By Robert L. Dorman
The careers and ideas of 4 figures of huge significance within the historical past of yank conservation—George Perkins Marsh, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and John Wesley Powell—are explored in A notice for Nature. Robert Dorman bargains energetic pics of every of those early environmental advocates, who witnessed firsthand the impression of financial growth and commercial revolution on fragile landscapes from the forests of latest England to the mountains of the West. through reading the nineteenth-century international within which the 4 males lived—its society, financial system, politics, and culture—Dorman sheds gentle at the roots of yankee environmentalism. He offers an outline of the early a long time of either source conservation and desolate tract upkeep, discussing how Marsh, Thoreau, Muir, and Powell helped outline the problems that begun altering the nation's attitudes towards its setting through the early 20th century. Dorman's readings of works together with Marsh's guy and Nature, Thoreau's The Maine Woods, Muir's The Mountains of California, and Powell's document at the Lands of the Arid quarter display their authors' impact on environmental idea and politics even as much as the current day.
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Extra resources for A word for nature: four pioneering environmental advocates, 1845-1913
In the public world of men, nature had become commodified; the regime of the market could be extended infinitely throughout a limitless nature, just as the grid of fields was spreading across the wilderness continent. In the private world of middle-class women, where nature was confined to yards Page 17 and gardens surrounding the home, other valuations might be set on it, indeed, must be, for social stability, to provide succor and relief from the harsh demands of the market: moral and aesthetic valuations.
While the nation's population grew dramatically in the decades before the Civil War, from 5 million to 31 million, the center of population shifted west of the Appalachians for the first time, representing the aggregate mi- Page 9 gration of millions of opportunity-seekers into the vast interior of the continent. 6 Marsh, who decried this "life of incessant flitting," was no frontiersman. Instead, he confined his own business ventures to his native Vermont, and this element of his biography serves to underscore another crucial dimension of the era's economic transformation, a dimension that New Englanders spearheaded: the creation of the "American system" of manufacturing.
A careful reading of the ideas of our four early advocates will tend to blur any too strict distinctions between them in terms of the utilitarian and moral-aesthetic categories. Generally speaking, Marsh and Powell may be considered precursors of utilitarian conservation, Thoreau and Muir, of preservationism. But in a deeper sense all four were engaged in understanding and reconfiguring the human-nature relationship according to both rational and moral constructs. Scientific Page xiv knowledge of the natural world was important to each of them, for example, and each was guided by what he considered to be a compelling ethical or religious imperative.