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Recommended Reading:

Alexander Von Humboldt, The Invention of Nature

Every once in a while you learn something that rocks your world and gives you so much insight and understanding about the way we see the world that it astounds you. Well, I just read the book that rocked my world and helped me to understand where my love of nature and my sensibilities for how everything works came from. This book, The Invention of Nature, by Andrea Wulf is a great read and it tells the untold history of the person responsible for the whole environmental movement. The truly astonishing thing is Humboldt was born in 1770 and he grew up in a revolutionary time of thought and action. He was friends with Goethe who was, by then, a famous poet and deep thinker and they spent many days in deep discussion about the world. Goethe felt that all thoughts and ideas were universally known and that socially we all shared the same world. This explained the reformation and spread of freedom around the world at that time.
Alexander Von Humboldt was a budding scientist and he had the idea that perhaps
the physical world was one big web of
life and all intricately interconnected. So he decided to travel from Prussia to South America to prove his theory. In 1800, after much difficulty finding a ship, he sailed to Venezuela and immersed himself in discovery. The underlying focus in his scientific inquiry was how things interrelated. One story has him visiting a huge lake, Lake Valencia in the Aragua Valley and getting in to conversations with the people who had lived around the lake for the past 40 years. They told him that since they started cutting the trees down around the lake and making farm land, not only had the lake level gone down but the amount of rain they received had decreased noticeably. After much study Humboldt determined that the forests actually helped to create moisture and to retain it. In 1800, Alexander Von Humboldt said that humans were unknowingly meddling with the climate and that this could have an unforeseeable impact on future generations. This was understood 215 years ago!
Back at that time settlers said that they were improving the climate, making it better for habitation and so the drums of progress drowned out Humboldt’s prophetic voice.
Humboldt was an amazing man who was one of the very last scientists to combine all sciences, poetry and emotions into a unified experience of sensing our world. His scientific and lyrical knowledge blended into an amazing intellect. He was a huge influence on John Muir who carried Humboldt’s book, A Personal Narrative, with him wherever he went and used his ideas to popularize the love of nature and the need to protect it from ourselves.
One could say that without Humboldt’s world view and his influence on how we saw the world there would be no National Parks, no Yellowstone or Yosemite. John Muir
convinced Theodore Roosevelt to make Yosemite a national park. This is a must read for all landscapers and anyone who wants to better understand the roots of their love for the natural world.
photo of Jerry Allison and his grandson
Jerry Allison is a Past President of CLCA Central Coast Chapter.
We invite your comments on these and other issues pertinent to the landscaping industry.
Jerry is pictured here with his grandson, Braydon.