Inventing Interventions

Alex Wilson
The Culture of Nature: North American Landscape from Disney to the Exxon Valdez (1991)

My own notes to a passage align on one side terms from my then current interests and on the other side keywords from a passage I read.

producing framework
reproductive system of rituals
translations phase of cultural evolution

What was I reading? This:

Restoration projects actively investigate the history of human intervention in the world. Thus they are at once agriculture, medicine, and art. William R. Jordan of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum writes:

I now see restoration as providing the framework for a system of rituals by which a person in any phase of cultural evolution can achieve a harmonious relationship with a particular landscape.

These are not new ideas, but they are ideas newly current in the culture.

Wilson proposes “a new environmental ethic”.

Restoration actively seeks out places to repair the biosphere, to recreate habitat, to breach the ruptures and disconnections that agriculture and urbanization have brought to the landscape. But unlike preservationism, it is not an elegiac exercise. Rather than eulogize what industrial civilization has destroyed, restoration proposes a new environmental ethic. Its projects demonstrate that humans must intervene in nature, must garden it, participate in it. Restoration thus nurtures a new appreciation of working landscape, those places that actively figure a harmonious dwelling-in-the-world.

As a gay man reading a gay man, then and now, I can say that the take on the elegiac exercises chimes in with the collective response to AIDS — the very cultivation of new modes of being there for each other. Building gardens was one of those ways. See the work of Douglas Chambers chronicled in Stonyground: The Making of a Canadian Garden. It did encompass preservation – the oral history of memory traces – and the creation of a working landscape.

And so for day 1376

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