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Reinventing Common Nature: Yosemite and Mt. Rushmore--A Meandering Tale of a Double Nature

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Olwig, Kenneth
Conference: Reinventing the Commons, the Fifth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bodoe, Norway
Conf. Date: May 24-28
Date: 1995
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8245
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region: North America
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
natural resources
Abstract: "This essay attempts to reinvent, or at least recover, an essentially premodern concept of nature in which people, and their values, do not appear to be excluded from nature. I wish to defend an older usage of the word in which nature is fundamentally a generative, creative principle. It is a principle which is, furthermore, akin to that of 'love' -- be it love toward an individual, 'thy neighbor' or one's country. This usage of nature emphasizes sustainable reciprocity rather than domination, and makes of nature not a spectacle, but something to be dwelled within. Hopefully this will lead people to reflect upon that which they take most for granted, nature. Yosemite and Mt. Rushmore are ideal vehicles through which to approach the nature of American environmental values and behavior. Yosemite valley is where the national part idea was pioneered in 1864. It was the archetypal natural park which broke the ground for the establishment of a later system of national parks. Mt. Rushmore makes a useful counterpoint to Yosemite because it expresses a transformation in the idea of nature and in ideas of the natural way for Americans to interact with each other, and their environment. The comparison will point to the necessity of reinventing a 'common nature.' It was this idea of a common nature, I will argue, which gave rise to the idea of Yosemite as a natural park for the American people. If this natural idea was the model for all of America, not just some of its parks, we might be able to rectify environmental policies which tend to create inviolable wilderness preserves in areas where people are largely excluded while overlooking the desecration of environments where we live and work."

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