Review: Remedies for a New West: Healing Landscapes, Histories and Cultures

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Review: Remedies for a New West: Healing Landscapes, Histories and Cultures Patricia Nelson Limerick, Andrew Cowell, and Sharon K. Collinge (Eds). Limerick, Patricia Nelson, Cowell, Andrew, and Collinge, Sharon K. (Eds.). Remedies for a New West: Healing Landscapes, Histories and Cultures. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2009. x + 324 pp. ISBN 9780816525997. US$35.00. Acid-free paper.

The eleven essays composing this valuable collection originated after a lecture series, "Healing the West", formerly organized by the University of Colorado at Boulder. Most contributions can be assigned to ecocriticism, an interdisciplinary scholarship of literary and sociological studies that exploits narrative paths scrutinizing the role of the natural environment in the community imagination. The American West extends from Canada to Mexico and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast. Its peculiarity lies in the environment, the biodiversity, the unique inventory of road-less intact ecosystem areas, and - in such a landscape - the high visibility of ecosystem damages. The geographical, biological, and human diversity problems of the West, although complex and intertwined, suffer for their association with the oversimplified mythology of the frontier, which still retains a powerful attraction in American life. On the contrary, Remedies for a New West challenges any mythological narrative, as it aims to be "a call for action and a provocation to thought" (p.13). Analysing the historical development of the West with an eye to the values assigned or denied to the concept of nature in the human-nature relationships, curators claim that the West narrative should be read as grounded in economic reality rather than in the romantic tame of wilderness, surrounded by such conventional issues as profit, loss, and competition.

Patricia Nelson Limerick opened the path in 1987, when her book The Legacy of Conquest debunked the consolidated imaginary about migration and settlement beyond the hundredth meridian. Now, the vision of the western conquest as a vast economic event consolidates with suggestions in this volume for intervention in social debates surrounding environmental depletion and preservation of what remains of the original resources.

Some contributions are on Native cultures, but arguments range from traditional pueblo dances and urban sprawl to acid mine drainage and nuclear plants, testifying to the great diversity of the West's human and natural landscapes. Several case studies offer restorative thinking aimed at conserving what has been left, looking also for the possibility to restore what has been lost. As many stories demonstrate, achieving a social consensus on healing strategies is the biggest challenge: problems "can be dealt with technically, but the politics and economics of the issue are quite another story" (p. …