Comparing the nature encounters of Gerald Durrell with our current climate of ?stranger danger?, health and safety neurosis, and the beguilement and blunting of the senses by technological advances presents a worrying picture of a new era of nature and culture deprivation. However, even in the most unlikely places, a rich engagement with nature can be rekindled. Central to such recovery is access to nearby nature that allows practical engagement rather than merely detached on-looking. In my conclusion I outline examples (...) where this has been made possible in the challenging settings of socially deprived urban areas. (shrink)
The picturesque is usually interpreted as an admiration of 'picture-like,' and thus inauthentic, nature. In contrast, this paper sets out an interpretation that is more in accord with the contemporary love of wildness. This paper will briefly cover some garden history in order to contextualize the discussion and proceed by reassessing the picturesque through the eighteenth century works of Price and Watelet. It will then identify six themes in their work (variety, intricacy, engagement, time, chance, and transition) and show that, (...) far from forcing a 'picture-like' stereotype on nature, the picturesque guided the way for a new appreciation of wildness—one that resonates with contemporary environmental philosophy. (shrink)
Through a number of examples of environmental interventions, this paper makes the claim that the unauthorised nature of some interventions is an integral part of their aesthetic quality. This does not mean that all such interventions have these qualities - only that the regulation of what can be done where and by whom could endanger the production of a rich seam of aesthetic experience, such as edginess and whimsy, and the aesthetic engagement of artists and the general public with places.
Reference to Merleau-Ponty's ideas surfaces in environmental thinking from time to time. This paper examines whether, and in what way, his ideas could be helpful to that thinking. In order to arrive at a conclusion I examine in detail and attempt to clarify the notions of 'Flesh' and 'Earth' in order to see if they can carry the meanings that commentators sometimes attribute to them. With a clearer outline of what he was saying in place, I suggest that the new (...) ontology that Merleau-Ponty introduces could help to transform environmental thinking, but that careful argumentation is required to show this. (shrink)
Literature on place makes use of concepts like authenticity and is often structured around a critique of homogeneity or placelessness. This critique is reinforced by the discourse of conservation biology with its emphasis on protecting biodiversity and condemning some non-native species. However, a common emotional response of humans, when they are displaced, is to make where they are like where they felt at home. The debate around invasive species needs careful handling for both ecological and social reasons. This paper addresses (...) a gap in that debate by taking account of the emotional involvement of humans with plants and their caring for the immediate environment through the activity of gardening. (shrink)
: In this paper we discuss ethical and aesthetic questions in relation to the gardening practice of topiary. We begin by considering the ethical concerns arising from the uneasiness some appreciators might feel when experiencing topiary as a manipulation or contortion of natural processes. We then turn to ways in which topiary might cause an 'aesthetic affront' through the humanizing effects of sentimentality and falsification of nature (most often found in representational rather than abstract topiary). Our contention is that successful (...) topiary emerges through a dynamic and positive relationship between topiarist and tree, where the gardener works with nature's forms instead of in strong opposition to them. Appreciation of successful topiary, we shall argue, is marked by an experience of both the tree as a living thing and the artifice which has shaped it. (shrink)