Michael Intelligent reviewed Miles Powell’s Vanishing America: Species Extinction, Racial Peril, and the Origins of Conservation (Harvard UP, 2016) in October’s Environmental Historic previous. From the overview:
As environmental historians, our frequent assertion that “individuals are a part of nature” sometimes comes with little recognition of the reality that slave householders, eugenicists, and numerous completely different white supremacists insisted on the very same issue for generations sooner than we first noticed a hassle with wilderness. Miles A. Powell’s Vanishing America immediately assesses the converging enterprise of American race-making and American environmentalism over the previous two centuries, and it does so with sophistication and uncompromising readability. The troubling tales that Powell uncovers implicate a number of the founding figures of American environmental thought inside a conference of white nationalism that positioned the difficulty of species extinction as a symptom and picture of America’s racial degeneration.
Faraway from current on the fringes of nationwide discussions over the historic relationships between folks, nature, and extinction, Powell reveals how ideas about race rested at their very center. George Perkins Marsh, as an illustration, throughout the decade after the Civil Warfare, claimed that the Anglo-Saxon race reached its zenith in America on account of “pioneer experiences” that wrought civilization from the wilderness, and he feared that this white racial stock would fall sufferer to its private successes as a result of it continued to devour nature by the use of the nation’s industrial metabolisms. Marsh’s connection between the destruction of animal species and the shortage of white racial virility anticipated the additional acquainted anxieties of “race suicide” penned by Madison Grant, William Temple Hornaday, and Theodore Roosevelt by larger than a expertise. Likewise, throughout the wake of the frontier’s passing, Frederick Jackson Turner summoned evolutionary thought in tirades in opposition to immigrants to the US, fearing that the naturally chosen variations of Jews, particularly, to endure “the unsanitary and indecent circumstances of a dangerously crowded inhabitants,” outfitted Jewish immigrants as a type of invasive species, able to outcompete and exterminate native-born Folks, no matter being “a people of exceptionally stunted and poor lung functionality” (p. 53). Even Aldo Leopold’s conventional statements on carrying functionality and predatory–prey relationships come beneath Powell’s insistent scrutiny, as a closing chapter demonstrates the centrality of Leopold’s scholarship to the neo-Malthusian human ecologies of extinction proposed by his mates, William Vogt and Paul Ehrlich. These and completely different tales current ample proof of the quite a few methods through which ideas about race educated ideas regarding the ambiance, and, particularly, how white anxieties about species extinction aligned with fears of what the eugenicist, Klansman, and Harvard-educated historian Lothrop Stoddard termed, in 1920, “the rising tide of coloration.” By the middle of the 20 th century, these white supremacist concerns over race and nature carved, in keeping with Powell, “a everlasting divide between America’s environmental movement and the nation’s non-white citizenry” (p. 163).