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

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

Part of ***** reason for the Romantic vision of n*****ure was ***** increased dichotomy *****tween urban ***** 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 s*****s the dark side of industrialism through her account ***** working with men afflicted with what she calls "industrial diseases" at Hull House (402). Industrial diseases were those that resulted directly from unclean, polluted factory environments. However, Hamilton also shows how "industrial diseases" were psychological ***** social as well as physical. The pull toward profit *****ced men to work long hours away from


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