BrentMErbThesis-PennsylvaniaNatureWritersAndTheirInfluenceOnTheCultureAndLandscapeOfAmerica-Fall2016.docx Public

Pennsylvania Nature Writers and Their Influence on the Culture and Landscape of America

Understanding nature and the ways in which humankind influences the environment is critical. While the moral obligation to protect the natural world is often clouded by industrial progress, financial gain, and the quest for energy independence, humankind’s existence depends upon a successful relationship with the Earth. The values and benefits of conserving and preserving natural resources to support biodiversity cannot be underestimated. Nature writers offer a voice for the natural world. By chronicling and reflecting upon our environment, nature writers encourage readers to have an interest in the natural world and make conscious and educated choices throughout their lives. As a result of their work, nature writers directly affect American’s natural, social, and cultural landscape. Illuminating the foundational experiences that have influenced nature writer’s investment in the natural world is integral to understanding how we can inspire a similar awareness and appreciation for nature in future generations. This thesis utilizes the empirical research process to uncover the initial inspirational experiences of four Pennsylvania nature writers: George Washington Sears “Nessmuk;” Theodora (Cope) Stanwell-Fletcher (Gray); E. Stanley “Ned” Smith; and Marcia Bonta. A critical literature review and site-based research was conducted in an effort to explore and identify common inspirational experiences throughout the writers’ lives. Each writer’s biography is positioned within the environmental, social, cultural, and political backdrop, relative to his or her era. The research highlighted that each of the four Pennsylvania nature writers identify positive childhood moments exploring nature under the tutelage of an invested adult as the basis for arousing their interest in nature and nature writing. These findings are discussed through the lens of current research and theory, addressing themes of social justice, nature deficit disorder, and the evolving relationship between humankind and nature. Research results suggest that inspiring and educating all people to be “nature smart” is a top priority. Specific attention must be given to children, as they are most capable of adopting pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. Additional implications include: the evolving field of nature writing and its continuing ability to be a valuable tool in inspiring a love of nature in current and future generations.

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