Investigating the human-nature relationships of wilderness leaders
Haberer, Alexa Patricia
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This qualitative study explored how wilderness leaders view wilderness and understand their relationship with wilderness. The term wilderness leader denotes outdoor educators and guides who lead trips in backcountry wilderness areas. Guided by a narrative design, in-depth interviews were conducted with five Canadian individuals who have been leading multi-day wilderness trips for five years or more. During the interviews, leaders were asked to describe their experiences in wilderness, their relationships with nature, and explore their role as wilderness leaders. Five main themes emerged through the interview process. These themes included the leaders' defintions of wilderness, stories of time spent in wilderness and why they were drawn to wilderness in the first place, how they understood their relationships with nature, their notions of wilderness ethic, and how they see their roles as wilderness leaders. The underlying connecting theme of this research was that all the leaders felt strongly about their relationship with nature. Rooted in respect for nature, and a perspective of being a part of nature, they wanted to ensure that they travelled in wilderness in a way that was indicative of that respect. This study supports environmental education research that calls for strong emotional connections to the natural world. This study also corroborates the critique that many outdoor education and wilderness programs lead participants to view wilderness and civilization as two separate entities. This study therefore advocates the need for wilderness leaders to continue to think critically about wilderness and be given opportunities to reflect and be challenged on their ideas of wilderness.