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Protecting the Temporal Wilderness

The past century, and to some extent those that preceded it, has been characterized by the planning of space around the world. This has given rise to structured cities, many based on a grid system, and high rise buildings -- Manhattan style. Patterns of urban sprawl have developed around such metropolises.

Far less obvious is the analogous manner in which temporal structures have been built up for people to live and work within. From national and corporate five- and ten-year plans, through annual schedules, to the personal agendas of many individuals, there has been a new kind of structuring of time. Most wear a watch and increasing numbers have computer-based personal organizers to carry their time structure with them. More intriguing is the way in which such temporal structures now dominate the awareness of many -- even children awaiting a TV program. They are effectively as tangible as concrete.

But others are not dominated in this way or to the high degree associated with use of electronic planners and schedulers. As might be expected, it is those in "built up" areas that tend to inhabit "built up" temporal structures. They encounter each other in temporal rooms (9.00-10.00 am) on temporal floors (21st January) on a temporal grid (the calendar) that continues uninterruptedly to their event horizon (death?). As with mass migration to the cities, there has been an equivalent depopulation of the temporal "countryside" where another relationship to time exists, notably in so-called developing countries.

Protection of the natural environment may well require protection of that temporal "countryside" and the "wilderness" beyond it. In built up areas, people arrange for pockets of nature -- from window boxes to hotel atriums and parks. In the same way, they schedule periods of recreation and relaxation within their temporal structures.

To reach the temporal "countryside", dwellers in high rise temporal structures have to "drop out" or "take an extended break" -- but even this may have to be scheduled like a safari and undertaken in the temporal equivalent of a coach. Drugs and alcohol can of course also transport people out of temporal structures -- but only for a while as on a boomerang journey that never reaches escape velocity!

Living permanently in the temporal "outback" can be as much of a challenge as that experienced by city people moving to the country. The unemployed and slum dwellers, living in the interstices of built up areas and skilled in "hanging out", may have more ability to do so -- as with those in cultures that have not yet been subject to the temporal equivalent of urbanization.

Protecting the wilderness extolled by deep ecologists is as much a challenge to how we act in time as it is to how we act in the spaces of the physical environment. Stress management programs may be better understood as an effort to reconnect with the temporal wilderness -- although the deep temporal wilderness may only be entered through meditation!