John Muir And Nature-Cultural Dualism

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Within the broader American environmental movement that began in the late 19th century, two main groups emerged, conservationists and preservationists, which had fundamentally different views on how the United States ought to manage the country’s wild lands. Although conservationists like Gifford Pinchot advocated for the sustainable use of natural resources and preservationists like John Muir promoted the protection of national lands from the influence of man, both groups were exclusionary and classist. This class discrimination within American environmentalism continues today and presents an ethical conflict for a movement which promotes itself as working for the common good. The dilemma largely stems from the concept of wilderness which prevents access of what is…show more content…
The process by which one becomes an environmentalist, that is, someone who cares for nature itself, begins by seeing “the pretty” within the natural world and “it expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language” (Leopold, 96). John Muir recognized the importance of beauty and wrote of its presence in all places, not just the pristine, as “beauty…is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich” (Muir, 97). Thus, humans must connect primordially to nature so that it reveals itself and inspires “wonder and awe” within the viewer (Cooper, 343). These emotions are translated into care for the land so one who comes to love the land, they are an environmentalist. Thus, everyone can develop a land ethic, not just the elite, and the classist nature of the environmental movement is
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