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Ecological Revolutions

Ecological Revolutions: Nature, Gender, and Science in New England

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    Ecological Revolutions
    Book Description:

    With the arrival of European explorers and settlers during the seventeenth century, Native American ways of life and the environment itself underwent radical alterations as human relationships to the land and ways of thinking about nature all changed. This colonial ecological revolution held sway until the nineteenth century, when New England's industrial production brought on a capitalist revolution that again remade the ecology, economy, and conceptions of nature in the region. InEcological Revolutions, Carolyn Merchant analyzes these two major transformations in the New England environment between 1600 and 1860.In a preface to the second edition, Merchant introduces new ideas about narrating environmental change based on gender and the dialectics of transformation, while the revised epilogue situates New England in the context of twenty-first-century globalization and climate change. Merchant argues that past ways of relating to the land could become an inspiration for renewing resources and achieving sustainability in the future.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0389-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xxiii-xxviii)
  5. 1 Ecology and History
    (pp. 1-26)

    When Vermont statesman and author George Perkins Marsh took up his pen to write to botanist Asa Gray in 1849, he revealed the concerns that would spark his quest to understand the destruction of New England in a historical context. “I spent my early life almost literally in the woods. A large portion of the territory of Vermont was, within my recollection, covered with the natural forest. . . . Having been personally engaged to a considerable extent,” he confessed, “in clearing lands, and manufacturing, and dealing in lumber, I have had occasion both to observe and to feel the...

  6. PART ONE The Colonial Ecological Revolution

    • 2 Animals into Resources
      (pp. 29-68)

      To see nature as active is to recognize its formative role over geologic and historical time. Only by according ecology a place in the narrative of history can nature and culture be seen as truly interactive. Only by considering the ecological relationships within plant succession and

      animal-plant interdependences can the habitat be viewed as the scene of dynamic change and the locus of the reproduction of life. Indians exemplified the true meaning of ecology asoikos(house) by making the entire habitat, often a watershed, their home. With European colonization, however, home would constrict to the family farm and then...

    • 3 From Corn Mothers to Puritan Fathers
      (pp. 69-111)

      Seeing the world through the “eyes” of a plant is an agricultural people’s vision. The Indians of southern New England had been a horticultural people since approximately A.D. 1000. Extending inland from the coast, the Wampanoag, Narraganset, Massachuset, and Nauset, the Pequot-Mohegan, the Nipmuck-Connecticut Valley tribes, the Wappinger Confederacy, and the Mahican (see Map 2.4) depended on the corn, bean, and squash complex for their sustenance. Tapering off in the area between the Saco and Rennebec rivers in Maine, corn cultivation extended as far north as the Saint John’s River where green or milk corn could be harvested. In contrast...

    • 4 The Animate Cosmos of the Colonial Farmer
      (pp. 112-146)

      Eighteenth-century New England represents both the expansion of the elements of the colonial ecological revolution and the starting point for the capitalist ecological revolution. The continued development of the mercantile, exporting sector of the economy coupled with the inland expansion of the subsistence-oriented sector was an evolution of patterns created by the colonial ecological revolution. But the intellectual framework of eighteenth-century New England that supported this evolution reflected a more benign view of nature and God than did that of the seventeenth-century Puritan fathers.

      As settlers moved inland to found towns without easy access to coastal harbors and navigable rivers,...

  7. PART TWO The Capitalist Ecological Revolution

    • 5 Farm Ecology: Subsistence versus Market
      (pp. 149-197)

      Mimesis, the process of imitation, linked the farmer’s worldview to practice. The animate earth replicated the cycles of the larger cosmos, translating God’s will into daily weather, annual harvests, and generational births and deaths. Following nature’s cycles and imitating its patterns in fields, orchards, and gardens, farmers reproduced and maintained human life. As daughters learned milking and sons learned plowing, they were incorporating the values and techniques that had allowed their parents and grandparents to survive. A myriad of daily activities were imitated and passed on from generation to generation.

      During the capitalist ecological revolution, imitation was subverted by analysis....

    • 6 The Mechanization of Nature: Managing Farms and Forests
      (pp. 198-231)

      New England’s capitalist ecological revolution began in the late eighteenth century and was structurally complete by the 1860s. The colonial revolution had appropriated Nature’s matter by transforming subjects into objects and living organisms into commodities for exchange on the market. The capitalist revolution gave back to nature “her” nutrients, but appropriated “her” labor. By transferring Nature’s regenerative powers to society, the land was rendered passive and manageable. No longer was it necessary to let fields lie fallow to be restored as the Sabbath restored humans. No longer must forests be left to the activity of plant succession, but species needed...

    • 7 Nature, Mother, and Industry
      (pp. 232-260)

      During the capitalist ecological revolution of the nineteenth century, nature—teacher, mother, and bringer of natural disasters in the animate cosmos—was split into an abstract order of mechanical forces and a romanticized moral mother. The market economy that dominated nature by extracting its wealth and secrets was offset by the personal engagement of the romantic. Both nature and woman became the locus of moral law and emotive expression. The new forms of mechanical and moral consciousness legitimated capitalist modes of production, reproduction, and ecology.

      As production goals shifted toward the creation of capitalist profits, new relationships between production and...

    • 8 Epilogue: The Global Ecological Revolution
      (pp. 261-280)

      Although the transition from the classical world of the Mediterranean to the present occurred over 2,500 years, European societies evolved the science, technologies, political institutions, and natural resources that made New England’s colonial and capitalist revolutions possible in a tenth of that time—the 250 years from colonization to industrialization. Today those same institutions are being exported to Third World countries, cutting the period of revolution by another tenth to 25 years.

      Between 1600 and 1675 (the colonial ecological revolution), Europeans transformed New England’s ecology and the lives of its native peoples with introduced animals (cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and...


    • Appendix A Foods of Southeastern New England Indians, 1600-1675
      (pp. 281-282)
    • Appendix B Pelts Exported by John Pynchon, 1652-1663
      (pp. 283-284)
    • Appendix C Profile of Fifteen Inland Massachusetts Towns
      (pp. 285-291)
    • Appendix D Land Use in Concord, Massachusetts
      (pp. 292-295)
    • Appendix E Products of the New England Forest, 1840
      (pp. 296-296)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 297-336)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 337-376)
  11. Index
    (pp. 377-394)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 395-396)