Working the Range: Essays on the History of Western Land Management and the Environment

By John R. Wunder | Go to book overview

DAN L. FLORES


10
Agriculture, Mountain Ecology, and the Land Ethic: Phases of the Environmental History of Utah

In seeking to discover the causes of modern ecological dilemmas, the environmental movement of the 1970s and 1980s has developed a penetrating critique of a number of mainstream American institutions. Historians Lynn White, Jr., and Roderick Nash, for example, have credited the Judeo-Christian religious ethic, which places man at the center of a subservient biosphere, as central to the development of environmental callousness and mismanagement. 1 Philosopher Eugene Hargrove has argued that Western, Lockean property concepts are too exclusive to permit the emergence of an ecologically sound society. 2 Yet another historian, Donald Worster, in a recent award-winning study, lays the responsibility for this nation's greatest environmental disaster, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, on capitalism's relentless drive for profit. 3

Environmental historians have looked for documentation to the example of the American West. Initially settled between 1865 and 1900, the West appears to offer in its history a portentous example of unplanned, wasteful, disruptive, and undemocratic natural resource exploitation. Indeed, long before the contemporary interest in ecology, Stuart Chase in his seminal study Rich Land, Poor Land and Roy Robbins with Our Landed Heritage wrote eloquently of the abuses inherent in the age Vernon Parrington had called "the Great Bar-

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