Controlling Nature for Our Own Benefit

We live in a world of second nature, where there is very little if any nature that has escaped the affects of human influence.  The influence of American culture has gone beyond just affecting the environment around them, to manipulating it for their benefit.  The creation of parks has become a common practice in American cultures, and is a perfect example of how cultural practices manipulate nature for their benefit.

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New York’s central park demonstrates exactly how something natural like a park with trees, streams, and wildlife, is made in the most unnatural way possible.  The park was designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who won the design competition for the park. The park was federally funded to keep the peace between the citizens of New York.  The stress of city life is though to be draining and unhealthy, and the cure for this is exposing the people to nature.  The park was created to be a common ground where everyone is equal and can interact on the same level without the constraints of social status.  In the early years of existence there were even park officers who governed how people acted in this space.  Because nature was thought to be liberating and peaceful there were laws on how citizens were allowed to act in such a space, to maintain the ideology and peacefulness.

What is interesting is that the land was already filled with nature.  However, the nature that already existed there was not sufficient for the goal trying to be accomplished by creating the park.  Before construction began there was a vast variety of nature, including farm lands, rolling hills and valleys, and grasslands.  But this kind of nature was seen as peasant farm land and deemed unworthy for a park. So in order to bring people closer to nature, the development of the park destroyed what could be called the first nature, to create a second nature that was more suiting to the cultural needs of New York citizens.

This goes on to show that nature is very much cultural, and manipulated by the human race.  What the culture of the time saw as beautiful nature is what they created in Central Park. If it was a different group of people or a different time period the cultural ideas of what nature should look like would have been different and the park would have taken on a whole new appearance.


One thought on “Controlling Nature for Our Own Benefit”

  1. I think you do a really good job of pointing out the irony of this situation. I never really thought of parks that way but you are absolutely correct. We buy up land, name it after some historical figure and give it a face lift to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Just like in the story about turing Native American land into national parks, we feel as though we are doing a great service by sectioning off parts of forests so no one can hunt or build houses there, but really we are altering the natural cycle of the land. The people who had taken care of the land for hundreds if not thousands of years are suddenly being kicked out and told they no longer belong there. While our parks system is well intentioned, I think it needs some reevaluation.


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