Our Maturing Ecological Perspective: Seeing Beauty in Bogs, Compost Piles, Clotheslines, and Solar Arrays

This is a 10-week seminar, starting on September 27th, 2017

Moderator:                Martha Nelson
Day and Time:         Wednesday, 10:00AM-Noon
Format:                       Seminar
Location:                   UMass Renaissance Center Reading Room, Amherst
                                        (free parking on site)

We will explore notions of beauty in nature from one based on the traditional “scenic” standard, to one that includes human endeavors symbolizing ecological sustainability (e.g., a field of solar panels) and examine how our notions of beauty enter into our perception of what is environmentally ethical or unethical.

Aldo Leopold in his famous essay “The Land Ethic” links the beauty of nature with ecological integrity and stability. Further, he establishes the connection between beauty and ethics. Keeping Leopold’s standard for beauty in mind, and guided by our readings, we will examine our own notions of beauty: Why do we consider a landscape or human construct to be beautiful or ugly; a sight for sore eyes, or the proverbial eyesore? How do you see a pile of rotting vegetation in the yard? A lawn of dandelions? Windmills on the horizon? How would any of us like a pipeline running across our property?

Role of participants:
Participants will select an essay or article from the reading list to present, followed by discussion. The entire presentation should last 30 to 40 minutes. Other topics may be chosen with approval of the moderator. Participants are encouraged to read everything on the recommended reading list.

The following essays and articles are available online, many as pdf files as noted.
A complete list will be provided prior to the start of the seminar.
Henry David Thoreau, Walking (pdf)
Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic (pdf)
Arne Naess, The Deep Ecological Movement
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (excerpt)
Yuriko Saito, The Aesthetics of Unscenic Nature
Lance Hosey, The Aesthetics of Environment Equity
SolarChat, Solar Panels: Eyesore or Symbol of Sustainability

About the Moderator:
Martha Nelson, an armchair naturalist, offers this seminar at a moment in time when she and multitudes are energized to engage in matters of vital concern. Last fall, Martha moderated a seminar on the role of nature imagery in poetry.

Maximum number of participants: 14

Emeritus/a accepted: yes, 1