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Planting Nature

Planting Nature: Trees and the Manipulation of Environmental Stewardship in America

Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 223
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  • Book Info
    Planting Nature
    Book Description:

    Trees hold a powerful place in American constructions of what is good in nature and the environment. As we attempt to cope with environmental crises, trees are increasingly enlisted with great fervor as agents of our stewardship over nature. In this innovative and impassioned book, Shaul E. Cohen exposes the way that environmental stewardship is undermined through the manipulation of trees and the people who plant them by a partnership of big business, the government, and tree-planting groups. He reveals how positive associations and symbols that have been invested in trees are exploited by an interlocking network of government agencies, private timber companies, and nongovernmental organizations to subvert the power of people who think that they are building a better world.Planting Naturedetails the history of tree planting in the United States and the rise of popular sentiment around trees, including the development of the Arbor Day holiday and tree-planting groups such as the National Arbor Day Foundation and American Forests. Drawing from internal papers, government publications, advertisements, and archival documents, Cohen illustrates how organizations promote tree planting as a way of shifting attention away from the causes of environmental problems to their symptoms, masking business-as-usual agendas. Ultimately,Planting Naturechallenges the relationships between a "green" public, the organizations that promote their causes, and the "powers that be," providing a cautionary tale of cooperation and deception that cuts across the political spectrum.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92991-3
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. ONE Taking Control of Nature
    (pp. 1-25)

    Trees have a particular and powerful hold on American conceptions of what is good in nature and the environment. As we attempt to cope with environmental crises, we increasingly enlist trees as agents of our stewardship over nature. Trees have long been invested with positive associations and symbols; they are powerful mechanisms for carrying out different agendas because their meanings and uses can be manipulated and directed to a variety of ends. Together with their utilitarian value, this symbolic power casts them as prominent actors on the human stage. In this book, I examine the phenomenon of deputizing trees to...

  5. TWO Planting Patriotism, Cultivating Institutions
    (pp. 26-47)

    One of the earliest and most influential commentators on environmental issues in America was the naturalist and diplomat George Perkins Marsh, whose treatiseThe Earth as Modified by Human Actionis often viewed as the foundational work of its kind. First published in 1863, the book was a clarion call for stewardship and preservation. In discussing American forests, Marsh said:

    The creation of new forests . . . is generally recognized, wherever the subject has received the attention it merits, as an indispensable measure of sound public economy. Enlightened individuals in some European states, the Governments in others, have made...

  6. THREE The National Arbor Day Foundation: MODIFYING THE NATURAL WORLD
    (pp. 48-67)

    The National Arbor Day Foundation was created to both commemorate and capitalize on the centenary of J. Sterling Morton’s holiday for trees. The foundation, which has grown tremendously since its inception, reflects what characterized Morton himself: a love of trees, a gift for promotion, a belief in the human ability to transform the landscape, and a vision of the citizen as steward. Where Morton was an avowed politician, however, the National Arbor Day Foundation is political in less direct—though still powerful—ways. Though the National Arbor Day Foundation has never defined itself as a political organization, its environmental work...

  7. FOUR American Forests: PLANTING THE FUTURE
    (pp. 68-98)

    In 1972, the National Arbor Day Foundation celebrated the centennial of Arbor Day, and American Forests launched a new tree planting program. At the time, American Forests was approaching its own centennial and was, in many respects, a moribund organization suffering from low membership and a lack of clear purpose. That year, at its National Tree Planting Conference held in New Orleans, American Forests announced the new Trees for America (soon changed to Tree Time USA) program, designed to motivate the public and generate support for the organization across ″the widest possible cross section of people, interests and organizations.″¹


  8. FIVE Uncle Sam Plants for You
    (pp. 99-125)

    Like other functions of government in the United States, tree planting is spread among many agencies, and it involves overlapping sets of employees and politicians, different bodies of legislation, budgets that rise and fall, evolving agendas, and sometimes, competing interest groups. The primary governmental agency for developing and implementing policy for trees and forests is the U.S. Forest Service, but the question of who does what, and why, is complicated. This chapter examines elements of the government that support tree planting both directly and indirectly, and it focuses on areas of interface with nonprofit tree planters in both practical and...

  9. SIX The Greatest Good
    (pp. 126-151)

    Forestry in the United States since the beginning of the twentieth century has been a dialectic between the Forest Service and the timber industry; at times the relationship has been more collegial, at times more adversarial, and often it has been some combination of the two. The subject of this chapter is tree planting as carried out for and depicted by the timber industry; but in order to understand these activities, it is necessary to examine first the relationship between the industry and the government—both direct and indirect. The previous chapter discussed the ways that government supports nonprofit tree...

  10. SEVEN Celebritrees
    (pp. 152-168)

    I moved from Washington, D.C., to Eugene, Oregon, in 1996, a shift from the capital of political capital to a capital of forest capital. Eugene is the headquarters of the Willamette National Forest, the most productive of the national forests, and from here I have been able to watch much of the forestry process—the process of turning trees into products, then planting more trees—unfold around me, from beginning to end. According to an estimate included in Standard and Poor’s industry surveys, in the years that I have lived here, the paper and wood companies of the United States...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 169-190)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-210)