Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Into the (man-made) Wild

When most Americans want to go somewhere "wild" or take a trip into the "wilderness" they often head for national parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone. What most people don't know (or choose to ignore) is that these supposedly pristine, scenic landscapes have the stamp of human engineering all over them. Thanks to Frederick Law Olmsted's version of Adam Smith's "invisible hand," it's difficult to discern the human influence in famous national sites like Yosemite or Niagara Falls. Yet, Olmsted and other lanscape architects since often contribute a lot of planning efforts towards the "wild" places Americans hold dear. 

If the majority of Americans were cognizant of the amount of human influences in our nation's wild landscapes, would it change how they value national parks and other publicly owned natural lands? Should it change? Do we enjoy national scenic landscapes only because we think they are "wild" or because we enjoy our time in them? 

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