Muir, in arguing against those who sought to dam his beloved Hetch Hetchy valley in the Sierra Nevada, argued for alternative dam sites in the gentler valleys of the foothillsa preference that had nothing to do with nature and everything with the cultural. The frontier has gone, he declared, and with its going has closed the first period of American history. In the wilderness the boundaries between human and nonhuman, between natural and supernatural, had always seemed less certain than elsewhere. Wilderness gets us into trouble only if we imagine that this experience of wonder and otherness is limited to the remote corners of the planet, or that it somehow depends on pristine landscapes we ourselves do not inhabit. To gain such remarkable influence, the concept of wilderness had to become loaded with some of the deepest core values of the culture that created and idealized it: it had to become sacred.
Trees the best gift of nature essay
Listen to the Trees : John Sexton
Why in the debates about pristine natural areas are primitive peoples idealized, even sentimentalized, until the moment they do something unprimitive, modern, and unnatural, and thereby fall from environmental grace? On the many problems with this view, see William. Now the defenders of Hetch Hetchy attracted widespread national attention by portraying such an act not as improvement or progress but as desecration and vandalism. Excerpted from Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, edited by William Cronon. The very men who most benefited from urban-industrial capitalism were among those who believed they must escape its debilitating effects. The frontier might be gone, but the frontier experience could still be had if only wilderness were preserved. His words took the physical mountain on which he stood and transmuted it into an icon of the sublime: a symbol of Gods presence on earth. Remember this too: looking out across a desert canyon in the evening air, the only sound a lone raven calling in the distance, the rock walls dropping away into a chasm so deep that its bottom all but vanishes as you squint into the amber. For most of us, though, such a debacle would be cause for regret, a sign that humanity had failed to fulfill its own promise and failed to honor its own highest valuesincluding those of the deep ecologists. ( 28 ) Perhaps the most suggestive example of the way that wilderness thinking can underpin other environmental concerns has emerged in the recent debate about global change.
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