A Subaltern Environmental History

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Karl Jacoby’s Crimes Against Nature is a history that strives to take a look at the underbelly of the Conservation movement in American history. His “bottom-up” approach chronicles the evolution of a moral ecology which straddles the fence between official conservation standards and traditional ecological practices. I would say that this reminds me of the populist politics class I took last semester, except the fact these areas being conserved by the government were too sparsely populated for effective populist action. As a result, the conflict was very one sided and Jacoby notes that the history reflects this as an environmental crusade waged by the “pantheon of Conservationist prophets” (1).

Like Wade, I was also reminded of our discussions about the role of capitalism in shaping environments while reading this book. What I found most interesting about Jacoby’s take on this, however, is the unconventional intersection of morality and capitalism. In this class, the focus when discussing capitalism has been primarily the economic and ecological aspects. Unfortunately, the chances of morality and capitalism working together to create a better method of conservation as they remain “separate guiding stars in a dark night sky” (198).

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