Essay 3 Rough Draft – Hettinger and Lintott

The power of Aesthetic Tastes and Norms: The Formation of Cultural Aesthetic Virtues

Lake Catherine state park in Arkansas is a natural space which is simply teeming with biological diversity and healthy ecological interactions between all of its plants and animals. The state park is several square miles in size and its edges are connected to private properties which are owned and operated by individuals who farm their land but otherwise leave it mostly undeveloped. The only exceptions to this relatively untouched and unharmed natural space are the golf course which is several miles away from the park, the cabins and other buildings on the state park grounds, and a **** factory which is located on the opposite edge of the lake which the state park owns and keeps up. When swimming in or kayaking across the lake the white walls of the factory provide a jarring contrast against the deep blue of the water and the lighter shade of the sky. The smoke stacks tower above the evergreens which have been cut away and only remain on the side of the massive structure; whispers of the forest section which used to run entirely around the edge of the massive lake. In all ways possible, the factory is a wound in the landscape, a gash in the rest of the natural landscape, a hole in what would otherwise be a fully connected ecosystem. How should our aesthetic guidelines represent this ecological damage truthfully and otherwise ensure that the ecology and biological health of the state park is maintained?



The power of Aesthetic Tastes and Norms: The Formation of Cultural Aesthetic Virtues

Firstly, it is imperative that people understand the power of their own aesthetic tastes as well as the power of norms and laws surrounding the aesthetics of natural spaces. Shelia Lintott argues that there is an undeniably important relationship between ecological health and aesthetic tastes. She further argues that most aesthetic tastes are in fact damaging to the environment. For example, Lintott exemplifies the fact that “due to the dominant aesthetic tastes of Western culture” (Lintott 2008: 381) it is much easier for environmentalists to “find public support for bottle nose dolphins and baby seals as compared with bats and snakes” (Lintott 2008: 381) which are generally seen as more approachable, cute, and less dangerous or scary. This however is a massive ecological problem because both bats and snakes as well as many of the other organisms that Western natural aesthetic tastes have deemed “unattractive” (Lintott 2008: 381) actually have the greatest “ecological importance” (Lintott 2008: 381). In short, it is no easy task to preserve or protect those organisms which are aesthetically devalued in comparison to the tamer and ‘pet or baby like’ plants and animals. There is also the important example of the aesthetic values that are engaged in the planning and maintenance of property. It is almost always the case that in urban settings – where there is any green space and the property is not entirely made of artificial material – the native plants and physical features are removed in favor of replacing them with a singular invasive species: short grass (usually Bermuda) and a few small trees; two features which yield little to no room for habitat development or biological diversity. The golf course is the epitome of aspiration for the urban lawn – short grass, and minimal foliage only there to cast shade for a lawn chair with no room for natural species or natural evolution of the space. This ‘buzz cut’ version of a natural space has become associated with massive success when paired with a large house, a backyard pool, and a sports car parked in the drive way. No wonder it is aesthetically valued. This aesthetic standard for the control and manipulation of the natural world is so drastically popular that it is even enforced by law. In Little Rock Arkansas you can be fined if you repeatedly let your grass grow too high or let shrubbery and other low growth plants take over your yard. Thus it is easy to see how the aesthetic tastes and cultural norms of Western culture has created a sort of aesthetic virtue in a certain sense: the correct, acceptable, and valued aesthetic of the urban and suburban setting is one of monocropping, low biological diversity, and a lack of native representation. In short, the virtues are aesthetic uniformness and conformity.

Additionally, Lintott postulates that the aesthetic appreciation of the natural world is constrained by the fear that most people have of wildness and the violent and dangerous power of nature which is uncontrollable and indiscriminate in its affect. If human beings are afraid of something (such as a snake, rat, wild fire, or the deep dark waters of the ocean), then it will be impossible to value it. Additionally, if human beings already value something, usually we “assume it has aesthetic value” (Lintott 2008: 384) and thus try to find it within that object. Thus, fear is an impeding factor in ability of human beings to find value (aesthetic or otherwise) in natural organisms or phenomenon’s. What Lintott is getting at here is that both fear and the aesthetic values and norms described above contribute to the development of an aesthetic attitude. A change in this attitude or point of view is the key to bringing about positive ecological change on an aesthetic basis. Changing the fear that people have in their heads around those sublime parts of nature and changing the aesthetic virtue of the golf green as described above is the way in which aesthetic can ensure positive ecological change. In the case of Lake Catherine State Park, Lintott would say that is it the lack of ecologically safe aesthetic taste in the citizens of Arkansas that has allowed the factory to be built on the edge of the lake. The want to have the aesthetic experience of being in and around a lake that is free from potential pollution from a factory as well as being in a natural space that is free from the evidence of human manipulation is not present, and thus the State Park was not given the public backing it needed to deny the factory being built.

Ned Hettinger discusses a similar problem concerning point of view and attitude. Hettinger postulates that the environment is an open frame in terms of what people should appreciate. In other words, he believes that there is no appropriately defined scope or range of nature appreciation. Hettinger would say that in the case of lake Catherine, one could appreciate the sounds of the birds, the movement of the wind as it disturbs the water of the lake, or the color of the leaves on the trees as the catch the light from the sun. Yet he thinks that the context of that which you are appreciating will lend a specifically appropriate method. For instance, “we should not appreciate trout swimming in a mountain stream with a telescope or a microscope” (Hettinger 2008: 420), the naked eyes is much more appropriate in this example. Here is one example of Hettinger’s theory of better and worse methods of appreciation of the natural world. Hettinger is a proponent of a pluralism of valid methods of appreciation, yet he has one massive constraint which is the basis of a test which all possible methods of appreciation must pass if they are to be acceptable. This constraint is based on the reality of human impacts on natural environments and our aesthetic responses to such impacts. If a person sees a natural space and views the human impact on that space with a positive aesthetic response, they are categorically wrong in their appreciation. This is the biggest difference between Lintott and Hettinger. Lintott would say that one could aesthetically appreciate the ways that the factory’s smoke stacks reflect off the water and the bright colors of the oil in the lake that runs off from the production line, but that these aesthetic responses would not be environmentally positive. Hettinger is much less forgiving. He argues that appreciating these things is biased, wrong, damaging, and downright unethical. His argument suggests that if we do not directly notice negative human impacts, call them out for what they are, and further denounce them, we are distorting the environment in some way. If we choose to ignore or “frame out” (Hettinger 2008: 422) these negative human impacts such as the deforestation in the rainforest or the melting of the ice caps due to human caused climate change, we have fallen directly into the trap of being biased towards our own human wants and needs, and have failed to notice something that actively changes and damages our aesthetic experience. Thus Hettinger argues that all methods of appreciation are valid if they adhere to this constraint. Furthermore he outlines other guidelines that one might judge the ‘goodness or worseness’ of an aesthetic appreciation. “Discriminating responses are better than undiscriminating ones. Attentive responses are better than inattentive ones of inappropriately attentive ones… Mature ones are better than immature ones; unbiased responses are better than biased ones. Patient and carful responses are better than hasty ones; perceptive responses are better than confused ones” (Hettinger 2008: 417-418). Thus it seems that Hettinger is prescribing some sort of virtue based approach to environmental appreciation. The discriminating, attentive, mature, unbiased, carful, and perceptive person is she who will be able to appreciate nature the best; but she is not the only one who may appreciate it. Thus the main constraint of environmental wholeness and the naming of negative human impacts on such wholeness as well as the six or more virtues listed above are the means by which a person can strive for the best method of natural appreciation.

Finally, both Hettinger and Lintott agree that scientific knowledge has an important role in the maintenance of ecologically friendly aesthetic appreciation. For Lintott, by allowing the scientific knowledge surrounding certain aesthetically unappreciated creatures to become prevalent and well known, the aesthetic of the creature may change. This is done by dispelling fear, and by linking creatures and natural spaces to the benefit of the entire global ecosystem of which human beings are a part. For Hettinger, knowledge concerning environmental degradation should inform our appreciation. By this he means that understanding what degradation is and how it works should inform our standards of beauty in a natural environment. We should have visceral negative aesthetic responses to degradation.

When putting these two view points together, the development of a new model for environmental appreciation is formed: the privileging of scientifically informed cultural aesthetic values. The environmental studies community is full of a diversity of social scientists as well as natural scientists. These social scientists include philosophers, sociologists, and anthropologists. These three academic disciplines would be especially good at studying both past and current human actions and determining what environmental policies, initiatives, behaviors, and methods of appreciation have best exemplified the virtues described above. Additionally, in consultation with natural scientists, these academics would be able to identify the best possible additions to the above list of what could be termed “natural virtues” and could be the forerunners of the debate over weather being attentive is more important than being discriminating to give one example. In this way, scientific knowledge is being used within a constrained pluralism but still has the weight of truth and research behind it. The singularist argument proposed by Carlson is thus somewhat expanded with the realities of culture, norms, and aesthetic subjectivity taken into account.


Aesthetic Capacities of Nonhuman Nature

Holmes Rolston’s Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism: From Beauty to Duty comes in Carlson and Linscott’s fourth and final chapter of their book which inspires the title of the anthology. In this section the topic of discussion is the complex relationship between aesthetic appreciation, ethics, and how these two interact and can lead to understanding in environmentalism. Rolston discusses specifically in what ways aesthetics can positively and negatively contribute to our understanding of ethics and can lead to a source of motivation in terms of saving particular parts of the environment and informing one’s decisions. He admits, though, that such an approach leads to issues because an “aesthetically oriented approach may disorient us and leave us with too weak a locus of value to protect all the values in jeopardy” and argues that a balance must be struck in order to achieve the most beneficial environmental approach (Rolston, 326). Other weak points of his argument are his opinions regarding the aesthetic capacities of animals and his disregard to the existence of such a type of perception and even basic denial of nonhuman natures senses.

The problem with his stance in terms of its effects on environmentalism is the fact that his denial of their capacities to experience the world can lead to a way to justify the way people treat animals and nature as if it is lesser than them and unworthy of care and protection. This stance leads to a lack of empathy towards nonhuman nature and can lead to ill informed decisions on how nature should and should not be treated. He says that even if they have minute abilities to understand aesthetics it does not compare to the “critical appreciation of nature” and that only humans are capable of a “worthwhile aesthetic experiences”  but this is not evidence enough to support his claim that aesthetic value is anthropogenic (328). The main argument in response to the idea that animals have a sense of aesthetics is that when animals appear to be assigning aesthetic value to something it is only them considering its survival value. Even if it is true that they are considering survival value when making a decision that does not negate the fact that they are having an aesthetic experience.

His logic in this instance is flawed and similar to when he states that “The forest is not even green without us, much less beautiful” and this is untrue. Even if humans created the name of the color, that does not mean that when the pigment in the leaves are struck by light it reflects a specific wavelength(328). He also says that “The hiker’s aesthetic experience increases on such days (when the leaves change color). But none of this has anything to do with what is actually going on in the forest” and yet there is a reason why it exists because that specific wavelength of light is most efficient at absorbing the sun’s rays for photosynthesis as he so expertly describes the process of. To say the “color green” has nothing to do do with what is happening I find to be slightly ridiculous because the whole reason it is that color is for a specific purpose. Just like flowers are colored the way they are to attract pollinators and to say their color has nothing to do with whats going on is preposterous.

He at times just seems to come off in his writing to have an air of superiority about him when relating animals to humans. When discussing how people may find a hawk in flight visually aesthetically pleasurable but “the hawk is no artist, nor has it anywhere been naturally selected as an adaptive fit owing to aesthetic properties”, not only does this sound very dismissive to the animals experience, but it is ignoring the possibility that the bird could be having a viscerally engaging aesthetic experience as it flies.

Adrian K. Yee from Columbia University also argues for animal’s capacity for aesthetic experience and references Kant’s arguments in his third Critique that aesthetic experiences begin with “what is agreeable to our senses” and is then further influenced by culture and social factors. Also referenced is Beardsley’s criteria that require directness of attention and others such as active discovery and felt freedom and she argues that one can find animals exhibiting these signs that meet the requirement so why can it not be counted as an aesthetic experience?  

In her discussion of Kant she remarks “A paradigm case of pleasurable sense-experience is the sensation of eating food– an activity all animals engage in” and asks the reader to consider the difference between “1. experiencing the succulent taste of cherries and 2. Explicitly focusing on the experience of the succulent taste of cherries as an activity in itself” and here she describes how the experience of cherries can depend on the situation and how much consideration/focus is placed on the taste and connects it with Beardsley’s criterion for aesthetic experience. She describes an experience where the cherries are eaten during conversation and given little thought and the difference when one concentrates on the taste. She discusses how desire comes into play when partaking in the cherries and due to a desire for them, it can fit the criterion for being “freely felt”.

In regards to the Beardsley’s criteria of felt freedom and active discovery each of these can also be seen in nonhuman animals and to refer back to Rolston’s example using the hawk for example a bird of prey that may in nature be used to travelling large distances on a regular basis. It has been held in captivity and unable to fly for a long period of time. Birds that have been held captive and incapable of doing what they were designed to do, if they are released and free to fly again, will fly as high as they can, as low as they can, and loop and swoop through the air and clearly enjoy the freedom of flight. In fact, animals of all different species that have been in captivity, when they are returned to their natural habitat exhibit forms of behavior displaying joy. Cows can be seen, after months away from the field, to run about and jump and stomp. They roll about in the grass and make pleased grunts and moos.

Examples of active discovery and the joy of discovery we have discussed in class can be seen in the excitement seen in an animal when they have clearly just discovered/came to an understanding of something. She also discusses the issue that arises in regard to aesthetic experience due to the limitation of human senses, such as animals that can see a broader spectrum of color or hear a broader spectrum of sound. With this fact in mind, Rolston should reconsider the idea that the forest is only green because of humans and consider the realm of colors seen by a butterfly that has double the receptors of humans when it comes to color or a species of shrimp that have triple.

Another good example found in nature that displays animals’ ability to make aesthetic judgments and assign aesthetic value is the Bowerbird. This bird decorates his ground based nest with a variety of objects that have no use in terms of utility but instead he designs a nest with an array of colors and textures. The interesting thing is that each nest is individual to the specific taste of the bird. One may have a brightly colored den with reds and greens and another with more muted tones. This male bird is attaching his own version of aesthetic value to the objects he decorates his den with.

Even more intriguing is that the female observes his work without him present and, in her own way, makes a judgment based on her aesthetic experience of his den. Pack rats, for further example, despite their lack of utility, collect items that they enjoy aesthetically and decorate their burrows with them. During the semester it has been mentioned that intense running and those moments of discovery are aesthetic moments and both of these can be seen in nature as well as examples of primates having aesthetic experiences and finding enjoyment in the sight of waterfalls. Horses and dogs often find enjoyment in physical activity such as running and in learning something new.

All of these examples conflict with aesthetic views that do not acknowledge animal capacities, as we know animals can have wants or desires. Even if they are less complex, that does not negate their existence, and other claims cannot be proven because no matter how far our science has come we cannot say for certain the thoughts and emotions that run through animal minds. The way humans try and distance themselves from nature and from being considered animals can partially explain this reluctance to even consider the idea that animals can have experiences similar to humans. There were and continue to be arguments over whether animals are able to have emotions like humans do, and we are constantly finding proof and reminders that they can.

A view such as Rolston’s raises the concern that it could lead to the continued disregard of animal capacity to experience life in ways similar to our own will just continue to justify to the way we treat animals and the environment.  They cannot dismiss these occurrences just because they “humanize” animals. This refusal to acknowledge animal capacities is an attempt to cling to the idea of human superiority that led to the refusal of such evidence in the first place, when brought back by Darwin in the Victorian era. When he began a discussion about sexual selection and the role that an animal’s perception of beauty comes into play, the high society of the Victorian age did not respond well. They would not even acknowledge the lower classes as being capable of enjoying the “finer things in life” so why would they stoop so low as to equate animals to themselves in such a way, because aesthetic experience has so long been considered only “arising from human consciousness” as Rolston puts it.

The way that I have come to view and understand aesthetic experience is the reaction/ interpretation of the way in which our senses receive information from the environment and if we find them pleasurable we deem them “aesthetic” and so then, why is it impossible for such a thing to occur in other sentient beings we share this world with? It is a continued effort for humans to perceive themselves as superior in order to justify their actions and this must be addressed if one is to claim to be fully considering the effects of their actions in the natural world.

Ethical values

Nature in most cases is viewed as a seemingly limitless power that of which we cannot control. However, it may be true that we cannot control it but in many cases we instead destroy it. It is for this reason that we need to protect it from our destruction, but how? In this essay I will attempt to answer this question by making an attempt to assign an ethical value to one of my past experiences of my childhood from Yuriko Saito’s method of aesthetic appreciation while also evaluating Marcie Muelder Eaton’s and Joan Iverson Nassauer’s opinions on the subject.

The past experience that I will be using took place during the time I lived in Colorado and it lead me to have a very extreme aesthetic appreciation for the nature I was exposed to during that time. This memory took place during the winter while on a camping trip. The temperature was around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The chill of the wind and snow blowing on my back made goosebumps on my back stand on end while the fire before me felt as if the heat was scalding my face and shins. I could feel the constant battle between the fire and the outside elements. The smoke perfumed the air around me while the fire was overcoming the wind, but once the wind took over you could smell the surrounding evergreen trees and the grit of the earth. The flames in front of me were dancing with the wind, following a symmetric pattern of which I found the wind hitting my back. All the while I could hear the cackling of the wood being consumed by the flames and the whistling of the wind passing through the evergreen trees and the slight patter of the snow hitting the ground.  The forest floor was completely coated with snow except for a perfect circle outlining the fire about a half a meter away. The revealed ground was coated with pine needles. I was surrounded by forest. The massive evergreen trees swayed with the wind and made me feel puny compared to the world. Looking straight up I the stares were the most vivid I have ever seen them. I gazed up at Orion’s belt and felt a sense of awe and wonder. I found this experience to be extremely aesthetically pleasing. From looking back at this aesthetic experience I can see that I assigned an ethical value to it of which I found that I would consider this natural environment worth protecting, but why?

I first considered Saito’s model of using the sensuous storytelling of nature for aesthetic appreciation. But first, we have to understand Saito’s side argument for her model of aesthetic appreciation of nature. In order to grasp Saito’s model of appreciation we have to first evaluate our aesthetic appreciation of art pieces. First we will take into consideration a person who has little to no knowledge when it comes to art-history. When this person walks into an art gallery do will they still be able to aesthetically appreciate the artworks? Of course, but we have to ask ourselves of what provoked this aesthetic appreciation? To an untrained eye the visual appeal the perceiver will have, can only be based on the sensual values that the art pieces has. This is where Saito’s model steps in. From this example she sees that it was the sensual values that appealed to the perceiver that created the aesthetic appreciation and even to a point “[invited] [the perceiver] to visit an often unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable world created by the artist, encouraging [one] to ‘enter… into other forms of relationship and participation than [their] own’”, such as an sensual story (240-241). Saito then relates this concept to nature; however, she does point out a dramatic difference. When using art to tell a sensual story Saito respects that not all art will appeal ethically moral to us, especially over controversial and horrific subjects.  When we look at pieces of art and attempt to aesthetically appreciate them from the stories they tell we can find some of the stories to be horrendous and unreliable simply because it repels our morals. However, when taking nature into consideration we can identify nature as amoral. By doing this we will be able to find that the stories nature tells cannot “be morally objectionable or unacceptable” (224). By applying this model to my experience I can see that the sensuous factors that I was experiencing such as the wind and snow hitting my back, the range of temperatures created from the fire and weather, sounds of the snow falling on the ground with the rustling of the evergreen trees were the main contributors to my aesthetic appreciation as opposed to scientific knowledge that Carlson uses in his model. Since I was young, I had almost no knowledge of the natural world, which in Carlson’s perspective would limit my aesthetic experience; however, I did not feel like my aesthetic appreciation was limited and instead exceeded what Carlson would predict I would experience.

I then started to see that part of this positive aesthetic was caused by a non-perceivable as described in Muelder Eaton’s article The Beauty That Requires Health. According Eaton, a non-perceivable plays a significant role in providing an initial interest within a natural object. When someone is to aesthetically appreciate nature they should do so by having their knowledge about the subject redirect their attention and have them reflect upon that subject, which then creates a sustained attention. However, there should be room for the role of pleasure, imagination, emotion, and even mysteriousness in the experience of nature, for it even plays in the role of pushing individuals to become interested in nature in the first place. However, when we attempt to eliminate the role of the imagination of unreal elements we learn that we simply cannot. It is what corresponds to our “wow experiences of what we see or hear or smell or taste or feel; they are often among the most memorable experiences we have and contribute significantly to the meaning of life” (Eaton). They also help individuals towards the pursuit of knowledge in order to help and understand the world they live in better. In my experience I certainly found that the non-percievables that I was experiencing such as the wonder and imagination of the causations of my sensual experiences did in fact cause a “wow experience”.

When looking back at this experience I also wondered if any of my aesthetic experience rooted from a cultural norm as described in Nassauer’s article Cultural Sustainability. In this article Nassauer attempts to shed light on how he believes to be cultural norm of aesthetically appreciated nature can be translated to the cultural norm of environmentalism. Nassauer explains his beliefs first through how we determine our cultural sustainability. We can find our cultural sustain ability through how we support landscape ecology. Such as how “public lands were parts of indigenous ecosystems remain will depend on increasingly active management to retain selected ecological functions” (Nassauer 377). It is by these ecological functions of which our expression of culture can be judged. According to Nassauer we tend to base our aesthetics of nature off of our already predetermined attitudes of beautiful landscapes. However, we can find that when people have to decide on an ecological decision of what of nature to preserve, we have to come back to what is perceived as the cultural norm of aesthetically appreciate nature. Our cultural norm will always be based off of what we see as a cultural necessity. Unfortunately, I did not find this experience to correlate to Nassauer’s beliefs of cultural necessity. While I was camping I did not find the nature beautiful simply because it was a cultural norm. I instead, found myself appreciating nature based on the overwhelming sensual experiences that I had and from the non-percievables that were present.

This now brings me to the conclusion of how I will evaluate my aesthetic experience in terms of ethical value of the nature I was in. From reviewing my aesthetic experience I found that even though at the time I used Saito’s model and the concept of non percievables, they not allow us to assign a specific ethical value to nature since Saito’s model shows that all things in nature can be aesthetically appreciated despite if it has what seems to be a negative sensual story. However, this to me is troubling. In order to have aesthetic protectionism we must be able to have or find a specific ethical value over different regions in nature. Therefore, I believe that there should be two different outlooks to aesthetic appreciation: individual level of experiencing nature and as a population that intervenes with nature. I believe that on an individual level a person should have a freedom to choose between the different methods of aesthetic appreciation since they may vary for different personalities. When I was little such as in the experience I described above I always found myself using Saito’s model for my aesthetic appreciation; however, presently, since I have matured and have been through different experiences that have shaped my personality and interests differently from when I was a child, I now find myself using Carlson’s model for aesthetic appreciation. Because of this discrepancy between personalities and for the fact we simply cannot objectify all human minds to fit one model, I believe that we should have the freedom to choose on an individual level when we are experiencing nature as long as we are not bringing destruction to it. However, as for the total of the human population who wishes to intervene with nature I do not believe that we should be able to base aesthetic protectionism decisions off of any aesthetic model, since in my opinion would cause inconsistences and opposing viewpoints in almost every instance. I believe that we should instead, for this situation, have an implemented system of one model that will determine the ethical value of selected regions of nature. I believe that this system should be based off of Carlson’s scientific method since from this method we are able to actually able to define our limits of aesthetic appreciation.

Work Cited

Carlson, Allen, and Sheila Lintott. Nature, aesthetics, and environmentalism: from beauty to duty.

New York: Columbia U Press, 2008. Print.


Finding Nature in Urban Environments

For many in the United States, modern societies make it quite easy to move through life without needing to contemplate the health of ecosystems and our impact on the natural environment. This is quite a peculiar fact because, assuming we all go outdoors at least once a day, we all interact with some element of nature every day of our lives. Further, most people understand the concept that humans depend on natural resources to survive and that, if nature is negatively impacted, it will inevitably affect us as well. These factors alone seem sufficient to state that we all should care, at least to some extent, about the health of our ecosystems. However, this simply stated ideal is not so easy to establish among the greater population. Many environmentalists and philosophers have spent a great amount of time contemplating such an endeavor and potential modes to its achievement. One commonly explored idea is that of establishing a basis for positive aesthetic appreciation of nature, which is linked to ecosystemic health and sustainability. In this paper, I will outline the model for positive aesthetic appreciation presented by Yuriko Saito in “The Aesthetics of Unscenic Nature.” I will focus on her idea that nature tells a story that must be listened to and supplement the notion with an analysis of Allen Carlson’s scientific cognitivist model. After establishing a deeper connection between the two, I will make use of Arnold Berleant’s “Cultivating an Urban Aesthetic,” in order to propose the role such a model for positive aesthetic appreciation should play in urban environments. I will conclude by briefly articulating the value of such a proposal and its implications for the future.

Positive Aesthetic Appreciation

The barriers to care and concern about the environment are numerous and unique to individuals. This makes it quite difficult to outline a model, which will facilitate the motivation of all people. However, we do know that people tend to respond to those things they find beautiful, namely, those things that elicit a positive aesthetic response. This fact leads us to wonder whether a positive aesthetic appreciation of nature is an essential piece of the puzzle in establishing care and concern. We now turn to such ponderings as these.

In “The Aesthetics of Unscenic Nature,” Yuriko Saito explores the possibility that humans may shed negative predispositions and biases about natural environments in order to find all nature aesthetically positive. The first premise is that a pictorially based appreciation of nature is problematic because it is based on normative standards of beauty, such as the requirement that all of its glory can be easily captured in the frame of a painting. However, we are rightly moving away from this, and there has been much focus on positive aesthetic value in “scenically challenged” locations. According to Saito, if we are to truly appreciate nature, we must do so on its own terms. Thus, “what is needed for advocating the appropriate appreciation is a moral consideration…(because) refusal to experience an art object on its own terms…indicates our unwillingness to put aside our own agenda,” (241). This moral consideration serves as the foundation on which Saito argues that all of nature can be found beautiful.  The passage to this understanding “has to begin and end with the sensuous, though the sensuous can, and often is, modified or adjusted by the conceptual,” (243).  In this way, Saito outlines how nature tells its own story, and if we listen with an open and sympathetic mind, we can properly receive the story.

A question that I have for Saito is; where do we draw the line between natural and un-natural? This question is important because, the conclusion that, “as long as we are talking about our aesthetic experience based upon our all-too-human sentiments, capacities, limitations, and concerns, not everything in nature can or should be appreciated aesthetically,” (249) is contingent on our boundaries for said nature. If we were to emphasize an environment, as opposed to nature, would we be able to apply story-telling principles analogous to those argued by Saito?


Environmental Ethics

Environmental Aesthetics in the Name of Protection

Hannah McCarthy

The appreciation of nature and of natural environments is a universal phenomenon with important applications to public policy or human land use. Despite our intensely capitalistic society, preservation and protection of the most beautiful and wondrous places are an integral part of the United States’ image, so much so that business endeavors can be thwarted in favor of ecological conservation. How do these determinations of protection occur and on what basis should the decisions be made? The existence of the National Park System suggests the importance of aesthetic appeal in determinations of protection. However, instances such as the extinction of the grey wolf, a keystone species in Yellowstone National Park, which resulted in their subsequent protection and eventual ecological stability suggest more than aesthetics are at play.

In this paper, I will examine two models, each of which argue for a different kind of natural aesthetic for the purpose of environmental protection. First, I will look at Emily Brady’s imagination model, which argues for the importance of imagination in making aesthetic judgments, or more specifically, in determining the aesthetic character of a space. Additionally, I will look at Holmes Rolston’s model, which stresses ecological knowledge and a recognition of the intrinsic worth of all nature. Consequently, in analyzing the usefulness of both models, as well as presenting the prevailing critiques, I will argue for a model that incorporates aspects of both Brady’s aesthetic character and Rolston’s ecological considerations.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I worked on an organic farm in the mountains of southern Oregon. The farm, or sanctuary, as it is called, is fifty-five acres, and situated on what used to be a cattle ranch. The original owners of the property carved into the densely tree-ridden mountain to produce a brown, monotonous, flattened-out landscape to house the maximum number of livestock. Although it has been many decades since the property was used for this purpose, it still bears the scars of human intervention. The mountain’s edges, which line the property, now feature some greenery, from small and scattered bushes to sloping trees that have responded to gradual erosion by caving inwards with the rest of the mountain’s contents. Piles of rocks and dirt sit at the base of the mountain, covered with native yellow grasses. The ground, which was once stripped entirely of its array of skyscraper like trees and intensely green shrubbery, now features unkempt grasses, chicory roots, and towering sunflowers. Although the property now features organic gardens and a pasture for rescued farm animals, much of the land is left untouched. Of course, attempts are made to prevent further erosion of the mountain’s edges, which is executed through application of netting and also alpaca fur, which is produced as often as the alpacas require shaving.

Although the sanctuary has attempted to return the landscape to its original state, before the excision of the mountain, the process of renewal is quite slow and could be aided by further attempts to restore the area’s ecological and aesthetic character. However, the attempts at reinvigoration of the area depend on one’s beliefs about environmental ethics. Should one focus on the biological necessities of the mountain, or perhaps the aesthetic value, in the effort to reestablish life in its many forms?

Emily Brady, in her essay Nature, Aesthetic Value, and Environmentalism, suggests that aesthetic appreciation can and should serve as the basis for discussions on environmental protection. Brady is unique in her assertion that aesthetics alone can guide such ethical conversations, as other models argue that aesthetics is only supplementary, or based on additional knowledge. Brady places at the center of her model the need to determine an environment’s “aesthetic character,” or an “emergent quality from constituent aesthetic qualities, the overall quality that gives a landscape…a distinctive look or feel” (Brady 2008:400). The determination of aesthetic character can be thought of as the overall feel of a place, the emotions the space invokes, or the attitude it portrays. She acknowledges that such a determination is individualistic, and that “perception, thought, emotion, and imagination may come into play to grasp a set of aesthetic qualities upon which aesthetic character rests” (Brady 2008:403).

In recognizing that our perceptions are based on preconceived notions, Brady admits that her model includes both subjective and objective aspects. The objectivity of the model arises out of the nature of non-aesthetic qualities, which aesthetic character is based on. When viewing a mountain, one cannot refute that it is tall, massive, covered in various kinds of foliage, and home to different creatures. These non-aesthetic, objective qualities inform subjective aesthetic qualities of the mountain, or the notion that the area is magnificent, looming, dynamic, and whimsical. Although the asserted aesthetic qualities of the mountain may vary between individuals, and therefore the aesthetic character may differ as well, such determinations are bound to be similar because of the objective basis on which the determinations are founded.

Holmes Rolston III, in his essay From Beauty to Duty: Aesthetics of Nature and Environmental Ethics, criticizes models such as Brady’s, asserting that aesthetics alone cannot be the foundation of an environmental ethic. Aesthetics can be part of an environmental ethic, but without further criteria, it will be “quickly undermined epistemologically,” as aesthetics are a very subjective human construct (Rolston 2008:326). In addition to a lack of objectivity, he argues the model cannot address the fact that economic advantage is often pinned against environmental protection, as business will undoubtedly win out when the argument against human intervention is that it will leave the area less beautiful. An environmental ethic must be objective, Rolston argues, which can be aesthetically minded, but which has “a more foundational, biologically based account” (Rolston 2008: 327). He therefore argues for a model based on scientific knowledge, especially ecology and natural history, as well as more general themes such as a “respect for life, for endangered species…for intrinsic values in flora and fauna, for the welfare of biotic communities…what is there independently of human encounters” (Rolston 2008:329).

Like Brady, Rolston further breaks down the model by identifying two kinds of aesthetic qualities: Aesthetic properties, which are objective aspects of nature, and aesthetic capacities, which are subjective experiences and perceptions of aesthetic properties. He therefore admits that the model includes some form of subjectivity in that “the attributes under consideration are objectively there before humans come, but the attribution of value is subjective” (Rolston 2008:330). Aesthetic capacities must therefore be guided by scientific knowledge in order to make correct aesthetic judgments. We need to “let our criteria for beauty be reformed by the standards of biotic community,” so that a “biological appreciation of the world finds it beautiful” (Rolston 2008:331). In placing scientific knowledge at the center of our appreciation, Rolston argues that “we have left the territory of aesthetics and crossed into the realms of intrinsic and ecosystemic values” (Rolston 2008: 334).

Both Brady and Rolston recognize the subjective nature of aesthetics, or that preconceived notions and cultural constructs influence what one finds beautiful. However, Rolston argues that because of scientific knowledge, which will lead us to find beautiful that which is ecologically sounds, objectivity is still possible. Brady doesn’t claim the same degree of objectivity, but argues that because of the objectivity of that which aesthetic character is based on, aesthetic judgments will be similar.

Going back to the example of the excised mountain, one can see how the application of both Brady’s determination of aesthetic character and Rolston’s ecological considerations can guide attempts at replenishment of the land. Imagination allows us to consider the mountain’s state prior to the leveling of the land, as the dense forest most likely lent a tranquil and magical feel to the place. On the other hand, ecology and natural history suggests which vegetation most likely inhabited the area, as well as the animals that relied on such plants for food.



Brady, Emily. 2008. “Nature, Aesthetic Value, and Environmentalism” Pp. 397-412 in

Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Rolston, Holmes III. 2008. “From Beauty to Duty: Aesthetics of Nature and

Environmental Ethics” Pp. 325-338 in Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism. New York: Columbia University Press.


Beautiful Nature

I am writing this so that you will see what nature is and appreciate it in a truly

aesthetic way and observe things in a new light or perhaps provide you with some information that will deepen your understanding of nature throughout your experiences and lead you to care for it more effectively. I am pretty sure that i can make the statement that nature is beautiful. From the depth and magnitude of the grand canyon to the towering trees of the redwood forest to the beauty of the appalachian mountain range, these things are beautiful. There are many views on how to appropriately appreciate nature and what or if that appreciation leads on to something more. The philosophers I will be focusing on are Stan Godlovitch and Holmes Rolston III. Godlovitch as I understood him, believes that there are many problems with placing aesthetic value on nature. Godlovitch states that there are significant differences in the roles of the imagination and judgement regarding artifice and nature. He says that when aesthetically appreciating art it is correct that we use our imagination, but during an aesthetic appreciation for nature imagination “distorts or compromises the extent” of our experience. Godlovitch claims that “ Nature, appreciated aesthetically, is precisely that which leaves nothing to the imagination.” So when we use our imagination while trying to aesthetically appreciate nature he believes that it is a form of artifact making because

the imagination uses artifice and that is the product of selection, abstraction, and idolization. He claims Positive Aesthetics is too closely related to the evaluation of art and that positive aesthetic value had by all natural things is non-comparable or ungradable. If natural things have aesthetic value must they too be subject to evaluate different by the way of parallels to grading art? He suggests a substitute view, altho even this view cannot fully grasp the beauty of nature; claiming that it aims to appreciate nature in a way that is non-judgmental, this view claims that everything in nature has positive aesthetic value not just things we deem to have that value, and that all natural things are non-comparable or ungradable to differentiate it from art. He says “let beauty be damned, but let beauty be damned and you are off in a direction basically foreign to the cultural aesthetic tradition. And then you need something new, something all of its own, something autonomous”. He believes that nature is independant from human existence and that his substitute view is the closest thing we can come to if we try to aesthetically appreciate nature, he believes that it is a mystery that is independent of us. I agree that all nature is beautiful in its own way and it cannot be compared or graded to other natural things, but i do not agree that we are excluded from nature because we as human race once did not have all of these machines and technologies but we used stones and became more advance throughout time and we have adapted to our environment, although I do agree that nature is beautiful outside of our existence, but I do not see that it is necessary for us to be removed to fully appreciate the mystery of nature. Rolston says that any aesthetic value is some kind of construct setup on human interaction with nature. He says that the problem with this way of thinking is that the

aesthetic models key value is the satisfaction of human interests and it leashes value to just one kind of interest. Then later says that nevertheless a person ought to celebrate and conserve the beauty in nature. I believe he is trying to say that nature as we see it does have value to us, but it also has value outside of human existence. Then he says that aesthetics can give us a rise to duty but it won’t happen by bringing the pleasurable experiences to humans like art does, it should be more foundational and biological. We need to be weary of only viewing nature as only what we can gain or take away from it but we must acknowledge that nature exists outside of us. He says that no one wishes to destroy beauty, he claims that maintaining beauty is a pleasant duty and that the ethical view of nature comes automatically as he explains so in his refrigerator analogy: The aesthetic ethic will be a sort of light-in-the-refrigerator ethic. The light comes on when we open the door; until then, everything is ‘in the dark’. But maybe the way to think of it is that, when we open the door, we see what is already there. The cake in the refrigerator is not sweet until we eat it, nor is it beautiful until we admire it. These are always possibilities, but only possibilities without us. But then again the cake is actually there with all its properties, whether we open the door or not. The sugar in the cake was originally stored for plant metabolism. When we light up the beauty in nature, if we do it right, often we are seeing something already there. The trees are not green until we light them up; but the green, we recall, is chlorophyll, which is there without us, energizing the tree, and valuable to the tree before we came and after we leave, evidenced by those glucose sugars. Maybe the aesthetic ethic, seeing only possibilities, is overlooking deeper actualities. Rolston ends his essay with this question: “Does

environmental ethics need such aesthetics to be adequately founded? Yes, indeed.” I believe that nature is beautiful from the human perspective as well as the ability to function and be beautiful outside of human existence. From me viewing nature as beautiful, I do agree with Rolston that the ethic does come automatically, although it can mature and grow as we learn more from nature. Nature is very diverse and made of many moving parts and each part is beautiful in its own unique way. I believe that we are to care and protect nature because of the joy and beauty it brings us, the ways in which it is beneficial to us and the knowledge we can gain from it and through our aesthetic appreciation for nature and all that we learn, it will guide us as we carry our the ethical obligation in the preservation of nature.

From these philosophers I have see the view that Godlovitch presents is one of mystery. He does not think we will ever figure out how to fully appreciate nature, although he does suggest a substitute view that claims all of nature beautiful and non-gradable or comparable, which he thinks is the closest we will get, but then we are left needing something new and independent. On the other hand Rolston acknowledges that knowledge will help us understand nature more fully and lead to correct appreciation and that nature exists outside of our existence as well as with us. He says that the beauty of nature will guide us and start us down the path of conserving nature so the way in which we aesthetically view nature is an important factor in order to properly take care of it. I have come to the conclusion that nature is inherently beautiful and that means all of it and not just the parts we deem beautiful, it is uncomparable and ungradable, it exists with us and outside of us, but all of it remains beautiful and along

with that beauty comes knowledge and through our knowledge of nature we can appropriately appreciate nature as well as protect it. I hoped you can take this perspective of thinking and apply it to your encounters with nature and that it will help grow and mold you throughout your encounters with nature.

Conservation of Big Bend

Some friends and I travelled to Big Bend National Park during spring break. After obtaining a backcountry permit, we spent a few days backpacking through this piece of wilderness that was deemed worthy of preserving. Big Bend lies along the Rio Grande, the natural border between the United States and Mexico. My friends and I decided to take a day hike from our camp to the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains within the park. A gallon of water was necessary for each day, amplifying the difficulty of the terrain. The journey to South Rim took us from the shelter of the forest, through a post oak savannah, and ultimately to the desert boundary of the Chisos Range. My skin was caked with sunscreen and salt from the sun’s tax on moisture. Our progress was impeded by a sign closing the trail to allow for undisturbed peregrine falcon nesting. Our attention quickly shifted to the dramatic view off the South Rim cliffs. We dangled our feet off the edge and attempted to take it all in. Distances were not quantifiable. The lesser mountains and hills surrounding the Chisos were waves in an ocean of no water. Arteries and capillaries of vegetation were visible where water flows on the off chance that it rains. A giant green belt highlighted the oasis of the Rio Grande Valley. Cliff swallows zoomed and whirred overhead with impressive speed, making them difficult to visually observe. The swallows then disappeared. Two peregrine falcons had emerged, commanding respect from both us and the swallows. The beige color of the falcons blended into the backdrop of the surrounding desert. The sun ultimately dictated the length of our stay at the South Rim with its rays warming and draining our bodies.

Why is it that places such as Big Bend are set aside for preservation? Aesthetic experience is the ultimate starting place. We are driven to preserve what we find aesthetically pleasing, but how we do move from what we value aesthetically to legitimate conservation efforts? There are several proposed ways to accomplish this. Holmes Rolston III believes that there is a moral obligation to conservation, and Emily Brady believes that the aesthetic character of an environment is what should be conserved. Joan Iverson Nassauer argues for a change in the cultural standards of care, and Marcia Muelder Eaton supports a broad cognitive approach and calls for a balance of ecology and aesthetic philosophy. Although there is merit in moral obligation and the aesthetic character and integrity of an environment, I will argue for a conservation model that focuses on correct categories and aesthetic attention that will motivate people to conserve.

In “The Beauty that Requires Health,” Marcia Muelder Eaton discusses that people will be motivated to preserve nature that they are interested in and have aesthetic responses to. Eaton does not believe that there is a rank for the correct model of aesthetic appreciation. Aesthetic experiences based on prior knowledge (cognitive) of an environment are just as valid as appreciation that comes from sensory immersion and emotional (non-cognitive) engagement with an environment. However, Eaton does believe that if the goal is ecological sustainability, then a cognitive approach must be taken. Appreciation based on knowledge is sustainable because knowledge inherently keeps redirecting attention. This knowledge led cognitive approach translates to aesthetics, for “aesthetic sustainability exists when cultures provide for repetition of aesthetic experiences over the long haul” (Eaton 342). This approach relies heavily on perceiving environments within a correct category and admits the inevitability of human impact on every environment. Since human impact on the environment is inevitable, “attention to scale and to degree of manipulation is essential…to guide planning” (Eaton 355). One would not hold pristine wilderness and a city park to the same aesthetic standards, thus revealing a different approach needed for responsible conservation of each. Eaton’s cognitive approach takes Allen Carlson’s Natural Environmental another step further. Carlson’s model holds that correct aesthetic appreciation lies in the relevant knowledge in science and natural history that allows one to observe an environment within a correct category. Eaton adds that there are non-perceivable characteristics of an environment that are ecologically relevant, but are not observable. One of the most prominent is scale. One cannot readily observe the microbiota or the magnitude of an entire ecosystem and how it interacts with surrounding ecosystems. Since aesthetic attention is what ultimately drives people to pursue conservation, a way to draw attention to things that are not traditionally aesthetically appreciated “consists of showing viewers how nonperceivables or factors in themselves not aesthetically valued are connected to the perceivable intrinsic properties that members of a community consider worthy of attention and reflection” (Eaton 356). Ultimately, Eaton believes that sustainability will arise from a balance of aesthetically valuable properties that are also ecologically healthy. I will now compare Eaton’s viewpoint with the proposed views of Rolston, Brady, and Nassauer and evaluate my experience in Big Bend in accordance with their views.

Holmes Rolston III discusses how to move from aesthetic appreciation of an environment to the ethical duty to preserve it. In his argument, Rolston contemplates if aesthetic appreciation is the right starting place for conservation. He ultimately decides that it is not because “any aesthetic value is some kind of construct, set up on human interaction with nature,” and it is difficult to justify a conservation effort rooted in subjectivity (Rolston 326). There are nonaesthetic human interests in nature that are instinctual, and “human emotions track the motions of nature” (Rolston 330). Rolston argues that there are elements in nature that we inherently are drawn to, like evolutionarily necessary resources like food and water. These are resources that are shared with other members of the biotic community, and it is in this shared appreciation that the moral obligation to preserve rises from.

Rolston’s view deviates from Eaton’s view because of the rejection of aesthetics being too subjective, which in turn would go against Eaton’s categories. Rolston would also dismiss the claim of aesthetics being the motivation for conservation since he believes that it comes from moral obligation. The constant struggle of hydration that was experienced in Big Bend allowed an insight to the same struggle that all native organisms of these ecosystems deal with daily. I do think that this is one of the most genuine forms of appreciation and connection with this environment. This shared need motivates one to broaden their sense of community beyond humans and seek out responsible conservation. The exhilaration of watching the predator prey relationship of the falcon and the swallow was an instinctual emotional response like Rolston discusses. I’m not sure that relying on this moral obligation to preserve could justify the preservation of Big Bend and places like it. Sure, they make for deeply engaged experiences, but a more concrete approach is needed to make legitimate justification for conservation.

Emily Brady’s model for a conservation ethic in “Aesthetic Character and Aesthetic Integrity in Environmental Conservation” involves establishing and preserving the aesthetic character of an environment. One of the important parts of recognizing the aesthetic character of an environment is being “sensitive to the dynamic aspects of aesthetic character and how the character of individual environments unfolds over time” (Brady 397). The aesthetic character of an environment rises from non-aesthetic qualities that give rise to subjective aesthetic qualities. These in turn establish the overall aesthetic character of the environment. Brady’s model does not support rigid objectivity in the aesthetic appreciation of nature unlike other conservation based models. In terms of the subjectivity of her model, Brady does not believe that personal preferences or biases will “cause disagreement in the aesthetic descriptions that are at the heart of identifying aesthetic character” (Brady 405).  As far as conservation efforts go, she thinks that aesthetic features that are no longer apparent in the environment should be restored, current aesthetic features should be preserved, and natural changes in their characters should be allowed to take place. Essentially, no extreme or drastic changes should be made in an environment that would make a change to its character.

Brady’s view of evaluating each environment case by case as opposed to overarching standards is analogous to Eaton’s call for correct categories in which to perceive environments based on degree of human impact. However, Brady’s approach ultimately goes against Eaton’s view because of the huge degree of subjectivity that goes into the determination of aesthetic character for Brady. The aesthetic character of Big Bend can be found in biodiversity. In addition to having such diversity of ecosystems, Big Bend is known to house rare avian species, attracting quite a few ornithologists. There are undoubtedly many other factors that could go into to defining the aesthetic character of Big Bend, but I’m not convinced that they would be able to sell the pitch of conservation. For instance, the diversity of the avifauna may induce a positive aesthetic experience for ornithologists, yet a terrifying negative experience for a person with ornithophobia. The wide degree of subjectivity that can go into the establishing of the aesthetic character of a place leaves me unconvinced of the power behind the established character, which in turn puts justification for preservation in question.

Joan Iverson Nassauer, in “Cultural Sustainability,” discusses the need for the development of a healthy relationship between the environment and humanity. Nassauer believes that cultural norms for perceptions of the environment need to be shifted in order to yield sustainable results. Nassauer argues against the traditional scenic aesthetic for the environment, for it tends to yield a desire for keeping a particular scene or landscape the same. This is unrealistic and unhealthy, for “real ecosystems are dynamic, [and] we try to protect scenic landscapes from changing” (Nassauer 364). The current cultural norms for care of one’s property includes having trimmed lawns and tidy flowerbeds rid of weeds. These current norms are “so uniform, so well known, and so closely identified with the character of the inhabitant that we violate those expectations only at great social risk” (Nassauer 367). While these are associated with caring for one’s piece of environment, they are not ecologically healthy. If the standards by which cultures view care are shifted to ideals that are ecologically healthy, then sustainability on a larger scale can be achieved.

Nassauer’s views are very similar to Eaton’s views, especially in the sense that the cultural standards for what is aesthetically good must be changed to fit ecological health. They are also similar because of the recognition of aesthetics role in conservation, for “the health of the landscape requires that humans enjoy and take care of it” (Nassauer 365). The diversity of ecosystems in Big Bend shows signs of this healthy aesthetic appreciation. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Big Bend each year, showing that people are receiving a positive aesthetic experience from this healthy diversity. My concern is that a large portion of the yearly visitors come to Big Bend and other national parks for reasons rooted in the traditional scenic aesthetic. These people may certainly feel compelled to protect the beauty they experience, but this may not always yield the most ecologically healthy result, as Nassauer suggested. I will now explain how correct categories lead to responsible conservation.

The location of Big Bend leads one to associate the area with a desert, but the Chisos offer a variety of ecosystems within the desert, leading to the necessity of permits and an orientation before it is allowed to be accessed by the public. This is a rare mixture of ecosystems, explaining the caution going into letting people use it.  The copious amounts of water that we were carrying, the sunscreen, and the salt on the skin were all indicative of the harsh conditions that come with a desert. Without prior knowledge of what conditions to expect, this might have been a negative aesthetic experience due to the harsh conditions. Explanation of these conditions was part of the orientation for receiving the permit, allowing us to have a positive aesthetic experience and being more apt to advocate for preservation. The closing of the main trail showed that measures have been put in place by the national park service to try and allow an endangered species to reproduce without any interference. The traces of vegetation that could be seen off the edge of South Rim were a very neat visual representation of the scarcity of water in this ecosystem, and it’s fascinating how similar it modeled a circulatory system in both function and appearance. The cliff swallows and the falcons allowed us to see a piece of evolutionary struggle to survive. The prey of the notoriously fast peregrine falcons had adapted intense speed for survival. Despite their evolved speed, the swallows still disappeared when the falcons appeared, showing how formidable these birds of prey are.

There is no doubt that if the number one priority is to preserve the nesting grounds, then why let people into the backcountry at all? The care that the National Park Service has for this environment has some instrumental motives. It costs money to get a backcountry permit. Does that go towards more conservation efforts or is it slightly holding back the ones that are already in place by allowing people into the backcountry. The designation of Big Bend as a National Park shows how much Big Bend is valued, but does the designation of a national park eventually lead to suffocation? I think that when perceived in the correct category of human impact that is to be suspected, the aesthetic qualities of the park merit appreciation. This raises another question; wouldn’t the health of Big Bend be better if people were not allowed access to the backcountry? I fear that there would not be as strong justification for conservation if people were not able to engage with it aesthetically.