Technology and the wilderness experience

Environmental Ethics 28 (2):147-163 (2006)
Abstract
As mechanical devices become lighter, sleeker, and cheaper, the issue of technology in wilderness becomes an increasingly more important ethical concern because many high-tech luxuries or devices stand to separate the backcountry traveler from the very goals he or she hopes to actualize by recreating in wilderness. As recreationists, we need to determine which items are essential and which aredistracting, separating important “equipment” from needless “devices,” and exercising the self-control to carry only what we need. This process can be called “responsible simplicity.” It is in the backcountry traveler’s best interest to exercise responsible simplicity, to choose only the devices necessary to actualize the telos, or goal, of one’s wilderness experience. A critique of the appropriateness of technology in the backcountry should entail examining devices in their context and also by their relationship to other technologies brought into the backcountry. From a virtue ethics standpoint, responsible simplicity can promote the integrity of wilderness recreation by providing oversight with regard to what goods are internal to the practice. It can also allow room for “wilderness” in our everyday lives in association with David Strong’s notion of “counterbalancing” and Albert Borgmann’s notions of “eloquent reality” and “focal practices.”
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