X hits on this document

48 views

0 shares

0 downloads

0 comments

14 / 16

and forestry. The author of Man and Earth (1905), he was able to “institutionalize his environmental values, which were basically social values as well.”

Simo’s insights into this period of American landscape architecture, especially as regards its early relationship to the appreciation of wilder- ness values, are important conclusions. She is not as interested in “institutional or general views,” however, as much as in “personal feelings and perceptions of the land, its uses, its beauty, its fate.” And it is in the retrieval of these personal perceptions that the book makes its most significant and original con- tributions. Part One is orga- nized as a series of evocations of landscape types: desert, prairie, and forested moun- tains, for example. Simo sur- veys the nature writers, poets, painters, and other artists of the period who generated the sensibilities that necessarily preceded appreciation, and therefore preservation, of wild places. Rutgers art history professor John C. Van Dyke and best-selling author Mary Austin, for instance, created a cultural phenomenon with The Desert (1901) and Land of Little Rain (1903), respective- ly. The desert was seen not only as beautiful but restora- tive of human health, espe-

14

cially for lung diseases. When Aldo Leopold became inter- ested in the arid lands of New Mexico in 1909, he moved, as Simo notes, “beyond issues of human health to consider the health of the land.” He later described the remote Chihuahua Sierra as the “healthiest” land he had ever seen: the idea of ecological health was equated with “aboriginal condition,” free of any (apparent) human influence. The definition of “unspoiled wilderness” as a “healthy organism” (and other places, therefore, as “sick land”) would be as influential and pervasive as Leopold’s “land ethic,” itself. The development of an aes- thetic of desert beauty and the association of the desert with human health, however, prefigured Leopold’s under- standing of the ecological health of desert wilderness.

With regard to the prairie, Simo introduces the land- scape architect and preserva- tionist Jens Jensen by first discussing the writing of Emerson Hough and Willa Cather. Literature again com- plements early-twentieth-cen- tury environmental thought, and Simo establishes needed literary and artistic contexts for scientific and advocacy efforts. She also notes certain concentrations of writers, poets, and designers in the San Francisco Bay area, including poet Charles Keeler and architect Bernard Maybeck, who particularly

influenced the development of a wilderness aesthetic. Another group was centered in and around New York and Boston and represented a continuation of Olmstedian thought and sensibilities in the early twentieth century, as expressed, for example, in Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer’s Art Out of Doors (1893), a book that was based partly on articles she pub- lished in Garden and Forest. Some of the writers Simo presents, such as John Burroughs and Charles Keeler, are well-known today; others, such as Donald Culross Peattie and Edwin Way Teale, have become rela- tively obscure. Nonetheless, they all shaped the sensibili- ties of preservationists and even scientists, and Simo goes a long way in the redis- covery of their roles.

Part Two of the book is a more chronological account in which she emphasizes the professional activities of landscape architects, park managers, scientists, and wilderness advocates of her period. She rightly begins with Frederick Law Olmsted’s advice at the end of his active life to his son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. More than any other Olmsted apprentice, the younger Olmsted attempted to adapt his father’s ideas and

professional practice to the purposes of twentieth-century preservation, especially in the national park system. Olmsted, Jr., influenced the National Park Service begin- ning in 1916, when he draft- ed the key portions of the legislation creating it. The agency remained imbued with essentially Olmstedian ideals through the 1950s, when the crushing effects of mass automotive tourism fatally undermined the goal of preserving landscapes “unimpaired” for the purpose of public “enjoyment.” Simo follows the complementary trajectories of professional forestry, planning, and eco- logical science, noting the degree to which intellectual hybridization still occurred among them. While her accounts of the life and work of well-known figures, such as Lewis Mumford, Bob Marshall, and Benton MacKaye, are available in more detail elsewhere, they are recounted here with the additional context of less known contemporaries, such as Henry Hazlitt Kopman, whose Wild Acres (1946) was an ecological portrait of New Orleans, or drama critic Walter Pritchard Eaton, whose columns in the Berkshire Eagle in the 1940s advocated the preservation of the fast-disappearing country- side of western New England. Better known authors, includ- ing Sarah Orne Jewett and Edith Wharton, are examined anew in light of their contem-

porary appreciation of American landscapes and their use of those landscapes as literary motifs.

Simo successfully estab- lishes at least some of the broader cultural foundations of the growing and diverse sensibility that, in the post–World War II period, coalesced as the modern envi- ronmental movement. Her period ends with the publica- tion of Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac in 1949, arguably the first and still most pertinent manifesto of environmental ethics. Jens Jensen published The Clearing, his ruminations on the midwestern landscape and landscape design, the same year. Both works were influenced by the develop- ment of the ecological sci- ences by individuals such as Henry C. Cowles at the University of Chicago and by regional groups, including the Friends of Our Native Landscape, that advocated the preservation of ecologically significant areas. The concern for “native” plants and land- scapes characterized the mid- western landscape designs of Jensen, O. C. Simonds, and Elsa Rehmann, as well as local preservation efforts, which increasingly were based on ecological as well as scenic criteria. Leopold’s landmark essays grew out of a world in which science,

scenic preservation, horticul- ture, and landscape architec- ture were still intertwined among midwesterners who shared a growing concern for the continued health of what little “wildness” had survived the previous decades of mod- ernization and growth.

Simo’s excursions are peri- patetic but purposeful. The half century covered, she notes, “was not known for the active defense of wilderness in the United States, apart from the efforts of a few indi- viduals and organizations, rowing against the current of a modernizing, urbanizing society that was increasingly dependent on the findings of science and the advances of technology.” Organized “wilderness” preservation would come later, notably when Congress enacted the 1964 Wilderness Act. But Simo chooses her examples well and finds the threads that bind these individuals and organizations and their works. Many of these com- mon themes were presaged in the pages of Garden and Forest magazine by a remark- able (and remarkably diverse) group of contributors. Simo’s apt inspiration for a starting point has resulted in a valuable interdisciplinary exploration into how a broad range of cultural figures constructed and valued the traces of “wildness” that they saw receding around them in the twentieth century. – Ethan Carr

Document info
Document views48
Page views48
Page last viewedSun Dec 11 02:31:21 UTC 2016
Pages16
Paragraphs268
Words15405

Comments