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An Emerging Sense of Place

The history of how literature and science converge in the American imagination upon a land ethic is the foundation of this course. We examine the major writers, artists and naturalists whose sense of place and grasp of ecology confronted their generation and ours with an inescapable dilemma to protect our historical identity in our landscapes and countryside, or else lose it. An ethical imagination arose in America between 1849 and 1949 primarily through the nature writings of Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Mary Austin, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson.

The focus of this course, by contrast, is to comprehend the ecological integrity of the local watershed. By placing Florida's nature writers, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and Archie Carr, in the national tradition of conservation and preservation, evidence of an ecological perspective emerges in response to the rarity and beauty of this place's tropic temper. By excursions to the St. Johns and the Wekiva rivers and their natural communities, participants will learn to read their local landscapes in order to construct some enduring meaning from the biological remnants still haunting Central Florida's hammocks, sandhills and streams. Thus, we envision such settings as examples of our nation's natural endowments.

Working together to produce a webpage or other teaching tools the class will actively connect our fundamental biological knowledge and cultural heritage in order to instill a deeper sense of responsibility, stewardship and obligation for sustaining the health of our common American natural areas.

This tidal mangrove swamp is just one indication that Florida's river and marine shorelines are attractive areasfor wild nature -- as well as for people. It is this contest for space along the crowded shores that more than any other set of forces characterizes the conflict between settlement and wildlife in this fast growing state.

Today–2012– more than 17 million people crowd the river and ocean shores of Florida. Every twenty years, for the last eighty or so years, the state's population has doubled. Half of the original wetlands–such as these mangroves–have been lost in the state due to the press of people into more and more places. As the character of Florida's shorelines have changed so has our undestanding of the necessity of these places for wildlife, water, recreation and contemplation. Our class examines these losses and the awakening sentiments for preservation of wildness that rapid growth stimulated so that you may protect and restore the vitality of Florida's subtropical vegetation, fisheries and wildlife.

1875 Map reveals that places change with respect to our imaginative views based on the means of seeing a place.


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Last Updated on 5/15/11 .