Wetland gloom and wetland glory

Philosophy and Geography 6 (1):33 – 45 (2003)
Abstract
Mountains were once no less feared and loathed than wetlands. Mountains, however, were aesthetically rehabilitated (in part by modern landscape painting), but wetlands remain aesthetically reviled. The three giants of American environmental philosophy--Thoreau, Muir, and Leopold--all expressed aesthetic appreciation of wetlands. For Thoreau and Muir--both of whom were a bit misanthropic and contrarian--the beauty of wetlands was largely a matter of their floral interest and wildness (freedom from human inhabitation and economic exploitation). Leopold's aesthetic appreciation of wetlands was better informed by evolutionary natural history and ecology. For example, cranes--wetland denizens--are more ancient than other large American avifauna and this evolutionary information and perspective enhances our aesthetic experience of them; and the ecological relationships between wetland species--such as sphagnum moss, tamaracks, and pitcher plants--informs our aesthetic experience of the wetlands biotic community. The Leopold land aesthetic involves all sensory modalities, emphasizes cognition as well as sensation (in this regard it may fruitfully be compared to the philosophy of Kant), and is more akin to an aesthetic of muisic than to an aesthetic of painting.
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Allen Carlson (2011). Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature and Environmentalism. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 69:137-155.
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