Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.

We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children’s children will get the benefit of it.“

-Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Fine quote Teddy.  (And great job with the parks.)  But what if you were born in a suburb a century after this advice was given?  It becomes rather obvious that contemporary society has no organized political or economic mechanism to undo things that have divided nature into a grid on a ecologically meaningful scale from the modern American google earth mosaic.  There is not even a direct antonym to the word subdivision in the english language.  This is, of course, in spite of the facts.  We have made large steps forward intellectually and now have reason/science telling us that our environment is compromised from an ecosystem perspective.  The design of such a mechanism and the success of it politically and economically, we believe, is one of the next great wheels that must be shaped and turned in our society.  It is not an unreasonable idea.      

Our historical westward land grab vastly outpaced our rational understanding of externalities since Europe landed in America and perhaps now society must be open to the idea that mistakes were made, and the corrolary to this idea, that such mistakes can be fixed.  This would not necessarily imply conserving only remnant open spaces (i.e. Nature Conservancy) that were passed over by wagon trains and developers for one reason or another–climate, prohibitive topography, lack of minerals, great distance from population centers–but consciously and systematically reclaiming prime lands guided by reasonable principles and socially acceptable time frames amidst the parcelization that has filled the space between Manhattan, Michigan and beyond.  It makes simple sense that there exist a market mechanism for making parcels of land rejoin to form larger contiguous units of open space for the sake of our culture, historical precedent, and long term benefit.  (The Department of Ecosystems, perhaps, or, alternatively, a new model of collective philanthropy?)  Historically there has been nothing but an asymetrical non-equilibrium of land use rooted in the perspective of the individual, which, if extrapolated to a distant endpoint, leaves extensive damage as can be illustrated in it's adolescent stages by scrolling across the country.  One form of American tradition, capitalism, has indeed eroded another pillar of Americana; frontier.  

August 15, 2011