Musing on a (false) dichotomy

Two tidbits I would like to share about nature & city, city & country, this & that:

By Jeen Na (Flickr)

One: I am reading William Cronon‘s brilliant book, Nature’s Metropolis for class right now. A great synopsis of Cronon’s insights resides here on a barren but poignant web page. The page explains:

“Cronon uses the rise of Chicago in the 19th century to explore the fundamental interconnectedness between city and country, particularly how Chicago developed as a gateway city linking the “Great West” and as a conduit for the flow of goods and people. Cronon argues that you cannot tease out the history of “first” (natural) nature and “second” (human-constructed) nature, and that the two were melded together largely via the connections of a capitalist market. The demands of the market necessitated a new order to be grafted onto “first” nature, one that established Chicago in a spatial web of connections between the city itself, its hinterland, and markets in the east. Crucially, this process depended on transforming natural material into tradable commodities, one of the many ways in which capital served to suppress and hide the reality of the very connections and processes on which it relied.”

Country (Jasper Conran)

Two: Yesterday I picked up Jasper Conran‘s Country and was mesmerized by the beautiful photography of Andrew Montgomery. Conran explains here:

“Country’ is an idea – a texture, a flavour, a state of mind. Close your eyes, and imagine the English countryside. What do you see or hear, smell, feel or taste? It might be a sweep of beautiful landscape or the warmth of a roaring pub fire; perhaps a porch filled with dripping coats and muddy wellingtons, the scent of ripe apples and freshly baked bread, or the hum of bees in a sleepy kitchen garden. […] Our world is being transformed, not only by globalisation but also by urbanisation. For the first time in history, more people live in towns and cities than in the countryside. Across the globe we are forgetting our rural roots, but country life, its values and people have never had more to offer. This is not about some imagined past, but life as it is lived today, in all its wonderful complexity. I worry these treasures can be all too easily lost. In some countries, grey urban landscapes merge from one city to the next. I hope something similar does not happen here.

Human beings were never meant to live too far away from nature. We become depressed and bewildered if we stay in our cities for too long, alienated from the seasons, cut off from nature and uprooted from the soil. I have nothing against change or modernity. Super-markets, roads and new housing all bring great benefits, in the right measure. The countryside needs innovation and investment. It also needs us to appreciate what is already there. During my travels around rural England collecting impressions of what I like, I have observed a delicate balance of man-made and natural beauty, of old and new, and wild and tame.

The countryside belongs to all of us, or rather I should say, it belongs to none of us. It is merely entrusted to our keeping, to be tended, watered, nurtured and handed on to the following generations in good condition. We need to cherish it.”


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