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Role of the Photographer in Preserving 'Wilderness'

Info: 11536 words (46 pages) Dissertation
Published: 3rd Nov 2021

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Tagged: Environmental StudiesPhotography


This dissertation addresses the relationship between people and the environment, specifically that which is now described as the ‘wild’. The term wilderness is applied to both the land and the marine environments and looks at how the wilderness came to be defined as such. It looks at the difficulties in determining protective measures and ensuring they are effective and fit for purpose. ‘Fit for purpose’ obviously begs the question as to fit for whose purpose and this pivotal question exposes the delicate balance between allowing access to the wild and protecting the wild from man’s access.

In the face of this tension, and conflict of interest, many agencies across the world have tried various ways to balance the needs and desires of man’s subsistence and recreational activities in the wild. When successful, they achieve public support to help preserve the wilderness and raise revenue to help fund the monitoring and policing of management policies to those areas.

This dissertation looks at the measures that have been introduced to protect and preserve the wild. It also explores the problems facing the trusts and agencies charged with defining land and marine management policies and the importance of engaging the various publics with their vested interests.

It is in the capacity of promoting the beauty and the diversity of life in the wilds of the lands and waters,and their importance to the ecosystems and food chains, that the photographer is able to play a role in helping protect these threatened regions of the earth. The photographer’s role in helping educate and disseminate information to raise the profile of the fragility of the wild is an important one. Their pictures ‘speak’ to the range of stakeholders provide visual messages vital in securing public support and that of their respective governments to secure long-term protection of these ever-decreasing regions.


This study explores the concept of wilderness, how it, and nature in general, is depicted by advertisers, the mass-media, e.g., books, television, magazines etc. and how, in turn, this depiction may influence the ways people then relate to and interact with nature. I then look at the influence of photography and the role of the photographer specialising in nature photography to help preserve what is loosely called ‘wilderness’ in a world dominated by industry, tourism, transportation and consumerism – all ever greedy for natural resources.

The tension between the demand for access to, and usage of, ‘unspoiled’ or ‘wild’ environments and the negative impact that such access has on those environments is a difficult land/marine management problem. Britain and America both have conservation and wilderness protection legislation, as do some other countries, but have had to accept that people want to interact with nature itself. Part of their solution has been to define the concept of wilderness, define the levels of access and type of interaction and manage the area to ensure it is being used responsibly and respectfully.

Naturally, the definition of wilderness itself is subject to debate and the rigour with which responsible access and usage of the wild environments is policed depends on many factors. There can be economic drivers that actively promote poaching and habitat destruction, e.g., the ivory trade, illegal but extremely lucrative or traditional Chinese medicine that uses parts from animals, including endangered species in its practise. If people are poor and face a life of hardship it is easy to see how making a lot of money from poaching or illegal animal trading, for example, could tempt them. Patrolling and protecting lands, waters and indigenous life requires funding. It requires a government to value them and enshrine the values in laws and legislation. It requires foreign governments to outlaw the import or trade of exotic plant and animal life and in doing so, stop funding the poachers and hunters. It requires money to provide wardens or patrols. It requires education. It may not be possible to educate people to value their lands and animals above their own survival but it might be possible to educate them into thinking of ways to make money from the environment, by showcasing nature in its natural environment. But how much interaction? And what forms can such interaction take? These are the dilemmas facing many countries around the world.

The photographer can play an educative role. This role can be one of raising awareness of the value of the habitats, ecosystems and the sheer beauty of the diversity of life on earth. In this way, they can play a part in promoting a public, even global, consciousness and value of the planet, not just for the needs of today but also for that of successive generations. Many photographers specialising in photography of the wild are actively involved in campaigning for conservation or preserving such wilderness as is left on earth and work with various agencies aligned to common goals.

I hope to demonstrate that photographers working in alliance with other agencies make a positive difference that help persuade public opinion and governmental response into valuing what is left of our unspoiled environments.

The Role of the Human in Environmental Change

As a species, our environmental impacts have increased, and intensified at an almost exponential rate. Man’s ability to adapt and modify and shape the environment, changing its natural state to make it suitable to accommodate our needs, demands and desires is unparalleled by any other species. It is this ability to master and dominate nature, accepted almost as an entitlement, that constitutes an ideology which is shared by practically every society on the planet, through the means of globalisation (Goudie, 2000).

For example, tribal societies hunt and gather food and resources, post-Neolithic groups began the domestication of livestock, and sowed the first seeds of agriculture. Even the construction of the grand canal in ancient China are all examples of the anthropogenic shaping and control over nature throughout early human history. The impetus driving these developments has generally been the necessity to provide for the needs of a growing and successful population, be it food, clothing, shelter or to further the spiritual expression of the people. (Ponting 1991).

And still, Homo Sapiens is the only species which has created its own ‘nature’ calling it ‘culture’, or ‘civilisation’. This “second nature” maybe started as a gradual, progressive alienation and divergence from the natural biosphere as a seemingly “natural” progression on man’s evolutionary path. However, as man’s skills in developing tools for agriculture, hunting and industrialisation grew, the rate of change intensified. Man’s power to consume, appropriate and exploit nature to fulfil ever diversifying “needs” – from driving the Huia, an Australasian wattle bird, to extinction for the sole purpose of decorating European’s hats (CNN, 1999), to clearing rainforest to make space for grazing and crop growing is virtually unchecked and unchallenged.

While these are just two unrelated and isolated examples, the demands of supplying and servicing global requirements for resources are seemingly endless. The message that the German Advisory Council for Global Environmental Change (Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen, WBGU) placed at the beginning of its annual assessment for the year 2000 was “Breathless and fragmented, the world rushes into the new millennium”. Ten years on, there has been no slow down. (WBGU, 2001)

According to Mongabay (2009), over eighty percent of cleared forest land from created between 1996 and 2006 has been used to create pasture for cattle. If this prolific rate of deforestation over the last decade wasn’t enough, the Brazilian government intends to double its share of the world beef market to 60% by 2018.

Such decimation and destruction cannot be justified by only a clear business rationale. For example, the practise of clearing rainforest to enable cattle grazing, etc., is worth economically less than the cleared forest originally was. Yet man’s desire to trade one of the largest biologically diverse, in many ways unique, and visually stunning ecosystems for cheap burgers and hot coffee continues.

Despite the many organisations, campaign groups and societies all working for the protection, conservation and re-naturalisation of the Earth’s environs, the WBGU presented the world’s environment as one in constant crisis. Total global fossil fuel consumption (coal, oil and natural gas) rose to 7,956 million metric tons. Carbon dioxide emissions reached 6,553 million tons in 2001, amounting to a record concentration of 384 ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, 2007). The capacity of the 436 nuclear reactors operating in over 35 countries reached 351 gigawatts and the economic mega-machine on which all these achievements rested, produced a record annual gross world product of US $40.5 trillion in 1999 (1998 prices). (WGBU, 2001) These high profits come at the expense of the health of the environment, accelerating its deterioration’.

Franz Broswimmer (2001) coined the term “ecocide”, for his book “Ecocide: A Short History of the Mass Extinction of Species” In it, he writes about the destructive processes, the ways in which human beings have constructed their relation to their surrounding environments, being responsible for, as well as legitimising, negative human impact on global ecosystems, which he claims date back over 5000 years, though others claim that this “ecocide” began long before this, for instance, the extinction of the Woolly Mammoth is arguably attributed to human hunters some 11000 years ago, according to Martin (2005).


Conservation is a means of managing the resources of an ecosystem while protecting it from depletion and destruction, avoiding change and accumulation of man-made artefacts. This allows us to benefit from the ecosystem indefinitely. Long into the future, managed use and sensible precautions will prevent the degradation of a habitat, protecting the species within it.

There are countless reasons for natural conservation, not only can our continued survival depend on its existence (the natural processes of plant life provide us with oxygen, recycle carbon dioxide from the air, insects and fungi help decompose biological litter and waste, which in turn fertilize plants, which then grow more efficiently, providing more and better fruits and crops, which then feed us or animals which we hunt or eat). Each of these processes is reliant on other variables being maintained, a concept key to that of conservation. If the biological resources are managed properly, they are effectively renewable; resources which will become ever more important as fossil fuel reserves become increasing expensive and rare.

Conservation of Species

Many geographically remote islands and peninsulas are rich in endemic species – plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Due to their geographic isolation, and the millions of years since life has had a chance to populate it, small populations have gradually adapted and evolved to their environment. This genetic isolation is important as it contains a wealth of genetic information that is unique, these genes may hold futures cures and manufacturing processes that we have yet to realise.

Unfortunately these island populations are relatively small, and with such little habitat available to them, they are susceptible to habitat loss, and since they originally formed from small populations, they are genetically very similar, the introduction of a disease can cause large proportions to die, and the resulting lack of genetic diversity can lead to the eventual extinction as mutations become more and more common. Introduced species like rats and even cats are responsible for causing the extinction of species. Many extinctions from the last century have been those of endemic island species, even more are now endangered.

The protection of these genetic reserves should be one of an island peoples highest priorities, while this is often difficult to balance with the populations needs, which conflict with those of the habitat, such as water sewage, agriculture and transport infrastructure. Protecting these endemic species is a difficult task, the high level diversity, and the fact the entire population is in one place, coupled with the fact that the population has needs, this results in islands having far higher ratios of endangered species per head of the population than anywhere else. If a balance is not struck in time, these species are gone forever.

Protected Areas for Conservation

Every country or island has at least some area that needs to be protected, the habitat in question varies, coral reef, bog-land, forest, sand dune, within these areas may be rare or endangered species of plant or animal, or these may be complete and important ecosystems as yet untouched by development. These area’s may serve a variety of purposes, from being historic importance, tourism, or refuge for species harvested outside of that area, or protecting against bad weather- for instance, sand dunes and wetlands protect against storm surges by dissipating wave energy over those lands, without damaging coastal towns.

These spaces often have laws protecting individual species, from While there is some legislation which protects certain species against hunting, interference, or a closed season for them to breed and recover, these laws do not protect species or the habitat these species rely on in many cases, and among the best protection we can offer them is to set aside their habitat, and minimise human interaction to avoid disturbance. Because of this most countries, provinces and islands create reserves, or national parks. Reserves by their nature tend to have a smaller purpose, where the national parks are large open areas, available to the public for recreational activities that do not damage. These areas act as safe places for multitudes of animals and plants, encourage tourism- providing income for peoples, or for protecting natural resources that may pass through that area, such as drinkable water.

While it is governments who usually have the land and the power to be able to actually designate reserves and National Parks, public awareness needs to be raised concerning the reason these lands have been protected This will help to ensure that the visiting public respect them, ensuring that they last for future generations.

The governments of developing nations do not often have the resources to fully protect and police these places, and rely on the public and outside assistance, either from charities or tourism money to help protect them. There are cases where these reserves are not treated properly, with harvesting and poaching taking place, causing these areas to fail.

Other than protecting the natural world, these places allow scientific research to be conducted helping us to understand what makes these species and lands special, as well as providing a context in which the public can be educated in the importance of the natural world. This is especially important when so many people use supermarkets for their food, distancing them from the origins of their food. This education can also be useful in helping people understand their own history, as well as their national and cultural heritage.

Individual Conservation Actions

If we are to keep as much of our resources as renewable as possible, there is a necessity to keep conservation at the heart of any initiative. Maintaining all the elements of the ecosystem allows these initiatives to be most productive, as everybody uses these resources in some way to some degree. There are ways that everybody can give something back, contributing to conservation as a whole.

Governments alone will generally find it difficult to set enough land aside to include large expanses of varying habitats. From forest and reef, to wetlands and savannah, especially considering the differing needs of both the land itself and society as a whole. From conservation and research to recreation and sustainable harvesting. However, with the aid of local groups and land owners (especially in those countries that are governed regionally, or by tribal groups) people can organise their own resources. In protecting these resources and by extension the habitat and biodiversity, they protect their own interests, whether they are economic or cultural.

Farmers, along with other land owners have the opportunity to manage their land so that they are able to protect their resources, allowing their soil to remain fertile, firewood and other woodland etc. produce to be gathered regularly, as well as ensuring water is kept clean for drinking and gardens etc. On top of this, on difficult or unused area’s trees can be planted, allowing for extra diversity and extra resources over the medium to long term, when a tree is finally cut down, another can be replanted to ensure supplies for the future.

Traditional Conservation

While it is always the case, many peoples living in remote areas and islands, who have and still practice their traditional way of life, live in harmony with their surroundings, knowing when a resource is available, and how much can readily be used. Plants taken for food, medicine or any other reason often have a seed placed where the previous plant grew, ensuring that not only is diversity maintained, but that the resource is effectively renewable. This intimate knowledge of their own surroundings was passed down from generation to generation, but as development and modernisation encroach on those remote area’s in ways previously impossible, this knowledge is not maintained, and ways of life are forgotten in favour of the luxuries modern life brings.

What is the Wilderness?

Where does the man-made landscape end and nature begin? First, we must begin by looking at the definition of “wilderness”, and whether any definitions for it is fixed in meaning or looser and therefore able to accommodate shifts in societies’ perception of the relative states between urban and nature.

We can start by looking at some definitions of ‘wilderness’.

(n) a region uncultivated and uninhabited; a pathless, unfrequented or unexplored region; such a region deliberately preserved from the inroads of tourism; a desolate waste of any kind e.g. an extent of open sea (poetic); a part of a garden or estate allowed to run wild, or cultivated in imitation of natural woodland; an overgrown tangle of weeds, etc.; conditions of life, or a place, in which the spirit feels desolate; the situation of being without public office or influence, or of being forgotten by the public, after playing a leading role; the present world; a large confused or confusing assemblage; wildness (obs). -Chambers (2008)

“Wilderness is the landscape which contains only the plants and animals native to it. Where man is alone with the living earth. Where there is neither fixed nor mechanical artefact. Once this environment was everywhere, now only relics remain. Yet in these places are the original bonds between man and the earth. In these are the roots of all religion, history, art, and science. In renewing these links lies the enduring value of wilderness to man.” (Feely, 2008)

It is difficult to fit either definition to any area on earth today. Pollution, mass transportation, the introduction of non-native insects, plant or animal, into alien habitats (sometimes accidental, sometimes deliberate), the effects of acid rain, radioactive and chemical contamination, the effects of the depletion of the ozone layer on the Earth’s waters, air, soil and seabed, amongst other things, all contaminate and despoil that which we would call wild and render these definitions void.

How do we relate to wilderness?

The media regularly portrays nature as man’s bounty, there for the taking, as and when we want, with ever more exotic fruits and ingredients are used in the production of shampoos and beauty creams. This type of portrayal promotes an abundance of nature; that there is plenty of everything, there is no deficit. Another interesting depiction of nature is that of a challenge to man. Programmes such as ‘The Deadliest Catch’ shows man battling with the forces of nature, in this case, the harsh extremes of the Bering Sea while crab fishing (The Deadliest Catch, 2005). These portrayals serve to promote a certain mythos about the planet. That it is still wild, unspoilt, untouched. However, these depictions are inaccurate. According to some reports, just 17% of the world’s landmass is still considered unspoiled or wild [8] and that is only in relative terms. There is no absolute wilderness left. But how can this depiction be countered. How do we educate and promote conservation?

Boyd Norton is a photographer and ardent campaigner for the preservation of the wild. In an extract from his soon-to-be-released book ‘Serengeti: the stillness of the eternal beginning’ (Norton, 2008) he talks about the wealth of wildlife and the spirit of place that the Serengeti has. The Serengeti has a large preserved area, some 10,000 sq miles when the protected areas around it are included. Yet, he states how small it is, an ‘island in a sea of man’. For Norton, the Serengeti is the land of our beginnings. He states that we are all Africans, that paeleo-anthropologists and ‘DNA sleuths’ can trace the origin of our species to the Serengeti ecosystem. He says it is there we became more human as a species; transformed from quadrupeds to bipeds and man was still an intricate part of the wilderness.

He talks of how man lived within zones, probably dictated by how much ground could be covered in one day or the range that was sufficiently safe for man to travel on a hunting foray, etc. However, the wilderness also offered temptations to encroach further. Other foods, plants, berries, animals etc., that could sustain and support human life lay ‘out there’. That range probably changed with seasons and weather patterns.

Norton claims that it all started with the Serengeti. He refers to a quote from Carl Jung, visiting the Serengeti for the first time: “A most intense sentiment of returning to the land of my youth”. Norton relates to this and believes something resonates, ‘perhaps in the molecules of our DNA or our genes, that trigger occasional memories of our origins’. What some might call an ‘organic memory’.He feels that same sense of returning ‘home’ whenever he travels to the Serengeti and explains his passion for that wild land. He maintains that it remains ‘the stillness of the eternal beginning’. He campaigns vigorously for the protection of the Serengeti and other wild lands across the world. (Norton, 2008)

Ed Burtynsky (Nickel Tailings No. 31,Sudbury, Ontario 1996)

Contrasting the works of many environmental photographers is Burtynsky, his images are always evidence of human activities, often taken on a scale that seems to defy belief, often the subject of the image is opposite to nature, a polluting force in the landscape, whether these are marble quarries, mountains of used car tyres or oil derricks, the concept of a pristine habitat does not occur in his images, but the concept of wilderness is embodied, of landscapes so transformed by our actions that they go beyond urban, and are once again wild. Unlike Adams’ who never included humans or human activity in his images, Burtynsky always references human activity in some way, often in subtle ways, with only the caption or title of the image giving up the secret of how we have disfigured the landscape. These images are very deliberate, often creating beauty from polluted and sick land. This kind of disfigurement does not intrinsically attract the same kind of support that photographers like Adams or Peschak did or has, though as his website demonstrates, he considers himself a fine art photographer, and has a large number of corporate clients, including those most likely to create this landscapes including Oil and Construction companies. Suggesting that his images are aesthetically pleasing enough for those companies to display them with disregard to the obvious environmental damage they have caused in creating them.

The 1964 Wilderness Act

Ansel Adams (Lake Macdonald 1942)

The United States was the first country in the world to define, designate and protect large ecologically important tracts of land as wilderness. It not only created a working definition of wilderness but also enshrined it in the 1964 Wilderness Act, as “lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition” and “generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable “(Zahniser, 1964). It allowed for the understanding and acknowledgement that any wild area would still be affected by human activities – “the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable”.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 was a landmark event in ecological terms, it was the institutionalisation of a concept, it described the wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammelled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”. Its very definition then, was a place where vehicles would not be allowed to traverse, where no permanent camps or structures would be allowed and resources could not be harvested or exploited. Wildlife and its habitat would be maintained as unspoiled as humanly possible. (Zahniser, 1964)

Ansel Adams was a 20th century photographer and also a tireless worker and activist for protection of the wilderness and the environment. He was the force behind the 1964 Wilderness Act in the USA. His passion for nature saw him almost constantly travelling through the United States, photographing the natural beauty. As a photographer his images become iconic not only for their beauty, but also for representing the wilderness of America. Adams had stated that he never consciously taken an image for environmental purposes, but his work with the Sierra Club, and the many thousands of letters he wrote and meetings he was involved in support for conservation, and the creation of national parks were in no doubt related to his passion for nature and his belief it should be preserved, his images may not have been taken for those purposes but in his beliefs were embodied within them, Even today people think of the national parks with the epic beauty and magnificence that Adams infused within his images. Adams biography entry in the American National Biography mentions that his images did not simply record and document the environment but “sought an intensification and purification of the psychological experience of natural beauty”, the purpose these images had no doubt made them powerful tools for changing perceptions of nature and the environment for the American public and government officials.

The Act helped to create the National Wilderness Preservation System, and raised American awareness regarding the nation’s National parks and wild lands. This legislative act created a new and novel way of preserving not only land and visual beauty, but also habitat, ensuring that rare plants and animals were protected. Its creation led to millions of acres designated as the newly protected wilderness. Instead of barring all human interaction, recreational activities like hiking, camping, kayaking and other outdoor activities are provided for. These areas, therefore, are protected from industrial exploitation but sustain leisure, tourism and recreation industries, which are much smaller in scale, with less ecological damage than heavy industry. It gives the land back, not only to the people of today but also future generations. It provides opportunities to experience nature as natural as possible – the “great outdoors” and escape the ever increasing hustle and bustle of a modern industrial and mechanised lifestyle.

The Act allows for a man-managed or man-sustained wilderness as opposed to a ‘natural’ wilderness. But does this definition go far enough? Is it realistic and sustainable? Roz McClellan the director of the Rocky Mountain Recreation Initiative (NTTP, 2007) asserts that a workable definition needs to accept man’s interaction AND the management of the environment. She asserts that any definition of wilderness has to incorporate reasonable interaction from man, in such a way that would uphold American principles of multiple use, providing access within defined parameters. This can mean, for example, prohibiting certain activities during mating seasons or when weather conditions have left the environment more vulnerable than usual.

McClellan argues that any new definition should provide for the “widest possible range of mutually compatible, sustainable services and outputs”. These could include outputs such as potable water, control of soil erosion, water table control, study and research, fishing as well as including leisure activities. To be sustainable, however, these must not interfere with or reduce the long term capacity of any of the ecosystems restorative abilities.

The key term here is ‘not compromise’. This is where the concept of land management starts to creep in. Without some form of monitoring and control the potential for destructive behaviours and interactions would go unchecked. So, the opportunities to experience ‘natural earth’ present administrative challenges that lie outside of the definition of wilderness.
The Wilderness Foundation UK

The Wilderness Foundation UK (Wilderness Foundation, 2008) is a UK-based organisation which operates over a number of countries, including UK, South America and the United States. It is an organisation which promotes the benefits of wild areas and creates a connection between people and nature without the use of permanent or mechanic artefacts. They promote a return to nature and oppose large scale destructive building plans, such as the expansion of airports, for example.

Their approach is holistic and all-embracing of man as part of nature. As Albert Einstein reflected:

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” (Einstein, 1932)

Measuring the effectiveness of land management

The problem of defining the wilderness in order to protect it is problematic enough but is compounded by the added complexity of then understanding how the relationships generated between people and protected lands affect, and are affected by, the management policies, actions and plans put into place to manage them. After all, defining and protecting nature is, ultimately, on man’s terms. But which men? The terms may not be entirely appropriate, however well-intentioned, and may preclude the activities of native tribes and ‘their’ land. Managing the land effectively, then, includes identifying any sources of conflict between the varying and different demands placed on the wilderness. This is important for understanding the influences the management policies may have on any conflicts of interest.

The type of factors to be considered include the contrasting values of wilderness for visitors and natives, as well as local, rural and distant urban stakeholders. The understanding of these relationships is especially relevant to those groups who have used the wilderness for subsistence gathering and hunting, or other traditional activities which began long before the land was protected. There is a need for greater understanding of how management actions and distant influences affect these relationships, and the consequences of these as a result.

The Leopold Institute has done a lot of research into the relationship between indigenous man and his environment and claim many native Americans feel the complexity inherent in their relationship with the natural world both enhance and preserve the ecosystem that they inhabit. (Leopold Institute, 2005) Throughout history, man has altered the ecosystem to support those aspects most useful to us and therefore our survival. Yet, when ecologists, land managers and conservationists concern themselves with environmental threats, not often is an assessment carried out to ascertain the cultural and historical loss that would arise from modifying indigenous peoples ancient relationships with the land.

Human culture, in its diversity relates to the land in different ways. Descendants of the early western pioneers in the United States. often have their own traditional and emotional ties to the landscape which often differ greatly from those of newer migrants or recreational visitors.(Leopold Institute, 2005)

Naturally, land management policies need some form of evaluation to provide feedback to assess how effective they are and inform future decision making. In terms of visitor satisfaction or quality of experience assessment, the visitor can provide feedback by filling in questionnaires etc. Unfortunately, measures of satisfaction such as perceived crowding, and other social science indicators imply a customer-based or commodity-based orientation towards the general public. These measures can skew the evaluations of how effective land managers are doing in terms of the quality of these transactions. While this dimension is important, it is not the only one.

Examining the relationship between public lands and people, and the responses that are used to influence land management policies and practice, is just one part of this endeavour. Feedback from various stake holders enables management activities to be evaluated effectively, including such activities as protecting indigenous people and their historical interactions with the wilderness.

Effectiveness may be evaluated through examining the relationship created, maintained or adjusted through management of the activities attached to the wilderness. These are a major influence on how the public evaluates management policy success. By building up a good relationships with the public, they can get them 'on side' by responding to their needs in a controlled way, based on a foundation of understanding and trust in the stewardship of the land managers.

The Leopold Institute was set up to deal exclusively with managing issues relating to the wild and ensuring that the stakeholder publics were happy with the level of interaction permitted. Without significant 'buy in' public support and funding would not be available to preserve the wilderness and the wild life therein. Their mission is:

“To develop the scientific knowledge and tools needed to protect and preserve wilderness and the ecological and social values derived from wilderness and similarly managed lands, and to communicate and facilitate the application of this knowledge to the wilderness management agencies and other user groups”

They realised that the relationship between mankind and nature was key to the ongoing success in preserving the wild. They defined satisfaction and evaluation of the interaction of mankind with managed land in terms of problems that they could address in terms of outcomes and objectives.

They identified the need to get feedback on how the relationships between people and protected lands 'affect and are affected by management policies and actions'. (Leopold Institute, 2005)

Having extracted the relevant information, they could then 'address the lack of knowledge about contrasting values of wilderness for visitors and non-visitors'.(Leopold Institute, 2005). This would then enable them to explain any issues that could negatively impact on their ability to determine or set up objectives to protect or restore of those relationships.

This approach also enabled them to discern that co-operation with other bodies and organisations would help them to identify the perceived values, threats, etc. that their stakeholders associated with their land management policies, which , in turn, allowed them to monitor, shape and respond with improved policies and practises.

They appreciated that they needed to understand the feelings and attitudes that indigenous people had towards a government body managing 'their' lands. They needed to reassure these people that their ways would be respected and dealt with sensitively. They felt that including their views would provide the best means of achieving a positive outcome. It allowed for collaborative planning and cross-cultural support.

The Leopold Institute researchers also felt that managers may not necessarily have good understanding of the areas where there may be a conflict of interest or demand. They resolved to identify the volume, causes and potential responses to such conflicts, e.g., use of the land for survival by indigenous people and recreational activities, etc. In this way they felt they could develop informed management policies that would be able to prioritise management actions with good understanding of the impact on the range of interest groups.

The Leopold Institute also devised frameworks to profile the diverse influences on relationships between the various interest groups and stakeholders and the managed lands and how these same relationships could inform and shape attitudes towards management policies and actions.

They realised they had to understand a number of factors, such as the local and visitor 'community characteristics' (Leopold Institute, 2005), land management techniques, joint planning and policy development, etc. By taking the time to invest in developing this knowledge they realised that they could refine and enhance their monitoring techniques and establish the means for long-term appraisal and evaluation.

They continue to research and support "public purpose marketing" (Leopold Institute, 2005) with the emphasis on understanding the interaction and impact of management policy on the man/managed land axis. Over time their understanding of various publics and their needs/wants has improved and has enabled the institute to conduct improved communications and better evaluate public responses to things such as fees, risk reduction, management policies, etc.

These measures go some way to ensuring that access to the land is fair, it is clear that land designated for protection needs to be managed and that management policies need to be constituted and supported by its stake holders, however, it is not an easy task to balance the demands from all sides.

Educating Stakeholders

Obviously, educating other stakeholders and the public to the value of honouring the diversity of cultures also plays a part in helping to preserve their right to the land. Edward Curtis (2008) born in 1868, is today one of the most well-recognized and celebrated photographers of Native people. He started taking photographs of the geological features of the Alaskan wilderness as well as its indigenous population. He spent thirty years creating a scholarly and artistic work called “North American Indian” project. He took more than 40,000 photographs which are now included in virtually every anthology of historical photographs of Native Americans. His work has helped raise awareness of and preserve diverse cultures.

Yet, awareness is not always enough. The world is fully aware of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and the Brazilian government states that measures are in place to protect remaining rainforest. Yet, the beef expansion programme alone is fraught with allegations that much of the programme is illegal. Recent reports from Mongabay (2009) suggest laws to preserve a

"legal forest reserve on Amazon land are widely flouted and many landowners acquire land without proper title. Corruption is rampant in frontier areas making law enforcement ineffective and sometimes complicit in illicit activities — including illegal logging and abuse of workers — that often accompany land clearing”.

There are numerous stake holders involved in campaigning for the protection of the rainforest yet the swell of their voices is not sufficient to persuade the Brazilian government to protect the forest with vigour. These environmentalists face overwhelming odds. Wealthy land owners, ranchers and industrial scale plantation owners form a powerful force in Brazil, one which the government can not currently afford to consistently ignore, indeed, many politicians are linked to these industries, their own vested interest in these businesses have led to the government passing legislation which beginning to interfere with the ability of scientists and non government organisations to operate within the Amazon rain forest. No doubt, there is similar corruption and underfunding for patrolling and safeguarding other regions. (Mongabay, 2009)

How can the factors which connect stakeholders and public lands, as well as the particular part their relationships play in coaching attitudes towards the actions of managing the wilderness which positively develop be identified and distilled into a policy and enforced? Evidently, there is conflict of interests and those with power have the loudest voice regarding the rainforest. This is no doubt true of other protected lands and some level of dissonance between stated policy and actual behaviours is to be expected, especially where profits drive environmental responsibility. The level of commitment between stakeholders and their adherence to land management policies is yet another variable which influences the evaluation of the management effectiveness. Enforcing land management policy can be extremely difficult, it would appear.

Management of Marine Environments

Thomas Peschak (2010) Blue Wilderness

If land management is problematic, marine management is even more complex. The oceans cover approximately two thirds of the Earth's surface, and contain innumerable organisms which are both amazing and beautiful. Yet the health and sustainability of underwater environments are under siege by mankind's activities. Yet, there is public support for protecting the marine environs but the protection needs work.

Land management and wilderness protection in the United States is enforced with greater vigour than that for the nation's National Marine Sanctuary System. Apart from a small area in the Florida Keys, there are no regulations that protect marine life from one of the major threats to marine biodiversity, commercial fishing with its attendant gear that destroys marine habitats. There is a similar level of disregard for marine life around the world. Other factors that negatively impact on marine biodiversity includes overfishing, pollution, and commercial aquaculture. This impact is compounded by climate change and acidification of the waters and oxygen depletion of the oceans.

The effect of human activity and pollution on these habitats is to destroy and kill various species in the food chain. Global warming is changing habitats too quickly for many organisms to adapt to the change in temperature or current and as a result will perish. Around two thirds of coral reefs have already met this fate, being bleached a skeletal white in the process (Glausiusz, 2008).

Without the impact of man, habitats fall into a balance referred to as homoeostasis, where fluctuations in the numbers of one species will be compensated for by changes in numbers in another species. For example, a surplus of rabbits will allow more foxes to successfully breed, which in turn will reduce the number of rabbits, which again in turn causes a drop of foxes as they either fail to breed or starve. While the numbers of each population are never static, the relative diversity remains. The same is true for ocean habitats, however modern fishing techniques remove very large amounts of biomass. It has been estimated that half of all fish caught globally consist of just a handful of species (Thorne-Miller 1999). This has the effect of not only removing a large percentage of the population but as a consequence, predators are unable to find sufficient amounts of food and may starve. This may, in turn, cause prey species, which are no longer fed upon in numbers sufficient enough to keep their populations in check, to increase in number to a level that can exhaust food supplies. This would then lead to the population crashing, effectively wiping out both the prey and the predator species.

The World Wide Institute (Allsopp et al, 2007) experts on marine biodiversity, Michelle Allsopp, Richard Page, Paul Johnston and David Santillo, researchers at Greenpeace's Laboratories, located in the University of Exeter, pose that “more equitable and sustainable management of the oceans as well as stronger protection of marine ecosystems through a well-enforced network of marine reserves are essential to reversing the devastating trends taking their toll on oceans.”

“People started researching marine ecosystems long after they were damaged by human overfishing, pollution, coastal development, and global warming. It's time for a new approach. To know what marine systems are truly capable of we must look at the few pristine places that remain.” National Geographic (2009)

Some reports allege that over three quarters of fish stocks are at their sustainable limits, or pushed beyond with many species populations severely depleted (Allsopp et al, 2007). Conservationists and scientists agree that a novel undertaking to managing marine resources, one which primarily sustains and restores the marine ecosystem in it's entirety, must be effected. They assert that an “ecosystem approach” is crucial to restoring and protecting the health of our oceans.

Like land management, an ecosystem approach needs to accommodate both sustainable resource harvesting, and the solutions to conservation issues. This holistic approach embraces the establishment fully protected marine reserves, networked together, providing protection for species that may migrate, at all points in their life, as its keystone. It would form, in essence, “national parks” of the sea. Management of these areas would provide biodiversity to recover and increase in local areas, suggesting that it would also benefit fisheries by allowing for spillover of fish and larvae or eggs from the reserve into adjacent fishing grounds.

The exploitation of these marine resources should be controlled based on what the marine reserves can provide safely rather than being allowed to expand as market forces dictate. This approach differs from the general fisheries management approach which focuses on a single species, its number and health rather than as part of a whole ecosystem.

Their proposed ecosystem approach includes a shift in emphasis from demonstrating the negative effects of Man's activities to that of placing the burden of proof on those who want to undertake the activities so that they have to demonstrate that their activities will not harm the marine environment. As the authors of 'Oceans in Peril' put it “current presumptions that favour freedom to fish and freedom of the seas will need to be replaced with the new concept of freedom for the seas”. This freedom they speak of is that of freedom from human exploitation — from nets, dredges, trawlers, hook, and knives. It includes the freedom to recover from the tradition of abuse.

Establishing Measures to Protect the Marine Environment

Implementation of an holistic approach is overdue and urgent. A wide range of factors are responsible for the rapid decline in marine biodiversity, some of this could be halted or reversed through campaigns to raise of public awareness and support for the marine environment. With the support of consumers and the public, pressure groups could influence both governments and industry into providing more resources to protect marine habitat. Consumer pressure can coerce companies with poor ecological credentials investing in marine protection to maintain their own profits. This support can be created through education programmes designed to educate people on the value of marine biodiversity and to understand the fragility of their ecosystems because of Man's activities. Marine photographers, such as Jurgen Freund (2008) that work with conservation groups help inform and raise awareness. Freund works with the World Wide Fund for Nature and the organization uses his photographs in many of its conservation campaigns.

Raising awareness includes profiling our relationship with marine life. The greatest resource taken from the seas are fish and shellfish for food. A wide variety of sea food is eaten around the world and a great many coastal towns have traditions of fishing often through generations of a family. However, many in developing countries rely on the catches of local fishermen, unlike developed countries where we have the luxury of choice regarding what to eat. Out of the eleven seafood harvesting nations, six of them are developing nations.(Thorne-Miller,1991).Therefore, any factors that negatively affect marine biodiversity will have significant impact on developing countries where fish is a staple food.

The biodiversity of the the marine environment also offers pharmaceutical companies the promise of new and exciting drug treatments based on the various venoms and toxins created by plants and animals as defence or deterrents against predation. The pharmaceutical companies are increasingly turning their attention to the creatures that inhabit the sea. Marine life is many millions of years more ancient than much land based life and because of the sheer diversity of marine life that time has enabled, it is likely that new treatments will be found there. Already investigations into some marine life are promising - for example, “A deadly snail from Fiji and the lowly horseshoe crab could hold keys to blood diseases” (National Geographic, 2001). This line of research is a two-edged sword - the pharmaceutical companies are extremely rich and can fund extreme pillage and destruction of the marine ecosystem or they can operate responsibly by protecting the marine environment to protect their own investment and resource supply.

Tourism can pay a major role in protecting marine habitat. From scuba diving, shark seeing, to glass bottomed boat tours and whale-watching expeditions, these activities can be used by locals to make a living, as well as protecting their piece of the marine habitat. Tour guides can be deployed to help raise awareness for conservation turning a holiday trip into an educational experience.

Jim Maragos is a marine photographer with a passion for the coral reefs. Over the past forty years of his career, he has worked to raise awareness of the biodiversity and conservation of coral reefs in the Pacific and South-east Asia. Working with organisations like UNESCO. he has helped set up and maintain ten national marine 'refuges' in remote areas of the Pacific. He believes that it is only by designating and legislating for the protection of these areas that the coral reefs can rejuvenate. And that it requires the support of the public to bring pressure to bear to enable these reserves to be established.

The diversity that exists in the oceans makes it one of mankind's largest resources, with careful consideration to the requirements and stability of the ecosystems found within there, harvesting can continue in a sustainable manner. This ensures that needs can met not only today, but also for the future. Today's methods though do not take many of these factors into consideration, and over exploitation of marine life has decimated populations and resulted on a many species being classified as endangered.

The Juan Fernandez fur seal once numbered in the millions has been virtually wiped out, and was thought to be extinct, it is now estimated it's number fall in the low thousands (Seal Conservation Society, 2007). The blue whale, the largest mammal ever to have lived once had a population estimated around a quarter of a million, now it is believed to be between 10-25 thousand (IUCN, 2008) . Statistics for many other species tell the same story all around the globe, populations and biomass are dropping, and biodiversity in many areas is falling as well. While it is true that populations local biodiversity are never static, such rapid change is only explained by human activities which have multiple effects on organisms and habitat

Brian Skerry is a marine photojournalist who has helped highlight the plight of the Harp seal whose numbers are in sharp decline. His pictures were used on the covers of the National Geographic and other wildlife magazines to draw attention to their struggle to survive in waters with ever-depleting fish supplies. He has also used his pictures and copy in articles to raise awareness of the threats to the coral reefs, the whale, sharks of the Bahamas, sea turtles, and squid.

Working to promote awareness and win public support by dedicated individuals such as Maragos and Skerry, (among many, many others) working with environmental organisations have helped persuade governments to value and protect marine diversity. In 1992 over 150 countries declared their intention and commitment to the marine conservation at the convention on marine biodiversity. This has been seen to be progress in marine preservation as many of the man-made threats contaminate the world oceans with no regard for any border, while many species are restricted by regional conditions, temperature, currents and so on. The convention was seen as progress because it addresses the worlds ocean, rather than a number of distinct bodies of water. Viewing the world ocean like this can only be effective when goals are discussed and developed through international cooperation. Each signatory country is required to protect all aspects of diversity rather than focussing on individual species, so encouraging species diversity

Ratifying Measures to Protect the Environment

Under the terms of the Convention on Biological Diversity, each country is legally obliged to protect all aspects of marine biodiversity. Species diversity is protected by fishing licenses, quotas, and regulating alien species so they do not hurt populations of natural fish. Each participating country protects ecological diversity by declaring protected areas, rehabilitating degraded areas and controlling pollution. Additionally, genetic diversity has to be protected by forcing genetically altered food to be labelled.

Since 1992 more than 175 countries have joined the Convention on Marine Biodiversity. This convention holds meetings quite regularly and establishes committees to deal with various issues concerning marine biodiversity. One such committee is the Global Environment Facility (GEF) which provides financial support to companies or organizations that help maintain marine biodiversity, either directly or indirectly. The convention and its efforts are a step in the right direction. However, much more needs to be done in order to maintain marine biodiversity. Marine biodiversity is still declining rapidly and efforts to stop the decline need to be intensified further. There still needs to be more public support for true change to occur. Advertising campaigns could be started that help to instil a sense of responsibility for the marine environment into the public. Hopefully, they can be made to realise that if they choose to buy products that are environmentally friendly, more companies will be encouraged to act in an environmentally responsible manner. If consumers support these companies and the GEF program continues financial aid for them, it may finally become unprofitable to deplete biodiversity giving the oceans a real chance of recovery.

The United Kingdoms marine biodiversity is protected within the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, as well as Habitat Regulations. The WCA contains a list of the marine habitats and the species themselves which are protected. Also species of European importance are protected through two kinds of sites, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), these are collectively known as the Natura 2000 Networking Programme. DEFRA]

Photography as a Medium to Promote Public Awareness

How then can photography/photographers play a part in helping to preserve the wild? The International League of Conservation Photographers is an important force for preserving wilderness worldwide. They see their individual and collection contribution being one of education and raising awareness of the importance of nature and the wild.

“The idea that compelling, credible images can help inform and inspire global audiences is nothing new.

Using our photographic skills we know we can cut through the invisible boundaries of illiteracy and injustice and help bring light to the darkest corners of our planet, exposing ignorance, greed and corruption as much as beauty, wonder, and the magic of the natural world”. (ILCP, 2009)]

This is a view echoed by many other photographers and photojournalists, such as Mauricio Handler, a professional marine photojournalist. He believes that education is the key to protecting the marine environment. He tries to raise awareness and engage the support of the public to pressure governments into formalising that protection with legislation. Mauricio 's pictures are used by the National Geographic Society Image Collection where they form part of their library of educational materials.

A Comprehensive Approach to Marine Ecology Management

Dr Sala has a novel approach to his research, that is it is comprehensive, he is a supporter of sharing scientific results, using them to change public perceptions and opinion. He advances bold techniques for the conservation and understanding of marine habitat and ecosystems, to that end he created the “Ocean Now” project, designed to operate at every level, from it's general purpose down to the most infinitesimal of details.

While the majority of scientific marine studies focus on just a single species, Sala and his team study the entire ecosystem. They believe that studying pristine environments as a whole, different relationships between species can be studied, allowing them to develop an understanding of how the ecosystems operate in the absence of human activity, which will then help them improve disrupted ecosystems in the future.

“Underwater ecosystems are like air planes” ,“They need all of their parts to function. Who wants to travel on a plane knowing five or ten parts are missing? That's why I organize expeditions with teams that can study the entire system from microbes to sharks. It's the only way to understand the full impact humans have on these places.”

The observation and first hand study of marine ecosystems takes a large amount of his time, but his approach, if unconventional, has been successful in the creation of marine reserve networks.

Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Dr Sala's opinion is that conservation and economic development, when done properly, are complementary. He believes that just as consumer supply and demand makes commodities more expensive, as

“a species becomes rare, it is worth much more alive, than dead.” Further explaining“A dead grouper can only be eaten once, but a living grouper can be seen and photographed by tourists a thousand times. It will generate far more money in the sea, thank on a restaurant plate.” (National Geographic, 2009)

Thomas Peschak. (Great White Shark and Kayak, South Africa 2008)

Thomas Peschak is a marine biologist and professional marine photographer. After specialising in the ecological impact of illegal fishing and the ecology of kelp forests he changed careers to become a photojournalist, focussing on marine environmental issues. As a dedicated conservation photographer he is keen to help designate and expand marine reserves, as well as campaign for the reduction and end of illegal fishing and poaching of sharks and other marine species. Peschak also has strong ties with the organisation- Save Our Seas, as their chief photographer, an organisation attempting to raise public awareness and protect marine species and environment worldwide. As part of his conservation endeavours he writes articles designed to inspire and inform interested consumers through magazines such as Africa Geographic, BBC Wildlife and Fathoms, and to evidence that he not a marine biologist with a camera, his images have won categories in Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and Fujifilms Photographic Awards. It is his understanding of the creatures and environments he photographs them which allows him to communicate through them effectively. Just like Adam's partnership with the Sierra Club, the Save our Seas Foundation appears to be part of the reason for his success in raising awareness as well as the progress their partnership has achieved.


The wilderness is under more pressure now than it ever has been. The conflicting interests that have to be balanced make it difficult to get support for new conservation measures. Having looked at the measures in place to protect the wild, it is apparent that in order to preserve it, man has to be permitted a certain freedom. It is a tough job for the agencies and organisations set up to monitor, patrol and control that access.

Understanding the needs and desires of the various publics is challenging in terms of providing the right balance of access. Legislation is not sufficient as we have seen, and that with the wrong kind of financial incentives, e.g., the Amazon rain forest, legislation will be flouted. It is clear that the conservation agencies engaged in this work need the support of the people of the world. Local communities do not have the power to persuade whole governments and it may take the universal support to coerce or effect positive protective action.

However, without information the world cannot hear the plight of the vulnerable regions of the world. As the old adage goes 'a picture is worth a thousand words' and it is in this capacity that photography becomes a powerful voice for the endangered lands and marine environments. Photographers can create powerful imagery that can be used to encourage public support against the loss of the natural world. Their pictures are part of the visual tool set needed to communicate with an audience as diverse as the interests and demands placed upon the wild.

Photographers can educate the publics by demonstrating pictorially the beauty land diversity of life in the wild and also by showing the interconnectedness of everything, the ecosystems and food chains, for example. By working with environmentalists and conservation groups, their power of visual communication can be harnessed.

It is essential that the message that Man does not stand outside the natural is never lost. Gaining popular support for conservation measures is key to making change. Without the economic pressure of populism, the economic drivers that push the despoiling of the planet will continue. Only by gaining popular support can these drivers be modified and pushed in a different direction. We must do this to help safeguard the future of not only the remaining 'wilderness' but also the the planet as a whole.


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Photography is the method or practice of creating images by recording light on a light sensitive image sensor or light sensitive material such as photographic film. The word photography comes from the Greek for light, “photos”, and to write, “graphein”, meaning writing in light.

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