Planting Nature: Trees and the Manipulation of Environmental Stewardship in America

By Shaul E. Cohen | Go to book overview

ONE
Taking Control of Nature

When we consider the immense collateral advantages derived from the presence of the forest, the terrible evils necessarily resulting from its destruction, we can not but admit that the preservation of existing woods, and the more costly extension and creation of them where they have been unduly reduced or have never existed, are among the plainest dictates of self-interest and most obvious of the duties which this age owes to those that are to come after it.

George Perkins Marsh, 1863

Trees have a particular and powerful hold on American conceptions of what is good in nature and the environment. As we attempt to cope with environmental crises, we increasingly enlist trees as agents of our stewardship over nature. Trees have long been invested with positive associations and symbols; they are powerful mechanisms for carrying out different agendas because their meanings and uses can be manipulated and directed to a variety of ends. Together with their utilitarian value, this symbolic power casts them as prominent actors on the human stage. In this book, I examine the phenomenon of deputizing trees to do our environmental bidding, a subject I find troubling in a number of ways.

My concern stems at least in part from my broader curiosity about human conduct in the face of unfolding environmental problems. How and why do people maintain such seeming disregard for the need to

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Planting Nature: Trees and the Manipulation of Environmental Stewardship in America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents viii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • One - Taking Control of Nature 1
  • Two - Planting Patriotism, Cultivating Institutions 26
  • Three - The National Arbor Day Foundation 48
  • Four - American Forests 68
  • Five - Uncle Sam Plants for You 99
  • Six - The Greatest Good 126
  • Seven - Celebritrees 152
  • Notes 169
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 201
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