Wilderness - Between the Promise of Hell and Paradise: A Cultural-Historical Exploration of a Dutch National Par

Koen Arts, Anke Fischer and René van der Wal (2011)



‘Wilderness’ is often seen as an ideal state in contemporary debates on ecological restoration. This paper asks what is left ‘wildernis’ in present-day Western Europe and explores this question by drawing on a case study of the Hoge Veluwe National Park in the Netherlands. An overview of intellectual histories of wilderness ideas is used as a backdrop to analyze how an area such as the Veluwe has been perceived and shaped by land use through history. It is argued that historical and contemporary land use is characteristic by inherently paradoxical ideas that can can be conceptualized as a dichotomy of the ‘hell’ and ‘paradise’ sides of wilderness. Both sides are essential in constituting the attraction of wilderness. Ecological restoration policies focusing on just one side of the paradoxality of wilderness are likely to miss the character of the very place they aim to restore.