessary to talk about ‘environment’ at all, and the first effective action he or she may take is to refuse all association with the term and its derivatives.18


As a derivative of “environment,” “environmental” is burdened by the same problems, along with its own ambiguities. “Environmental” is used in much the same ways as the first three senses of “ecological” to suggest either 1. having to do with Nature (i.e. the environment), as in “environmental protection”; 2. having to do with human/nonhuman Nature relations, as in “environmental policy”; and 3. being “green,” environment-friendly, good for Nature and so on, as in “environmental action.” Of course, in the last two cases there is the possibility that Nature is not a consideration at all, but rather that it is a concern for humans only by way of “the environment.”

NATURE [noun]

Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language.”19 Too true, and not surprising. The new Oxford English Dictionary entry on “nature” is over two and a half pages long, and including its derivatives spans roughly eleven pages. Arthur Lovejoy described “nature” as a “verbal jack of all trades” and noted dozens of meanings for the word.20 Acknowledging these complexities, I will stick here to several features of “nature” that are most relevant to this discussion.

To begin with, what “nature” means to us is a human construction. As Andrée Collard nicely sums it up, “it is clear that the word ‘nature’ does not so much define what we see but how we see.”21 Definitions of “nature” are therefore arbitrary.

Second, in this culture, “nature” has become a reified concept. “Nature” is typically seen as the material world, not as a process of events. According to Williams, it began as a description of a quality or process and later became an independent noun.22 Collard thinks “it is likely that, in its origin, ‘nature’ was not a word in our sense but a statement expressing an experience of the external world.”23

Third, “nature” is more often than not used to mean everything else besides humans and their creations. This, of course, is dualistic. To rectify this, it is now said that humans are “part of” or “in” Nature, although that too has its problems since it implies that therefore all human constructs and artifacts are of Nature (= natural), making it difficult for people to argue against certain of those cultural products.

And finally, the word “nature” carries a substantial amount of connotative baggage. For example, Stan Rowe describes some of this as being “nature red in tooth and claw,” “nature as capricious and bitchy,” and “nature as heathen,”24 but there are also the more positive connotations associated with the Romantic tradition.

This is an entirely problematic word and yet it is central to environmental discourse and ecophilosophy. We need a word that allows us to talk about the difference between human artifacts and constructs and the living world, and we also need a word to express the fact that humans are an aspect of that living world, despite their seeming desire to either eliminate or domesticate It. Ideally, we would not need such a concept, but practically, we cannot do without it at the present. Certainly, in the short term, the word needs reclaiming, redefining, and reinvigorating.

NATURAL [adjective]

We use “natural” to mean many different things. “Natural” is the ultimate essentially contested concept; its meaning is a matter of ideology. Furthermore, “natural” has generally very positive connotations; it almost always says “this is good” or “this is right.” But paradoxically, the natural world seems largely an object of indifference in this society. In environmental discourse, the term usually means of nature, but since that concept is also so problematic, “natural” carries over its difficulties.


“Land” evokes widely divergent connotations and beliefs. These range from the view that all land is sacred and that it is absurd to think humans can own It, to the view that land is simply real estate. Somewhere in the middle is the common modern tendency to indifference towards land, which may be the most dangerous attitude of all.

I cannot provide a definition in words that adequately conveys what the land is. The Collins English Dictionary says it is the “solid part of the surface of the earth,” but even that is a deception, for land, water, air and living beings are all of each other; these “elements” are always partaking of each of the others. Thus at the denotative level, definitions are limiting.

Connotatively, “land”’s meaning depends on attitudes to Nature. To put it another way, one belongs to The Land, or they own this or that land (resourcism), or for them land is just there, the backdrop to more important things. In the first case, one cares for and respects The Land. In the second, one may care for it, provided that to do so is economically appropriate. Otherwise, the land-as-property view can lead to absolute exploitation. In the third case, ignorance and indifference may lead to neglect, degradation, and poisoning of the land.

In this society, the latter two meanings prevail. As Tom Jay points out, “land’s meaning for us is owned topography. The idea of property is the word’s context.”25 For those who cannot or do not aspire to “own” land, it is just there. For some, it is a dumping place, a place to dispose of the unwanted products of this society. This land is a reified, separated commodity.

For those wishing to advocate an ecocentric sensibility, the idea of The Land is fundamental–literally and metaphorically–and powerfully evocative, although difficult to express. Hiking in the mountains or through a forest, one’s life may be put into perspective by the sheer power of The Land’s presence. This Land is the tangible and transcending ground of experience; this Land is us.

“Landscape” is scenery, and a word whose original usage was to describe a type of painting. Thus, a landscape is a visual resource. “Transformed to a thing and remote from personal involvement, landscape becomes objectified and consumable.”26 This is not to deny the possibility that we may perceive and experience beauty in all of Nature; the difficulty is that beauty is culturally constructed.

Both “land” and “landscape” have become resourcist terms; the dominant assumptions underlying them are strictly utilitarian. However, they are necessary terms in the discourse of change; they are needed to evoke the respect and caring that must characterize an ecocentric approach. It is through personal and not commercial experience of The Land that those positive meanings will come to predominate. What land means to people depends on their experience of that to which it points.

SYSTEM [noun]

In recent attempts to express a non-reductionistic, non-mechanistic view, the idea that Nature is a “system,” or a system of “ecosystems,” has been put forth in the hope that it will convey a more holistic and relational view. The idea of a system is meant to express the interrelatedness of various elements which together constitute a whole.27

The essential contradiction in this word is that it comes from a domain that is ultimately reductionistic, mechanistic, quantitative and abstracted from living reality: cybernetics and general systems theory, whose inception was motivated by wartime demands, and whose concerns were technological.28 What makes the word troublesome is its association with these domains, and–along with terms such as “interrelated,” “complex,” “network,” and “information”–its increasing linguistic dominance over other descriptions of Nature. This is most evident in scientific ecology, itself so problematic. As Donald Worster says, “a more sophisticated and enduring form of mechanism is that which explains all nature as a system of matter in motion, entirely subject to the laws of physics and chemistry.”29

It may seem literal to say that Nature is a “system,” but that is a result of the word having become so much a part of everyday discourse, and in so doing become a vague, albeit sophisticated and positive sounding abstraction. Whereas a system may be practically analyzed and described, Nature cannot. Nature is much more than a system.

Furthermore, contained in the idea of a “system” is the idea of control. So, if we see Nature as a system, we are not far from seeing ourselves (humans) as the controllers, thus legitimating further “management” of Nature.30


Being somewhat like “nature” in its multi-faceted character, “wilderness” is both a problematic and necessary word at this time. It is problematic because of its ambiguities, divergent connotations, and dualistic and reifying implications.

To begin with, what exactly the word refers to is uncertain, since definitions of wilderness inevitably involve arbitrary criteria. For example, wilderness is typically considered an area of land where humans only visit, and which they have not greatly altered from its “natural state,” whatever that is. This, however, does not set anything more than a vague definition on the concept. How much impact would humans have to make for an area to no longer be considered a wilderness? If any human effect on a place precludes it from being considered a wilderness, then there is no place on Earth worthy of the label, since we now know, for example, that chemicals such as DDT are found in the flesh of beings everywhere. We can get the drift of such a definition of wilderness, but it will always be a relative term. Just as we do not know what Nature is, we do not know what wilderness is, other than our specific experience of it.

In Wilderness and the American Mind Roderick Nash suggests that the idea of wild beings and wild places (wilderness) was a consequence of the advent of herding and agriculture about 15,000 years ago. According to him, prior to that there was no dualism between humans and Nature. However, with domestication a distinction between the wild and the tame was made, so as he says: “civilization created wilderness.”31 The word “wilderness” is thus suggestive of a separation of humans from Nature; it is dualistic in that it posits wilderness as that which is unaltered by humans. Yet, prior to the arrival of Europeans on Turtle Island, millions of humans lived here as part of what we would consider a wilderness, and they did not have a concept of wilderness as such.

In addition to these denotative problems, the values that adhere to the word “wilderness” are also unclear, and range across the spectrum from fear and animosity to love and admiration. Alan Drengson sums this up:

The concept of wilderness for humans has both positive and negative connotations, for sometimes “wilderness” stands for a state of being uncivilized, lost, untamed, wild, unlearned, & uncontrollable, and so it is feared, for this wilderness as raw nature also exists within us as part of our biological and historical heritage. In addition, it stands outside of us as something totally and wholly Other than the human built. Wilderness has stood for the dialectical opposite of everything that civilization and artificiality represent. And yet there is another view of wilderness which sees it as a healing place, as the place of sacred groves, as a land with a will of its own.32

For the most part, in this society the word’s connotations move people to want to “develop” (i.e.. kill) wild places, but that may be changing as attitudes change.

Furthermore, “wilderness” comes across as a thing, rather than a process. As with so many of our words for talking about Nature, it is a reification. We might be better to speak of the quality of “wildness,” seeing it as a matter of degree, than trying to delimit the wilderness.33

Even though it may be dualistic and have negative connotations for many, we need the word “wilderness” to identify what is of immediate concern: those aspects of Nature that have not been significantly humanized. In the long run, we may be able to do away with the word, preferring to see wildness as a flowing and positive quality in ourselves and in non-human Nature. Perhaps even more than that, we could recognize “wilderness,” as Jay Vest has discovered, as meaning will-of-the-land.34

WILD [adjective, noun]

“Wild” is a norm for those who advocate for Nature, and an obstacle to civilization for those who fear Nature. It may be an adjective describing a state of being, as in “wild forests,” or less often it may be a thing, as in “the wild.” The condition of being wild, at least for non-human Nature, is what Nature advocates want to see more of; it is what Nature is. Wildness is antithetical to domestication, wild to tame.

For others, however, “wild” means uncivilized and uncontrollable and is an undesirable quality. Because of this, the world has become pejorated.

One of the other problems with this word is that it suggests an absolute. Thus, in this view, for something to be “wild,” it must not have been affected by human activity. Not only is this now impossible given the pervasiveness of chemical pollution, but it is also dualistic, since it implies that mere human presence makes wildness disappear.

Defining what is “wild” is akin to defining what is “natural”; both present great difficulties and potential pitfalls. It might therefore be more useful to think of wild as being a matter of degree: think in terms of relative wildness.


These are but a few of the most important words in the conservation/environmental discourse. My interpretations and criticisms of them have been speculative. I have spoken from the position of one who advocates an ecocentric and experiential sense of Nature, and have suggested that existing words may be contradictory to this position. Undoubtedly some readers will disagree with my comments, and I would hope to hear their voices. A careful dialogue about the meanings of our words can only help make our advocacy more effective.


1) Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society 2d. ed. London: Fontana Paperbacks, 1983, p.15.

2) Peggy Rosenthal, Words and Values: Some Leading Words and Where They Lead Us. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

3) Dolores LaChapelle, Sacred Land, Sacred Sex, Rapture of the Deep. Silverton: Finn Hill Arts, 1988.

4) John Button, A Dictionary of Green Ideas. London: Routledge, 1988.

5) I have not included terms specific to the sub-discourses. For example, “self” is a keyword for deep ecology, but not really in the overall discourse, although perhaps it should be. On this word see Rosenthal; and Jacqueline Pearce, “Three Visions of an Ecological Self,” Undercurrents 2, 1990, pp.28-34.

6) Button, p.94.

7) Warwick Fox, Toward A Transpersonal Ecology: Developing New Foundations for Environmentalism. Boston: Shambhala, 1990, p.155.

8) John A. Livingston, The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1981, p.15. This book is the paradigmatic account of the failure of “conservation.”

9) Livingston, p.16.

10) Fox, p.155.

11) Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985 (1977), p.192. This book is the best reference to ecology’s meanings and history.

12) Neil Evernden, The Natural Alien: Humankind and Environment. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985, pp.5-6.

13) Neil Evernden, “Constructing the Natural: The Darker Side of the Environmental Movement,” The North American Review 270:1, March 1985, pp.15-19. See also Elizabeth Ann R. Bird, “The Social Construction of Nature: Theoretical Approaches to the History of Environmental Problems,” Environmental Review 11, Winter 1987, pp.255-264; and Neil Evernden, The Social Creation of Nature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1992.

14) Evernden, “Constructing,” p.16.

15) Andrew McLaughlin, “Images and Ethics of Nature,” Environmental Ethics 7:4, Winter 1985, p.311.

16) Button, p.155. See also Rosenthal, pp.235-243 on “environment.”

17) J. Stan Rowe, “What on Earth is Environment?” The Trumpeter 6:4, Fall 1989, p.123.

18) Evernden, Natural Alien, p.142.

19) Williams, p.219. The entry on “nature” is quite helpful. See also the illuminating paper by Williams, “Ideas of Nature,” in Ecology: The Shaping Enquiry, ed. Jonathan Benthall, pp.146-164, London: Longman, 1972.

20) Arthur O. Lovejoy, Essays in the History of Ideas. New York: Braziller, 1955, p.69.

21) Andrée Collard with Joyce Contrucci, Rape of the Wild: Man’s Violence Against Women and the Earth. London: The Women’s Press, 1988, p.4. See also Evernden, The Social Creation of Nature for extensive analysis of “nature” and its derivatives.

22) Williams, Keywords, p.219.

23) Collard, p.6.

24) J. Stan Rowe, “The New Nature,” in Home Place: Essays on Ecology. Edmonton: NeWest Publishers, 1990, pp.151-155.

25) Tom Jay, “Land, Earth, Soil, Dirt: Some Notes from the Ground,” in Sacred Land, Sacred Sex, Rapture of the Deep by Dolores LaChapelle, Silverton: Finn Hill Arts, 1988, p.316.

26) Neil Evernden, “The Ambiguous Landscape,” The Geographical Review 71:2, April 1981, p.155.

27) Thus, problems with “system” are related to the question of what is holism. See, for example, Morris Berman, “The Cybernetic Dream of the Twenty-First Century,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology 26:2, Spring 1986, pp.24-51. Berman identifies at least two types of holism: “one, a sensual, situational, living approach to process…the other, an abstract form, a type of “process mechanism,” which…really represents the last phase of classical science, not the beginning of a new paradigm at all” (p.41).

28) Rosenthal, p.199. Rosenthal’s is an exceptional “must read” account of the nuances and attractions of “system” and its linguistic conspirators “whole,” “relation,” “community” and “environment,” among others.

29) Worster, p.379.

30) On this trend see Berman; John A. Livingston, “Moral Concern and the Ecosphere,” Alternatives 12:2, Winter 1985, pp.3-9; John A. Livingston, “Some Reflections on Integrated Wildlife and Forest Management,” The Trumpeter 3:3, Summer 86, pp.24-29; and John A. Livingston, “Review of Norman Myers’ Gaia: An Atlas of Planet Management,” Cartographica 22:4, Winter 1985, pp.92-93.

31) Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 3rd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982, p.xiii. For another interesting discussion of wild and tame see Morris Berman, Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989, ch.2. Also see the work of Paul Shepard, for example, Nature and Madness. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1982; and Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

32) Alan R. Drengson, “Introduction to the Wilderness Series,” The Trumpeter 3:1, Winter 1986, p.1.

33) “Wildness” too has the same sorts of negative connotations. However, the fact that it has become pejorated need not prevent attempts to right its image.

34) Jay Hansford C. Vest, “Will-of-the-Land: Wilderness Among Primal Indo-Europeans,” The Trumpeter 3:1, Winter 1986, pp.4-8. Another excellent piece on “wilderness” is Michael P. Cohen, “The ProblemS of Post Modern Wilderness,” Wild Earth 1:3, Fall 1991, pp.72-73.

Mark Meisner is a Ph.D. candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, 4700 Keele St., Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3, Canada. His areas of research include environmental thought, language and the representation of Nature, and the role of the mass media in environmental affairs.