Naturalism

Protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Here's to the people trying to stop the wholesale poisoning of an American treasure:

MINNESOTA’S Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of America’s most popular wild destinations. Water is its lifeblood. Over 1,200 miles of streams wend their way through 1.1 million acres thick with fir, pine and spruce and stippled by lakes left behind by glaciers. Moose, bears, wolves, loons, ospreys, eagles and northern pike make their home there and in the surrounding Superior National Forest.

All of this is now threatened by a proposal for a huge mine to extract copper, nickel and other metals from sulfide ores. The mine would lie within the national forest along the South Kawishiwi River, which flows directly into the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

The prospect of any major industrial activity in the watershed of such a place would be deeply troubling. But this kind of heavy-metal mining is in a destructive class all its own. Enormous amounts of unusable waste rock containing sulfides are left behind on the surface. A byproduct of this kind of mining is sulfuric acid, which often finds its way into nearby waterways. Similar mines around the country have already poisoned lakes and thousands of miles of streams.

To me, the area is synonymous with the life's work of Sigurd Olson, one of the great unsung characters of the 20th Century. He nagged and lobbied and wrote endlessly about the area we now know as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Can you imagine what that place would look like if the mines and the businessmen had been able to get there first?

Olson has been dead for 34 years, but there are still people who carry on in his memory. If you were going to make a movie or write a book, you could do a lot worse than choosing to tell the story of the man who saved over a million acres of pristine wilderness from the kind of people who would poison a river and walk away rich.

The Moral Purpose of Art

Auguste Renoir, Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil, 1873
Painting the Modern Garden explores the interstices between nature and ourselves as revealed in the cultivation of gardens, that most delightful and frustrating of occupations, and an almost obsessive subject for many artists. About 150 paintings from the 1860s to the 1920s, gathered together from private and public collections in North America and Europe are on view, amplified by letters, plans, documents, photographs and illustrated books on horticulture.
The exhibition embraces not only artists’ responses to gardens from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, but obliquely the new culture of the cultivated domestic garden that was becoming ever more significant. The show is uneven, and several of the less familiar names are probably deservedly so, but that is because the purpose is twofold: to explore a new interest and preoccupation of both the middle classes and the artists whom they patronised, and the art itself.
What happens to the garden? 

As we change the way we live, and as we deal with climate change, sprawl, and poorly planned public areas, how do we maintain a connection to the purpose of surrounding ourselves with green spaces and parks and gardens? 

We have already seen a transformation of public and private spaces because of the collapse of golf as a recreational activity. What if gardening is on the way out as well? How will our modern art reflect this change?