On the island of New Calendonia in the South Pacific, Corvus monoeduloides, the native crow can be found using a twig, fashioned as a hook or a serrated edge, to gather insects, spiders, or other arthropods from the wood of living or dead trees. Across North America, the Monarch Butterfly migrates 2,500 miles from the northern United States to Mexico in order to complete its life cycle of birth, metamorphosis, mating and reproduction, and death. On a beach in Florida, a sea turtle hatchling is born and instinctually navigates its way through threats of predation and exposure, only to enter the harsh waters of the Atlantic and somehow endeavor all the way to the shores of Africa. Later this same turtle will return to the exact beach of its birth, to continue the cycle.
Many of us no doubt appreciate the beauty of pristine and wild nature. We might find tranquility by a roaring mountain river, genuine solitude in an alpine meadow, or humble repose in a cathedral old-growth forest. We might find kinship with a deer, a fox, or an owl. We might feel at home as we sit idle beneath the twilight, and achieve personal enlightenment beneath the unfettered skies.
Yet our own personal relationships with the wilderness are no more than a series of subjective experiences and values. Humanity experiences its surrounding environment in such a way as to turn it into instrument. Whether we are removing mountaintops to access depleting supplies of coal or we are creating national parks to reserve for ecotourism, we consistently objectify it. Its beauty and splendor are still nothing more than part of how we as humans experience the wild as an instrument for our own existence.
Yet why should we feel compelled to fight for the last remaining areas of what we call wilderness? Why should we feel the burden of a civilization that strangles ecosystems across the planet? Why should we care?
There is a struggle for the bears, the lichen, and the mountain lions. There is a conflict in the forests, in the meadows, and in the oceans. There is human imperialism that plagues the rest of life on the planet. Everywhere there exists evidence of our domination and subjugation. Forests are laid to ruins. Horizons are spoiled by mono-crops. The surviving victims of these conflicts are forced into cages, isolated from their families and communities, and confined to lives of exploitation.
Their struggle has meaning. Their existence is worth preserving. Their earth is worth liberating.