Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: To Heal the Earth: Selected Writings of Ian L. McHarg

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: To Heal the Earth: Selected Writings of Ian L. McHarg

Article excerpt

Review: To Heal the Earth: Selected Writings of Ian L. McHarg Ian L. McHarg and Frederick L. Steiner (Eds.) Ian L. McHarg and Frederick L. Steiner (Eds.) To Heal the Earth: Selected Writings of Ian L. McHarg. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1998. 310 pp. ISBN 1-55963-573-8 (cloth). US$34.95. Recycled acid-free paper.

Forward by Robert D. Yaro

In an essay in this book, Ian McHarg writes, "The time has come to discover and celebrate the accomplishments of our predecessors." [191] He was speaking to his fellow landscape architects, about the founders of the profession, Frederick Law Olmsted and Charles Eliot. He could just as well have been speaking to us, about himself.

McHarg's ideas about the relevance of ecology to landscape architecture became familiar to many through his 1968 book, Design With Nature. With his colleagues in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, he exerted a profound influence on planning education and practice throughout 70's and 80's. He played a significant role in shaping national environmental policy. While today neither his ideas nor his work are well-known to the broader public, they remain as refreshingly relevant as when first articulated.

This book is not the ideal vehicle for reviving interest in McHarg. It is a collection of papers written largely for specialists; there are thoughtful essays on the history of landscape architecture, the relevance of ecology to planning, and broader policy issues, as well as numerous detailed planning reports. The basic ideas are powerful and appealing, and are elaborated with clarity and conviction, yet the contexts and subthemes are many. As a result, many readers will find themselves struggling, simultaneously, with the redundancy and the disjointedness of the collection.

Still, with persistence the vision, the work, and a sense of the man come through. The vision is of a harmony between man and nature. What is good for nature is good for man. If we bring science to bear on understanding how, in particular settings, nature functions, it will provide us with a determinate "sense of the place" and how we should be related to it. …

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