The central thesis of wilderness ontology is that the wilderness is all there is. In beginning from the premise that the wilderness is all there is it is necessary to practice the distinction between the signifier and the signified. When we hear the signifier “wilderness” the signified we think of is that of undomesticated lands outside of civilization. We think of phusis or that which grows and blooms out of itself if it’s own accord, untouched by human techne. This signified, however, must be refused. It is precisely this association, this signified, that is foreclosed by the thesis that the wilderness is all there is. To say “all” is to say “without exception”. This is precisely the point of wilderness ontology: it aims to trace a plane of immanence, to think Spinozist substance (but turning about the modes as Deleuze proposed), in a manner that unsettles and complicates our unconscious but always operative distinctions between nature and culture, form and matter, mind and body, and all the rest. Henceforth, the wilderness will no longer be a place you go to or visit because if the wilderness is all there is you are always already there. As I sit here writing this on my couch in the living room I am no less in the wilderness than when I am in the rain forests of Costa Rica. If I abuse and pervert language in this way in the name of forging a concept and deducing the concepts that it calls forth, then this is because I believe the Anthropocene is the horizon of all thought today, that it is that which calls us to think today, and the nature/culture distinction that forms the philosophical unconscious of Western thought since it’s beginning— that informs every discipline and our entire system of values —is a hindrance and obstacle to thinking the Anthropocene. In the Anthropocene we discover the Planetary, our withness and amongness with being. Such distinctions are no longer tenable.

The wasteland is the complement to the wilderness. The wasteland is both a lived reality embodied in floating islands of garbage in our oceans, 145°F temperatures detected by satellites this last week in India, mass extinctions, and endless climate related natural disasters, but also a way of thinking in which everything is reduced to instrumental or means/ends rationality. In the wasteland everything is reduced to a use and the only telos is profit. There is a twilight of absolute values, those things that are valuable for their own sake and nothing else, in the wasteland. These absolute values are that for the sake of which we live, yet they dim and grow faint. Beauty, friendship, love, health, knowledge for the sake of satisfying our curiosity and not for the sake of profit or new technologies…. In the wasteland all of these values or attractors take flight such that we can scarcely discern them and think people are sentimental fools when they speak of them. The wasteland is what we must escape even if it increasingly overwhelms us in an absolute desert.