Marsh, George Perkins. [1864] 1965. Man and Nature. Reprint, edited by David Lowenthal, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belnap Press of Harvard University Press.

Synopsis

The main statement ‘George P. Kent’s article, Man and Nature, is that nature has a strong bond with a man than any other living things on earth, and however man the main is the prime reason for the deterioration of nature. In his article, Marsh has successfully documented the effects of human action; both positive and negative on nature.

Nature has gifted man with many gratuitous gifts, Marsh lists –the temperature of air, the rains, the land and water, the composition of soil, etc. as the examples while man has exploited the nature for the wealth and social advancement, as the result of which the vast forests have disappeared; the vegetable, the soil of alpine and the mold of the upland fields, are washed away; the meadows, the rivers, the willows, and the rivulets, are gone (8-9).  He urged that even though man’s action, in the past carried the physical improvement to the highest pitch, eventually his action –either by ignorance or by brutal and exhausted despotism led to the degradation of the soil, climate and the land, as the result of which man is having to struggle against crushing oppression and the destructive forces of inorganic nature, both at a time (9-12).

Apart from the man’s action there are other influences such as cosmical and geological influences, geographical influence and meteoroidal influences which have impacts on nature in greater extent, he explains, man is one of the most significant factors influencing the nature because he can cut down the forest, change the course of river, influence all the natural phenomenon with the use of technology and finally push the nature into wilderness (17-28). “But man is an everywhere disturbing agent” (36). For instance, when the trees are cut, soil erosion occurs resulting in dryness and flooding, which in return results in heavy rainfall and hence disturbs the hydrological cycle.

“The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature [has] established…, and she avenges herself upon the intruder by letting loose destructive energies hitherto kept in check by organic forces destined to be his best auxiliaries, but which he has unwisely dispersed and driven from the field of action” (42).

At the end of the chapter, he mentions that man has learned many practical lessons from the teachings of simple experience. Even many actions are implemented so as to improve the nature, such as plantation of new forests, constructing walls of masonry in flowing streams, filling up lowlands, diking, checking the drifting of coastal dunes, re-peopling the seas and island with fish, fertilizing the sand of Saraha, etc. (44).  But still, the question is: could this old world, which man has overthrown, be rebuilt? (45).

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