Essay - Environmental History in 'The Trouble with Wilderness,' William Cronon Illustrates...


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Environmental History

In "The Trouble with Wilderness," William Cronon illustrates the cultural biases inherent in the very term "wilderness" and shows how those biases may be at ***** heart of the modern environmental movement. "The time has come to rethink wilderness," Cronon suggests (p. 379). Before the Industrial Revolution, the ***** wilderness referred to a barren wastel*****, a pl*****ce that was "deserted, savage, desolate," (p. 380). The ***** evoked terror, not joy. By the end ***** ***** 19th century, due ***** shifts in cultural ideology as well ***** to the effects of industrialism, the American concept of wilderness changed dramatically. The wilderness *****gan to represent ***** opposite of ***** wasteland and became a sublime, sacred center. Early environmentalists like John Muir in fact did ***** refer to ***** areas ***** spiritual terms. Speaking out against the destruction of the Hetch *****y Valley in Yosemite National Park, Muir claimed ***** the dam-builders were "temple-destroyers, devotees ***** ravaging commercialism," (p. 358). Muir described Hetch *****y as "precious and sublime" and like o*****r environmentalists of his *****, used Biblical imagery to supp*****t his views. ***** also s*****s how the use ***** Biblical imagery proves how deeply ingrained ***** concept of wilderne***** h***** become in the American psyche. The Bible presents two dualistically opposed views of wilderness: the Eden ***** the proverbial garden ***** the dangerous wasteland of the desert. It is prec*****ely this dualistic worldview that is at the root ***** ***** conflicts *****in the environmental *****.

Wilderness was, according to Cronon, a product of two converging eighteenth *****nd nineteenth century movements: Romanticism and ***** Frontier/Wild West/Manifest Destiny spirit. "The two converged to remake wilderness in their own image," according ***** Cronon, "freighting it with moral values and ***** symbols," (382). For example romanticism saw nature as sublime, as *****ually infused and permeated with divine energy. Wide open spaces away from city life ***** like churches and temples; in fact, for many they were more sacred than any church or temple. For ***** Muir, who screamed against the destruction ***** Hetch Hetchy Valley, that part of Yosemite ***** "precious ***** sublime," and "the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with *****," (356). To destroy Hetch *****y and turn it into a dam was akin to destroying a temple. Muir's environment*****lism solidly reflects ***** spirit of Romantisicm at the heart of the early American environmentalist movement.

Part of the reason for the Romantic vision ***** nature ***** the increased dicho*****my between urban and natural life, between cities and forests. As *****ism created bigger cities with fewer trees, people longed for an "older, simpler, truer world," (Cronon 384). Alic Hamilton shows the dark side of industrialism through her account of working with men afflicted with what she calls "industrial diseases" at Hull House (402). Industrial diseases were those that resulted directly ***** unclean, polluted factory environ*****ts. However, Hamilton also shows how "***** diseases" were psychological and social as well as physical. The pull toward profit forced men to work long hours away from

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