In the rural, modern American West, two Manichean perspectives of the human-nature relationship have contributed to vehement environmental conflicts. Adopting developer Calvin Black and writer Edward Abbey as archetypes, I explore the endurance of these two ideologies in the redrock canyon country of southern Utah and northern Arizona. Black represents the historically dominant anthropocentric view among Euro Americans that nature ought to be domesticated and commoditized; the competing view, represented by Abbey, is eco-centric and considers the intrinsic value of the broader ecological community beyond its utilitarian function. I argue that environmental conflict in the canyon country has been driven by ideologues who espouse one of these two deeply entrenched and seemingly irreconcilable perspectives. Modern-day conflicts over wilderness, land use, and rural development are endemic, rooted in heritage and culture and driven by particular Anglo-American religious and secular beliefs that reflect differing ways of “seeing” the land. In particular these contending perspectives are reflected in the “built” landscape. Using one especially ubiquitous human imprint on the land as both trope and subject, I explore the political and cultural meanings of roads as symbols variously of progress and of exploitation. Questions of road development and public lands access became the center point of environmental conflict driven by dichotomous worldviews that demonized the opposition and its position. What developed in the last half century is a discourse dictated by categories created by ideologues. This dissertation not only explores the particular circumstances that made these environmental contests volatile in an American desert, but it also meditates broadly on the nature of environmental compromise and conflict, the place of people in "wild" landscapes, and the discontents of rural communities upended by new economic realities. This study illustrates generally how people perceive the land, the technology they wield to manipulate it, and the broader cultural and political transformations that result.
- Make straight in the desert a highway: ideology and environmental conflict on the Colorado Plateau
- Roads--Environmental aspects--Utah.
- Wilderness areas--Utah.
- Environmental protection--Utah.
- Environmental protection
- Social conflict--Utah.
- Social Conflict
- Roads--Economic aspects--Utah.
- Roads--Political aspects--Utah.