Speak Out: The Beauty of Forests...
By Will Pomeroy
ART TIMES January/ February 2013
...is what draws people toward them. The utilitarian or biological concerns, which now dominate preservationist thought, did not arise before humans experienced the sensation of forest beauty. On the contrary, humans found themselves called by this very sensation to discover more about forest lands, and beauty itself continues to motivate forest study.
Underlying all consideration of mature forest lands is a recognition of their beauty, and so we must include beauty as a reason for preserving mature forest lands. Otherwise preservationists will remain focused on what beauty occasions, while failing to mention beauty itself—without which their utilitarian and biological concerns might never have been gleaned.
In his Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard writes, “a tree is always destined for grandeur, and, in fact, it propagates this destiny by magnifying everything that surrounds it.” 1 The spaces magnified by trees form a world that is far more beautiful and inviting than it is without them. Because of trees, we can say, with Kierkegaard, that “a dream world glimmers in the background of the soul.” 2
The radical subjectivity of environmental philosophy, along with the incessant particularity of environmental studies and biology, has conditioned people into neglecting that old-growth forests are uniquely beautiful to almost everyone.
If people do not take action based on this more "objective" reality, subjective discussion of old-growth forests will cease to exist. Thinkers in general will be left to contemplate a memory of beauty.
With a lifetime of experience preserving forests---including a study wherein nearly four hundred people of various ages and backgrounds confirmed greater beauty among mature trees compared to younger 3---Joan Maloof recently started the Old Growth Forest Network: a project designed to save at least one old-growth forest per State. 4
On such activism, people must focus their efforts---as opposed to strictly "whimsical" writing on landscape beauty, or calculating only exact pollution.
We must ensure that beauty stays recognizable.
(Will Pomeroy lives in NYC).
1 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 201.
2 Soren Kierkegaard, Repetition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 152.
3 Joan Maloof, ‘Measuring the Beauty of Forests’, International Journal of Environmental Studies, 67, 3 (2010): pp. 431 – 437.
4 Find this Network online at http://www.oldgrowthforest.net/