By Myles Bridgewater-Jackman, AnaCapri Mauro, and Kara Scherer
Wilderness is a complex concept that holds many different meanings for different people depending upon upbringing and exposure. Some people feel passionately that the wilderness areas of the world need to be preserved and will come together to form organizations like the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs (FWOC). FWOC is a compilation of outdoor clubs situated in the western part of the United States that aims to unite these clubs in a common conservation goal. FWOC seeks to protect wilderness areas and their wildlife, native plants, waters, and lands by “preserving the natural integrity of the land.”
Upon introduction to FWOC we decided to investigate their views on wilderness and the conservation thereof. They are trying to revitalize their organization and we hypothesized that the reason they are having trouble with this is because their values do not match those of the youth members they hope to gain. We asked whether the type of environmentalism an organization subscribes to attracts a specific demographic to that organization, and if FWOC’s values align with the views of the demographic they are trying to attract.
To address our questions we analyzed the word usage in FWOC’s biannual publication next to Google Trends’ words over time graph to see if FWOC and the general public’s vernaculars were co-evolving. We also conducted a Fulcrum survey to gather data about perceptions of wilderness, which we then compared to FWOC’s views.
In tracing word usage, we found that FWOC’s publication’s word usage did not change much over time, but Google’s did, indicating a discrepancy in values between the general public and FWOC. Our survey showed a correlation between age and preferred type of conservation method as well as that those under 50 prefer wilderness as a source of recreation and wildlife protection, but our results were inconclusive.