October 30, 2005

AND IT'S NOT EVEN IN PRINT (via Tom Corcoran):

Green Gray Areas: Books that question the conventional wisdom on the environment. (MICHAEL CRICHTON, October 29, 2005, Opinion Journal)

3. Man and the Natural World by Keith Thomas (Oxford, 1984).

Don't be put off by the academic title of Keith Thomas's "Man in the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800." The book's a delight. Mr. Thomas's account is both detailed and charming as he guides the reader from the Tudor view, that nature was made for man to exploit, through the later sense that nature was to be worshipped and cherished (such that trees became pets and aristocrats gave names to their great estate trees and said good-night to them each evening). Still later came the Romantic preference for untouched nature and rough settings, a rarified taste that required "a long course of aesthetic education." At every turn, Mr. Thomas emphasizes the contradictions between belief and behavior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 30, 2005 8:49 AM

Sounds like a delightful book, but probably a very humbling one too. It seems to show the great power of fashion over human behavior, i.e. fashions of thought.

Clearly, none of the approaches to nature mentioned in the article were based on sound reasoning or established moral tradition. I think they come out of a human need to see and experience the world in a fresh way each generation, and out of the human weakness for wanting to feel morally, intellectually and "spiritually" superior to one's forebears.

Posted by: L. Rogers at October 30, 2005 9:58 AM

I worship and cherish my trees also. I call them all, "heat".

Posted by: AllenS [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 30, 2005 10:47 AM

"Playing God in Yellowstone"

His advice on how the NPS really worked helped a small group of us overcome one of the NPS attempts to limit access to the Old Faithful area. So I'm a bit biased in my opinion of him. Only met him once when the book came out and I got my copy autographed, and then spent a couple of hours gossiping with him during a book signing in one of the tourist traps in West Yellowstone.

The pettiness and viciousness of the NPS "response" to what he had to say was amazing to me back then. Now it seems commonplace and normal.

He does make a lot of little errors (thanks in part to the NPS folks who were less than cooperative once they figured out what he was up to), but his main thesis was exactly right. Since it was written, there's been the Fires of '88, the Imported Canadian Wolves, the Bison Brucellosis Hunts and the Revolving Snowmobile Bans, not to mention a number of smaller fiascos that really didn't get much press. All of them would fit right into a 2nd edition without changing a thing in the rest of the book.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 30, 2005 7:34 PM
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