Ecological Thought in North America

“Calling this place ‘America’ is to name it after a stranger. ‘Turtle Island’ is the name given this continent by Native American based on creation mythology. The United States, Canada, Mexico, are passing political entities; they have their legitimacies … but they will lose their mandate if they continue to abuse the land. The state is destroyed, but the mountains and rivers remain.”

Gary Snyder, 1990

The idea of North America as an economic-political entity that encompasses Canada, USA and Mexico is relatively a new one. It can be traced back in the late 19th century as the result of the rise of the interconnected, industrialized economies and national states alliances. During the 80´s of the 20th century, the intensification of this concept generated the largest trade bloc in the world: NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1994) based on the dominant discourse of free market economic agglomerations

However, at the beginning of the 21st century, the notion of North America as an ecological-environmental unity is far from being conceptualized as the single, interconnected, interdependent environment that it embodies. The following map depicts the Pre-Columbian landmass and the human societies that dwelled (and still inhabit) on it before the European colonization of those territories.

Pre-Columbian North America. From Mexico and The United States: Ambivalent Vistas, W. Dirk Raat. 2004

Pre-Columbian North America. From Mexico and The United States: Ambivalent Vistas, W. Dirk Raat. 2004

Brescia and Super noticed that  in North America, with its many climatic and vegetation zones that stretch from the arctic north to the tropical south, space assumes special importance in explaining the varieties of human experience. The boundaries that delineate each nation-state within North America are artificial creations that emerged in the nineteenth century; these borders, drawn as they were by men of their time, illustrate in concrete fashion the political and diplomatic features of the North American past.

The landscapes that hosts the biodiversity of three different entities (Mexico, USA and Canada) are fragmented and sub-fragmented, in opposition to the free-commercialization of services and products of this huge alliance. Despite the economic and development that NAFTA have brought to the three countries, the environmental unity has been officially neglected for at least the last 20 years, since the signature of the official agreement.

North America. NASA

North America. NASA

The American Continent. Brazilian Artist Vik Muniz

The American Continent. Brazilian Artist Vik Muniz

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2 thoughts on “Ecological Thought in North America

  1. Pingback: This Week in Landscape | 30 March 2014 | World Landscape Architecture - landscape architecture webzine

  2. Pingback: This Week in Landscape | 30 March 2014 | Landscape

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