Conflicted American Landscapes

May 4, 2021
Conflicted American Landscapes

How conflicting ideas of nature threaten to fractureAmerica's identity.Amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties: American investmuch of their national identity in sites of natural beauty. And yetAmerican lands today are torn by conflicts over science, religion,identity, and politics. Creationists believe that the Biblicalflood carved landscapes less than 10,000 years ago;environmentalists protest pipelines; Western states argue that thefederal government's land policies throttle free enterprise; NativeAmericans demand protection for sacred sites. In this book, DavidNye looks at Americans' irreconcilably conflicting ideas aboutnature. A landscape is conflicted when different groups havedifferent uses for the same location—for example, when some want toopen mining sites that others want to preserve or when suburbandevelopment impinges on agriculture. Some landscapes are sodegraded from careless use that they become toxic“anti-landscapes.” Nye traces these conflicts to clashingconceptions of nature—ranging from pastoral to Native American tomilitary–industrial—that cannot be averaged into a compromise. Nyeargues that today’s environmental crisis is rooted in theseconflicting ideas about land. Depending on your politics, globalwarming is either an inconvenient truth or fake news. America’scontradictory conceptions of nature are at the heart of a brokennational consensus.