How conflicting ideas of nature threaten to fracture America's identity.
Amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties: Americans invest much of their national identity in sites of natural beauty. And yet American lands today are torn by conflicts over science, religion, identity, and politics. Creationists believe that the biblical flood carved landscapes less than ten thousand years ago; environmentalists protest pipelines; western states argue that the federal government's land policies throttle free enterprise; Native Americans demand protection for sacred sites. In this book, David Nye looks at Americans' irreconcilable ideas about nature.
A landscape is conflicted when different groups have different uses for the same location—for example, when some want to open mining sites that others want to preserve or when suburban development impinges on agriculture. Some landscapes are so degraded from careless use that they become toxic “anti-landscapes.” Nye traces these conflicts to clashing conceptions of nature—ranging from pastoral to Native American to military–industrial—that cannot be averaged into a compromise. Nye argues that today's environmental crisis is rooted in these conflicting ideas about land. Depending on your politics, global warming is either an inconvenient truth or fake news. America's contradictory conceptions of nature are at the heart of a broken national consensus.
David E. Nye is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Charles Babbage Institute and Professor Emeritus of American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark. The author of twelve books with the MIT Press, including American Technological Sublime, he was awarded the Leonardo da Vinci Medal in 2005 and was knighted by the Queen of Denmark in 2013.
“From the Grand Canyon to Detroit's River Rouge industrial complex, America boasts awe-inspiring natural and human-made landscapes—and endures correspondingly bitter quarrels over their future. With impressive scholarship and sensitivity to diverse viewpoints, David Nye has explored these controversies. His call for a new pragmatic alliance recognizing the interdependence of nature and culture should be heeded throughout the country and especially in Washington, DC.”
Edward Tenner, author of Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences and The Efficiency Paradox: What Big Data Can't Do
“Conflicts over nature shape politics and culture in ways that bring us together or drive us apart. Reassessing landscape from diverse points of view, Conflicted American Landscapes offers a historical reckoning as well as a map for a more just, ecological future.”
Caren Kaplan, Professor Emerita, University of California, Davis
"A well-argued account of how different constituencies view landscapes differently, making agreement on their conservation and use nearly impossible."