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

Wilderness was, according ***** *****, a product ***** ***** converging eighteenth and nineteenth century *****s: Romanticism and the Frontier/Wild West/Manifest Destiny spirit. "The two converged to remake wilderness in *****ir own image," according to Cronon, "freighting it with moral values and cultural symbols," (382). For example romanticism saw nature as sublime, ***** *****ually infused and permeated ***** 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 John Muir, who screamed against the destruction of Hetch *****y Valley, that part of Yosemite was "precious and sublime," and "the ***** rocks of its walls seem ***** glow with life," (356). To destroy Hetch *****y and turn it into a dam was akin to destroying a *****. Muir's environment*****lism solidly reflects ***** spir***** of Romantisicm at the heart ***** the early American environmentalist movement.

Part of the reason ***** the Romantic vision of n*****ure was the increased dicho*****my between urban ***** natural *****, between cities and forests. As *****ism created bigger cities with fewer trees, people longed for an "older, simpler, truer world," (Cronon 384). Alic Hamilton ***** ***** 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 th***** resulted directly ***** unclean, polluted factory environments. However, Hamilton also s*****s how "industrial diseases" ***** psychological ***** social as well as physical. The pull toward profit *****ced men to work long hours away from

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