Chapter 5, The World Beyond Europe
“Lone Cypress stands as a peerless monument to capitalism’s bid to privatize, incorporate and commodify nature-whether as lumber or designer label.”
American Indians and ecological sainthood
Environmentalists who idolize the hunter-gatherer lifestyle argue that “settled agriculture yielded a surplus facilitating the accumulation of wealth, from which flowed the evils of social hierarchy, slavery, patriarchalism, and commerce, as well as the disparaging of the wilderness.”
“Dead, inert and despiritualized in the European mind, nature as conceptualized by the Indian pulsated with vitality, enjoyed consciousness and was saturated with the divine principle.”
- Where have you seen this stereotype of Native Americans enacted? Why has it persisted for so many centuries?
Aboriginal transformations of the natural world
Coates sites a study in which a group of geographers found that “the physical environment of the New World bore heavier human traces in 1492 than it did in the mid-1700s, before mass immigration from Europe.”
- Native Americans were highly agricultural, practiced extensive cultivation, and used vegetation burning as a strategy for clearing land.
Nature and nationalism
“The United States developed a moralistic, republican version of nature that went far beyond the aesthetics of scenery.”
“Nature was a vital cohesive force in a country that lacked the glue of ethnic, religious, and racial homogeneity.”
“The American identification of freedom and independence with wild nature produces fear that the values of nationalism itself will be damaged if you destroy the symbols of nationalism because they depend on embodiment in tangible objects.”
As a nation, we are perhaps more diverse than ever. Does a shared, nationalistic alliance to nature continue to act as the “glue” that holds us together? Can you think of any example that either prove or disprove this point?
Chapter 6, Nature as Landscape
Ronald Hepburn- We perceive and evaluate natural objects and objects of art differently.
- Aesthetic experience of nature involves immersion rather than detachment.
- Whereas a piece of art is framed, nature is frameless and offers more scope for the individual imagination because it has not been deliberately created.
- The question of seeing what the artist intended us to see does not arise; the perceiver provides the frame.
- In what ways are art and nature similar? How do they differ aside from the above reasons?
- Do you agree with Hepburn’s argument?
Landscape- a place created by the interaction of human and environmental processes
- English conceptions about landscape were a product of paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists from the 16th and 17th centuries
Peter Paul Rubens
The conceptualization/creation of landscape lead to “competition for control over the definition and use of nature”.
Nature as landscape of leisure: eighteenth-century parks and gardens
“Landscapes of leisure were no more innocent and no less enclosed than the landscapes of agricultural progress. The privatization of nature was particularly evident in the conversion of woodland into hunting estates.”
“Manicured aesthetic of nature”
“Refined taste in landscape, as in architecture, was informed by a mechanistic conception of nature as a well-regulated and predictable system that functioned in accordance with laws stemming from a supreme intelligence”
The gardens of Versailles “signified the triumph of culture over a self-willed natural world as emphatically as the sprouting factories and urban tenements.”
- Should we view garden design as another example of the commodification nature? Does the fact that gardens contain natural elements prevent them from being seen as entirely artificial? Are you more in favor of the preservation of national parks or the preservation of city gardens/green spaces?