Submitted by: M. Grün
Switzerland is a small country with an amazing landscape that might look adventurous on postcards, but in reality is not as wild as one might think. There is no wilderness in Switzerland.
I live in Visp, which lies in one of the most remote areas in Switzerland. In the 1970’s some of the valleys and villages had still not been connected with modern infrastructure networks such as streets, railways or airports. People were not able to leave the valley except on narrow streets through the mountains. They lived in natural rhythms, laboured their grounds and had few contacts with the outside world. This lifestyle seems to go on today in the eyes of the masses of tourist who come to our area. Even today, there are wild wolves living close to villages. But the population all over Switzerland is increasing and the density of houses and blocks is rising. The so called “wilderness” I live next to is nothing but a carefully maintained image with the goal to attract visitors and adventurers.
The Alps as a geological and biological sphere have been massively shaped by humans. Thanks to the many farmers who bring their cattle to fields on different mountain levels according to the season, hillsides spare erosion. Their contribution to the biosphere is highly valued and pursued by the Swiss government, who subsidizes this tradition and by this contribution finances a whole sector of local agriculture. this keeps the landscape in a “human” shape. The shape – which consists of cleared meadows, cleared forests, hiking trails and infrastructure in the mountains like streets and trails, is perceived by outsiders as wilderness – simply because they do not see a house anywhere. but it is not. There is rarely a valley that is not inhabited. Huts for alpinists are often as well equipped as hostels or even hotels. The telecommunication system covers every space – you can call somebody abroad from a mountain peak.
Switzerland is a small country compared to Canada – a high percentage of people shares infrastructures and living space. As a consequence, even the wilderness becomes subject to further cultivation and human involvement to a degree that has been increasing in the last decades – mainly for touristic and economic reasons.