Nature in chains : the effects of Thomas Jefferson’s rectangular survey on a Pacific Northwest landscape Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/zg64tp54p

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  • Understanding the impact of humans on the environment has long been a topic of scholarly interest and debate. As environmental problems mount, accounts of historic ecological conditions and the factors of change become increasingly useful. This study considers competing schools of interpretation about human impacts on ecological landscapes and develops a case study of one thirty-six square mile township in Oregon’s Waldo Hills. Built on evidence from 1851 surveyor notes, maps, journals, aerial photos, interviews, and contemporary environmental and ecological data, this study demonstrates a transformation from ecologically diverse ecosystems under the management of native peoples to ecologically depressed monoculture landscapes under industrialized agriculture. This thesis argues that the fundamental beliefs of human societies (i.e., worldviews) become expressed in the landscape. The nature-as-community view of the Kalapuya Indians resulted in a complex, curvilinear mosaic of prairie, savanna, and woodland. The individualized and rationalized view of the Euroamericans resulted in a simplified landscape of squared-off fields, channelized streams, and roads aligned to the survey grid. Thomas Jefferson’s rectangular survey, built on the ‘virtuous square’, is examined as a symbolic and tangible instrument of rapid expansion and exploitation across the American West. Understanding that worldviews become expressed in physical conditions may benefit those working to create sustainable futures; i.e., long-term and widespread ecological improvements will likely succeed only if society at large shares a fundamental belief in the value of healthy ecosystems.
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