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. "***** time has come to rethink wilderness," Cronon suggests (p. 379). Before the Industrial Revolution, the term wilderness referred to a barren wastel*****, a pl*****ce that was "deserted, savage, desolate," (p. 380). The wilderness evoked terror, not joy. By ***** end ***** the 19th century, due ***** shifts in ***** ideology as well as to the effects of industrialism, ***** American concept ***** wilderness changed dramatically. The wilderness began to represent the opposite of barren wasteland and became a sublime, sacred center. Early environmentalists like John Muir in fact did did refer to ***** areas in spiritual terms. Speak*****g 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 Hetchy as "*****recious and *****" ***** like other ***** of his *****, used Biblical imagery to support his views. ***** also shows how the use of Biblical imagery proves how deeply ingrained the concept ***** wilderness h***** be***** in the American psyche. The Bible presents two dualistically opposed views of wilderness: the Eden of the proverbial garden and the dangerous ***** ***** the desert. It is precisely t***** dualis*****ic worldview that is at the root of the conflicts within the environmental movement.

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

Part of ***** reason for the Romantic vision of nature was ***** increased dichotomy between urban and natural life, between cities and forests. As Industrialism created bigger cities with fewer trees, people longed for an "older, simpler, truer world," (Cronon 384). Alic Hamilton ***** 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 environ*****ts. However, Hamilton also s*****s how "industrial diseases" ***** psychological ***** social as well as physical. The pull toward profit forced men to work long hours away from


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