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A Response To Martin Krieger's What's Wrong With Plastic Trees

1033 words - 4 pages

A Response to Martin Krieger's What's Wrong with Plastic Trees
"Technologies, which may involve physical processes or social
organization and processes, determine how reproducible an object
is, for we may make a copy of the original, or we may transfer to
another object the significance attached to the original. (Copying
natural environments may be easier than copying artistic objects because
the qualities of replicas and forgeries are not as well characterized
in the case of the natural environment.) Insofar as we are incapable
of doing either of these, we may desire to preserve the original
environment." (220:A:2)
This excerpt provides a good idea of the types of issues Martin
Krieger raises in his paper entitled "What's Wrong with Plastic Trees."
Krieger, a professor of urban planning and development, argues for the
social construction of nature and for humanity's ability to re-create
nature. In this paper I will contest his underlying reasoning and his
general leaning, as I feel they disregard what is empirically verifiable
and historically factual about nature.
In the quote above, I do not so much take objection to his
conclusion, that if we can't fix it, then we shouldn't break it--in fact I
whole-heartedly agree with this point. What I do object to is the idea
that we can reproduce nature either through physical means, or through a
shift in the social beliefs and feelings toward nature. What he means by
this is that the concept of "nature" or "wilderness" has not existed, and
cannot exist independent of a cultural genesis: "What a society takes to
be a natural environment is one"(219:A:3). Krieger claims that our
conceptions of nature have changed based on how much of it there has been.
When the Romantics wrote, there was a lot of nature and civilization
seemed unable to conquer it, so it seemed "'strange remote, solitary and
mysterious'"(219:A:1). By the time of Preservationists such as Muir
(influenced, of course by the Romantics), the "natural world" was being
increasingly gobbled up by "civilization, and thus they focused our
attention on the need to preserve nature as "places to play in and pray
in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul
alike." On the other hand, the Conservationists, such as Pinchot, borrowed
from the Utilitarians and Modernists and thus focused on the wise
management of nature so as to extract the most benefit from it. Krieger
slices cleanly through this messy interrelated history of America's
concept of nature by declaring that in the same way that Muir focused on
the wilderness and its untouched rarity, we could shift our societal
attention to another aspect of nature. In that way it would not really
matter if wilderness would destroyed, because we could "transfer to
another object the significance attached to the original."
Maybe he is correct that *if* through "social action"(220:A:2) we
could "make whole"(243) some component of...

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