Nostalgia often follows conquest, and our relationship with the natural world is no exception. As human control over nature (or, at least, its illusion of control) has increased, many have responded by racing back to the forests. However, the motivation behind this nostalgia remains unclear – do we return to keep vigil (bearing the knowledge of our mistakes) or simply to purview our spoils?
The American quintessence of this tension is, arguably, Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau took to the woods, hoping that the simplicity offered by nature might allow the distance necessary to understand (or ‘transcend’) industrial society. The irony, or perhaps the gift, of Thoreau is two-fold. For not only does his account of this experience (in Walden, or Life in the Woods) call into question the ‘intellectual’ conquest (as yet another kind of conquest) of nature but it, also, reveals the negligible risk usually taken in these ‘returns.’ Thoreau did build his cabin in the woods. But the area was so close to the edge of town that he could not help but hear the all-too-industrial trains bustling by. Continue reading “Is Your Farm In My Network?”