Alexander Wilson Reading

Afternoon everyone. Thanks again for a great class discussion in class last night. And today, I’m already seeing many wonderful posts on the blog and some lively discussion in the comments section. This is what I always imagined what the course blog could be: a place where people share ideas and extend the learning that is happening in class so others can look along as well. Just use Kelly’s great post on bears in Yellowstone as an example.  It’s already been shared on Facebook 9 times! Yesterday was the busiest day on our blog ever (in terms of hits), and we are on pace to beat that number today.  Keep up the good work.

I’m in the process of finding the text of Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, so I’ll have that posted within the next day or so, but in the meantime, I have decided to make one of our secondary readings, “A View From the Road,” which is the first chapter in Alexander Wilson’s The Culture of Nature, available on 2 hour reserve.  All you need to do to read this is go to the circulation desk in the library and ask the worker to check out the article for the ART 327 class.  You’ll be able to read it for two hours. I decided not to scan it because there are many pages, and it is not the primary focus of our discussion this week. Still, I highly recommend taking a look at it.

Wilson’s book is very interesting. Although he is a Canadian, many of his observations about tourism and the leisure class translate to the development of the baby boomer generation in the United States.  Wilson argues that tourism, which is an offshoot of the increase in wealth accumulated by a working class, also frames the relations between humans and the natural world.  Chief within this widespread tourism boon, Wilson says, is the national parks movement, which “grew out of widespread dissatisfaction with industrial culture and its momentous effects on the landscape” (24).  The parks, then, reawakened a nation’s interest in the natural world, albeit a version of that work which is highly refined and cultivated.

The real intervention of Wilson’s chapter, however, is his interpretation of the growth of the U.S. Interstate system in the post WWII era.  the 1944 Highway Defense Act authorized the construction of what would later become the U.S. Interstate Highway System.  These roads made possible (and desirable) independent vehicle ownership.  Think about it; without a robust network of roads, cars really don’t have that much value, and for this reason, major U.S. auto manufacturers have always worked in tandem with the government to drive value for their products.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this chapter that nicely sews together many of the points we’ve been making in class. We’ll mention it next week.

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3 thoughts on “Alexander Wilson Reading

  1. at first, when i read that we’d have to actually go to the library to read wilson’s book it intimidated me a little because thinking i have to check this article out for two entire hours to read this whole thing is a little scary. but once i read your summary, andrew, i’m kind of looking forward to it! i don’t think i’ve actually put thought into the interstate system and how that creates purpose in independent vehicle ownership. ever since i can remember, everyone has had a vehicle, but i guess if we didn’t have a roadway or system, what would be the purpose? but i do think we could adopt more of a european thinking towards public transportation systems here in the U.S. which would decrease the amount of independent vehicle ownership, huh? we’ll see what i think after reading wilson. he and i have a date at the library this thursday!

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