For centuries Americans have been engaged in a unique and complicated relationship with the natural world.  Our large nation is home to some of the world’s most spectacular natural surroundings and resources, and since at least the 19th century Americans have been debating how best to use and preserve these precious resources such as our forests, water sources, and wilderness.  In many ways the discussion over our natural resources is at the heart of our democratic society, as we must decide how to utilize the resources we have amongst our diverse population, balancing human needs and desires with the preservation of natural spaces and species.  What, ultimately, is the proper relationship between humans and wilderness, and what should we as a society do to help preserve America’s wild spaces?

This course will explore the place of wilderness in the American experience, the development of conservation and environmentalism in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the idea of land ethics as articulated by Wisconsin’s own Aldo Leopold.  We will think about and debate the importance of wilderness and conservation in the United States, exploring the responsibility of Americans to act ethically towards the land.  This blog will chronicle our course’s engagement with the idea of wilderness as well as our a semester-long project on a local, regional, or national issue related to wilderness, conservation, or land ethics, as we learn about and engage with organizing and activism within our democratic society.