New York University Proposal On Civilization Nature And The American Way Research Paper as the topic. I have a 5 pages essay which is already done, you onl
New York University Proposal On Civilization Nature And The American Way Research Paper as the topic. I have a 5 pages essay which is already done, you only need to read through my essay and give me 1 page proposal for it. FRPG2112-01
Jiale Xiao, Tracy
Apr 5 2020
Civilization, Nature, and the American Way
It is emblematic of modern civilization that we feel there is a contrast — a conflict -between Civilization and Nature. Sparkling cities — industrial wonders — sit heavily on their
hinterlands. In Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Princess Amidala, a dignitary visiting the
ecumenopolis (or world-city) Coruscant from lush green Naboo laments the lack of greenery to
be found anywhere there. In this one-off throwaway line, the films writers make a brief, but
incisive commentary on how well weve excised nature from our modern lives. Of course, it is
not wholly true weve excised nature — we decorate our houses with large green-grass yards and
run woody buffers between properties and subdivisions — but what nature we allow into our
civilized spaces is a very tightly controlled form of nature.
But civilization needs nature. New Yorks water supply still comes, by and large, from the
mountains immediately to its north, from small spring-fed creeks impounded into reservoirs
more than a century ago. Philadelphias Fairmount Park was originally meant as a nature
preserve protecting the citys main water source, the Schuylkill River. Houses need lumber to be
built, and lumber comes from trees; trees need to be harvested to build houses at all. We make
electricity, the wonder-magic of modern civilization, from the sun, the wind, water, tides — or
else from deposits of carbonized sunlight laid down millennia ago. Without the resources of
nature, civilizations gears would cease to turn. Civilization thus has a responsibility to garden its
In Desert Solitaire, the nature writer Edward Abbey describes his experience as a Park
Ranger in Arches National Park, part of the vast red rocks wilderness stretching across the
middle Colorado River basin. In it, he extols the parks natural beauty — but he also bemoans the
improvements the Park Service is making to the park, improvements meant to make it easier to
visit the park, but, according to Abbey, ones that infringe on the parks nature and the parkgoers
experience of Nature. From Abbeys viewpoint, places like Arches National Park are meant to be
respites from civilized places, and any improvements made at all to the parks facilities represent
an intrusion of civilization into a temple to Nature. This surely doesnt square with the Park
Services viewpoint, of course: Parks are there to be seen, to be visited, and people wont visit
places that are difficult to visit. If a park isnt visited, it becomes hard to justify its rationale for
From the Park Services viewpoint, therefore, places like Arches National Park arent
actually temples to Nature as Abbey suggests, places removed from civilization, but rather
economically dependent on the very civilization that chooses to protect them and therefore part
of the urban hinterland. In Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Jane Jacobs calls such places city
regions and points out the symbiotic nature of cities and their hinterlands — not necessarily one
of producer and consumer, as someone like Abbey might see it, but more like producer of raw
resources and producer of finished goods. In such a view, nature cannot just be Nature; nature
has to contribute something meaningful to the activities of Man to have value, and for a place
like Arches National Park, this value is aesthetics — the very aesthetic of raw, untrammeled
Nature, in fact, that Abbey so extols. In a dash of historic irony, while reviewers today call
Abbey the Thoreau of the West, the Walden Pond Thoreau so extolled held a similar status for
Boston in his day.
It is only in the minds of idealists, however, that the relationship between Civilization and
Nature is as dramatic as a dichotomy. Part of civilization is civilizations understanding of
Nature. Jacobs argues persuasively that nature and natural places should be understood not as
things in themselves but as parts of the economic fabric of a city and its broader region. But there
is another viewpoint to be had in this conversation: James Howard Kunstlers, who, in The
Geography of Nowhere points out that American suburbia destroys the actualities of natural (and
rural!)environments to put up privatized facsimiles of them. In other words, our interaction with
nature also matters, and in our interactions, we reveal, in the places we create, what we value. In
other words, Americans value a personalized interaction with nature to such a great degree that
they will destroy nature in order to put up their own personalized interaction-space with it.
Kunstler, like many others, points out how incredibly wasteful such a culture is. Such behavior is
also antithetical to nature and natural resources: Nature is a commons, a shared resource, a
resource we cannot privatize in our backyard else we destroy — hence suburbia yielding a
facsimile of nature, an inferior copy.
If we want to maximize our interaction with nature, we should minimize the amount of
space we take up. Surprisingly few voices in American media call for this — in fact, the Sierra
Club, one of Americas dominant preservationist voices, is notoriously hypocritical when it
comes to NIMBYism in the Bay Area — but it is the actuality of life in Japan, where lots are
barely large enough to fit a house but the natural spaces on the urban periphery are far lusher and
more expansive than anything found in North America. It is also not a surprise that Japanese
attitudes about civilization and nature are less conflicted than American ones; American conflicts
are driven by the American desire to privatize and individualize everything, an ethos that is
fundamentally in conflict with the preservation and enjoyment of nature as Nature. Perhaps,
then, what writers like Thoreau and Abbey offer is not a critique of civilization and nature, but
rather a critique of American culture and how it distorts both civilization and nature. Jane Jacobs
would be inclined to agree.
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire. University of Arizona Press, 1988.
Jacobs, Jane. Cities and the Wealth of Nations. Vintage, 1985.
Kunstler, James Howard. The Geography of Nowhere. Free Press, 1994.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Directed by George Lucas. Twentieth Century Fox, 1999.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Signet, 2012.
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