Friday, May 20, 2005

Exploration and Discovery as Imperialism

marjorie says...

Check out Erik's excellent commentary over on Alterdestiny about the link between exploration/discovery and imperialism. He's reacting to a recent CNN piece about the "discovery" of a new species of monkey in Africa -- as if that monkey wasn't already known by the folks who live there. It's all too common - if something isn't recorded by Western science or culture, well, it doesn't exist!

"...the language of discovery says that there is something out there for us to go and find. And what an undiscovered world means is that we must go and discover it. When this exploration takes place, we are going into another culture and changing it, subtlely perhaps, but real nonetheless."

Erik also discusses a certain urge among many nature-lovers and evironmentalists in this country to explore and discover pristine areas that no one has ever gone before -- how this impetus glorifies large tracts of land supposedly empty of other humans, and yet, ironically, our commidifying impulses lead us to eventually impose ownership on these same pristine areas.

This is an apt description of how wilderness areas become off limits to humans, even if there were humans there before. Am I saying there shouldn't be wilderness areas? No, not exactly. But I do think the determining process should be much more inclusive of the groups of people who have lived and worked in those areas for generations upon generations. As it is, these decisions are usually formulated in Enviro offices and campsites, and passed in Federal offices full of enviro crony bureaucrats.