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landscape studies pioneer, John Brinckerhoff Jackson, studied the contemporary landscape - common, everyday places where we live, work and play - for the clues it provides to American culture.
In 1964, the American Congress passed the Wilderness Act, thereby protecting over 100 million acres of public land from development. Wilderness was "recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Wilderness must remain "in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape." Finally, Wilderness is "an untamed natural realm,"..."that's ideally"..."unpeopled.."
People should stay back, as if in front of a picture, admire and enjoy it but they are not allowed to trespass it. The landscape has to remain untouched. As I was reading the above mentioned fragments from the Wilderness Act, a question popped up: "Why?"
Isn't it the most common question of all ages and of all peoples? Of course I was making exception. So, I try to find out an answer to it.
Nature and parts of its landscape had to stay untouched in order for the other fellow men and for the generation to come to enjoy it as well.
On the other hand, J.B. Jackson once wrote "The older I grow and the longer I look at landscapes, the more convinced I am that their beauty is not simply an aspect but their very essence, and that the beauty derives from the human presence."
Nature needs the human presence in order to be enjoyed; the humans need the nature in order to survive and to enjoy living. Well, yes, we humans do need nature, but does nature need us?
If we take a look of what God claimed in the Genesis 1:28 we find out that humans have "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
God gave humanity all this as instruments, as means of survival. In the Garden of Eden the first two human beings did not need shelter and need not work in order to provide food. After the Fall, they started building shelters and wondering about so that they find the food that was no longer at hand.
During his explorations people discovered the beauty of the various landscapes. From the Bible we find out that the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve lived was the most marvelous landscape ever, or so we imagine it to have been. Were they aware of it, I wonder. Or, is there a term of contrast needed in order to actually be aware of the beauty?
Take William Cronon for instance. We may be able to find some answers when reading for example "Trouble with wilderness; or getting back to the wrong nature."
In his reflections about how the concern with the idea of wilderness began and what it developed to be he says: "Although wilderness may today seem to be just one environmental concern among many, it in fact serves as the foundation for a long list of other such concerns that on their face seem quiet remote from it. This is why its influence is so pervasive and, potentially, so insidious."
In his vision, the concept of wilderness had to gain so much as be finally become "sacred." Sacred, maybe, as it was at the beginning of the world, when the first human beings lived in a sacred place.
The Satan is going on with his temptations we may think by taking a look at the picture today.
Further in his article, William Cronon goes back, not so far as to the times when Jesus lived, or to the times when Adam and Eve were created, but to the eighteen century.
By the eighteen century this sense of the wilderness as a landscape where the supernatural lay just beneath the surface was expressed in the doctrine of the sublime, a word whose modern usage has been so watered down by commercial hype"..."in the theories of Edmund Burke, Immanuel Kant, William Gilpin, and others, sublime landscape were those rare places on earth where one had more chance than elsewhere to glimpse the face of God."
As the author observes ironically, people would rather look for God in the sublime sceneries and not in those less spectacular as the swamps or the grass-lands.
Because people recognized the dangers involved in the continuous transformation of the face of the earth due to human's activities, they started at some point to try and preserve what there was left from the wild wilderness, to preserve those places where God Himself may have appeared.
Here we meet the moral aspect of the ecological landscape. Cronon refers to the " single most famous episode in American conservation history," the debate over "whether the city of San Francisco should be permitted to augment its water supply by damming the Toulumne River in Hetch Hetchy valley, well within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park."
This is the way National Parks were created. Even if, as it was the case with the a.m. debate, the defenders of preserving the wilderness were eventually defeated, it created a precedent and it showed the world there is also some other way of approaching things when talking about changing 'the course of nature."
Cronon is also aware of the complexity of the concept of "untouched nature." On one hand, the live is the best preserved in the untouched ecosystems, on the other the human interference is absolutely necessary in order to save what's left from some endangered species.
I think there is no place for a debate bout how it is necessary or not for the human presence to interfere with the wild life. There are interventions needed whenever a specie is proved to be in danger, there is no question about it. Human activities led to the arising of these dangers.
Cronon concludes his article with a wonderful reflection about the meaning of "learning to honor the wild": "It means that deep reflection and respect must accompany each act of use, and means too that we must always consider the possibility of non-use."..."Most of all, it means practicing remembrance and gratitude, for thanksgiving the simplest and most basic of ways for us to recollect the nature, the culture and the history that have come together to make the world as we know it."
Reading the articles of Cronon, and Thoreau and J.B. Jackson and of others who rote about the nature and its beauty and about the reflection of the human presence in the landscape I observed that all of them are suggesting ways to come to the closest way to approach nature from the human interference point-of-view. It seemed to me that they were expressing suggestions, ideas, solutions, for their fellowmen in order for the human race to achieve the wisdom it needed in finding the balance during its living on the earth.
After being chased from Eden, Adam and Eve had to find out ways to survive, using what they found in the nature around them. And there was a lot at their hand to make use of.
As Thoreau so well observed: "nature is as well adapted to our weakness as to our strength."
Thoreau, as Cronon, does not reflect on the beauty of nature in itself. He is also seeing the beauty of the landscape reflected in the human spirit. One cannot appreciate the beauty in nature unless one is beautiful inside. One has to be rich in spirit in order to fell the richness of the natural surroundings.
Thoreau minds that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."..."From the desperate city you go to the desperate country." The wisdom is lacking here, men did not find or they lost their balance. They will find it in the wildness.
Nowadays there are scientific disciplines in the programs of the American universities that study nature's meaning. Studying nature means not only learning and finding out ways of preserving it but also managing, controlling and using its forces. Human presence is not the only one that can destroy the wilderness, but nature's forces themselves. Rules about managing nature are prescribed since the beginning of mankind.
In the modern times there are "Schools of Forestry, management, Agriculture, Mining and Engineering on many university campuses to master Nature and transform its stuff into "goods" and "services."
About finding the balance between man's work on earth and nature that should not be harmed by it is also writing William McDonough in his article "Design, Ecology, Ethics and the Making of things." Ecology means in McDonough view the knowledge of making things rise from the ground but also return to the soil without causing damage to the living systems.
McDonough reflects in his article on the purpose of architecture. His opinion strikes in its simplicity but also…[continue]
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