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By Donald Worster

The West continues to be unsettled--by cultural conduct, highbrow debate, and ecological stipulations. In those 4 essays, which have been awarded because the 1992 Calvin P. Horn Lectures in Western heritage and tradition, Donald Worster incisively discusses the function of the common setting within the making of the West--and frequently in its unmaking and remaking. His matters are 4 associated subject matters: the legacy of John Wesley Powell to western source administration; the domination of water coverage via kingdom, technology, and capital because the mid-nineteenth century; the destiny of flora and fauna within the push to settle the West; and the specter of international warming to the good Plains.

The panorama of the West has for too lengthy been a disadvantage to be conquer. yet in Worster's view it really is in seeing how humans have handled and, all too frequently, mishandled nature that provides urgency to raised realizing the region's ecological historical past. Worster argues for a brand new courting of western humans to their atmosphere in response to merits to a group instead of on earnings to individuals.

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Additional resources for An unsettled country: changing landscapes of the American West

Example text

Which was Archbishop James Ussher's calculation for the year of creation; bones dug from the ground proved how wrong he was. But the earth itself was far, far older than any kind of animal fossil. Scientists had begun talking about an ancient Devonian time, a Cambrian period of history, a Precambrian period, and closer to the present, a Carboniferous, a Triassic, a Jurassic, a Cretaceous period. Life had appeared only in the later phases of that history. This was a revolutionary chronology. Western travelers familiar with some of its implications, and surely there were a few such among the hundreds of thousands that went west, had to realize that this new country was not new at all.

Even there, contrary to the settlers' expectations, the animals did not simply go extinct; most species survived the ferocious assault of gun and plow, many have even rebounded in numbers, and with the help of conservationists they are still in the West, struggling to live with us today. In the last chapter I look at that vast subregion called the Great Plains, where human labor has been so vigorously expended to create something agricultural, something productive, out of what was once dismissed as a dreary wasteland.

In his wake came other scientists, making maps, studying the region's geomorphology, measuring its stream-flow and erosion rates, collecting data on its drought cycles, looking for mineral wealth. Scientists in biology and ecology also came to study such topics as the migration patterns of whooping cranes or the salt-coping mechanisms of the region's vegetation. The pursuit of scientific knowledge about the West and its organization into general ideas were one of Powell's most important legacies, and as they went forward the region took on deeper and deeper meaning.

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