Landing : Athabascau University

Unit 3: Our troubled relationship with the wilderness

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By Sydney Carroll October 15, 2023 - 7:38pm

William Cronon tests our understanding of the relationship between nature and people with his article, The Trouble with Wilderness. He explains that there is a duality in the human perspective with nature and this could be considered a romantic ideology or a rugged frontier perception of nature. They’ve both blended into today’s modern movement and this historic coupling has laid the foundation for our connection to our environment. Cronon explains that the biblical writings of Christ in the desert before his crucifixion was one of the first literary examples people drew from to frame their own desire to be tested in the elements.

To demand more of ones self in nature means we need to find places that test our abilities. From scaling the tallest mountains to repelling into the world’s largest chasms, our desire to conquer the natural word is obvious. And this translates into the selected sites for national parks across the world. All national parks have one thing in common, they all have landscapes with grand wonder like a mountain, a cave, or a waterfall. These locations become sought after because the environments within the park are diverse and offer some element of challenge. 

We toe a fine line when it comes to the development and management of our parks. We want to tame landscapes to be accessible for people to see and feel as though they've conquered something but we can’t build too many paths and parking lots to over commercialize a space. It's a delicate balance parks have undertaken, to manicure but not pamper the landscape. We want hikes and portages and camping to be hard enough that we feel we've accomplished something, but we want to have enough modern conveniences to feel safe, like we can control our experience in the wilderness. We're expected to prepare and bring all the essentials but not bring a flat screen TV because what would be the point about spending time in the outdoors then? 

The experience of the wilderness in Canada has been commercialized and has become its own business with investments into over 18,000 man-made structures and management of campsites valued at $26.5 billion CAD. (Parks Canada, 2021). Parks Canada oversees some of Canada's greatest wonders. From a stretch of the Rocky Mountains located in Banff National Park, to the Highlands of Cape Breton, Parks Canada dictates how people can interact with the Canadian wilderness. Those assets of the parks have successfully offset their investments onto the public with daily park rates at ~$10 for an adult (Off Track Travel). Camping on the land managed by Parks Canada has fees to the public costing anywhere from $21-38 CAD per night (HIPCAMP). An estimated $510 million CAD was the revenue generated by Parks Canada last year (ZIPPA). This business model that the federal government has built out allows them to manage who can visit our wilderness, when we can visit and puts the financial burden of their projects onto visitors. 

Below are some satirical illustrations I’ve found that outline our troubled and commercialized  relationship with the outdoors. Artist Amber Share perfectly outlines how some of our most sought after wilderness destinations can be nothing like what we hoped for. 


Amber Share, Yoho National Park from the series "Subpar Parks." 


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Amber Share, Acadia National Park from the series “Subpar Parks.”


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Amber Share, Yellowstone National Park from the series “Subpar Parks.”



Amber Share, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park from the series “Subpar Parks.”


Cascone, S., & Kinsella, E. (2020, September 21). Cranky Yelp Users Gave These Magisterial National Parks One-Star Reviews. See How an Artist Turned Them Into Hilarious Travel Posters. Artnet News. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from

How much does it cost to camp in Banff? (n.d.). Hipcamp. Retrieved October, 2023, from

Parks Canada Revenue: Annual, Quarterly, and Historic. (2023, July 21). Zippia. Retrieved October, 2023, from

A Quick Guide to National Park Fees and Discovery Passes, Canada 2023. (n.d.). Off Track Travel. Retrieved October, 2023, from

What is Parks Canada? (2021, September 28). YouTube. Retrieved October, 2023, from