Sight is a Faculty; Seeing, an Art: George Perkins Marsh, the Classical Environment, and 19th-Century Conservation Policy
Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Environmental Science and Policy
environmental conservation, George Perkins Marsh, forestry
This thesis examines George Perkins Marsh, renowned as the father of conservation, his work Man and Nature (1864), and his use of Classics to make the suggestion that America, like the Roman Empire, would decline as a result of human caused environmental degradation. Marsh uses specific authors and passages from antiquity to make his claim more meaningful to his contemporaries, contributing to the significant impact that he had on America's first round of conservation policy. Marsh was raised in Vermont and observed the negative effects of continued land exploitation, which he further confirmed after he spent time in the Mediterranean as a foreign diplomat. Marsh studied Classics from a young age and used his extensive knowledge to support his claim that the decline of the Roman Empire was, in part, a result of an extended abuse of the land. The Roman metaphor was popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, and Marsh's take on it became known to virtually all interested in the early field of conservation.Marsh's work influenced the creation of the first Division of Forestry, which eventually became the Forest Service and all those involved in its formation. This thesis is at the crossroads of Environmental and Classical studies, two increasingly interdisciplinary fields. The influence and impact of the classical world on Marsh and his work has not been examined thoroughly previous to this thesis. As environmental studies becomes an increasingly established field, environmental world and the decisions that have been made regarding it. This provides insights into the conditions that exist today and hindsight for more informed decisions in the future. Marsh was revolutionary in his notion that human caused environmental degradation contributes to the decline of civilizations, and provides an effective example for historical insight to make the argument for the conservation of the environment.
Halsey, Sara Miller, "Sight is a Faculty; Seeing, an Art: George Perkins Marsh, the Classical Environment, and 19th-Century Conservation Policy" (2017). Honors Theses. 40.
Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity Commons, Environmental Studies Commons