A word for nature: four pioneering environmental advocates, by Robert L. Dorman

By Robert L. Dorman

The careers and ideas of 4 figures of enormous value within the heritage of yank conservation—George Perkins Marsh, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and John Wesley Powell—are explored in A observe for Nature. Robert Dorman deals energetic snap shots of every of those early environmental advocates, who witnessed firsthand the influence of monetary growth and commercial revolution on fragile landscapes from the forests of recent England to the mountains of the West. via studying the nineteenth-century global 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 summary of the early a long time of either source conservation and desert upkeep, discussing how Marsh, Thoreau, Muir, and Powell helped outline the problems that all started altering the nation's attitudes towards its setting via 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 file at the Lands of the Arid sector display their authors' impression on environmental concept and politics even as much as the current day.

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Extra info for A word for nature: four pioneering environmental advocates, 1845-1913

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Chapters 1 and 2 will examine the intellectual projects of Marsh and Thoreau, who embarked on pathbreaking efforts to find answers to some fundamental questions: respectively, what is the relationship between nature and humankind, and more fundamentally still, what is nature itself? Chapter 1 explores the antebellum setting in which both men lived and worked, particularly with reference to the industrializing landscape of New England, their common home. The story then proceeds to the making of Marsh's classic Man and Nature (1864), the formative text of utilitarian conservation and (arguably) environmental consciousness in general.

Individual opportunity, personal mobility toward ownership, and technological advance were to be central articles of a bedrock belief in progress by midcentury, for Northern Americans in general and New Englanders in particular, as many became consumed with the task of industrial and commercial growth. 4 George Perkins Marsh was one of a regionful, a nationful, of such men-on-the-make. Besides his law practice and his investments in rail- Page 8 road stock, Marsh tried his hand at real estate speculation, a bank partnership, lumber sales, sheep farming, road construction, newspaper publishing, a woolens mill, a marble quarry, and precision surveying instruments.

For even as they bequeathed ideas to an unfolding tradition linking them to the future, each of these men was an individual living in a discrete time and place. While they were "ahead of their time," each was also in large measure representative of their respective periods. Social, economic, political, and cultural contexts converged in their lives, as did the intellectual discourses within which they wrote. Biographical portraits are the best means to synthesize these many elements into a satisfactorily complex yet readable interpretation, written in light of the author's understanding of the larger trends and forces shaping nineteenth-century America.

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