In 1865, Verplanck Colvin, a lawyer from Albany, New York, heeded his childhood passion for landscape and began exploring and sketching. The area that drew his attention would later become the Adirondack Park, a vast tract of land in the northern part of the state that he would help shape and define. Colvin – as it turned out – was more interested in the study of topography and geology than law, and devoted several years to scientific apprenticeship with astronomers and mathematicians. He also traveled to various places around the U.S., honing his drawing and mapping skills. His talent as a precision surveyor and free-hand artist would earn him a rare election to the Rocky Mountain Club in Denver.1,2
Adirondack Survey Camp Life, 1888. Colvin leans against the sole tree. Copyright Seneca Ray Stoddard. Special Collections, Feinberg Library, SUNY
Used with permission
Unfortunately, in many places, centuries of Colonial-industrialized approaches have ignored reciprocity and interdependence in favor of one-way extractive techniques. The problem with these techniques – beyond the obvious – is that they render invisible both the interdependent methodologies and the people who created them. This invisibility only further confuses today’s public about the length of human presence in landscape, and what constitutes damage and what constitutes wilderness.
In today’s Adirondack Park, logging is still practiced, though it is stringently regulated, and permits for residential, commercial, and industrial-mining uses are still granted. Maybe the park can serve as one type of model for the messy, complicated, and difficult process of managing modern-day, mixed-use wilderness planning, with community input and legal regulation, across a large landscape.
More than 150 years ago, people of diverse talents, equipped with precision tools of the day, collaborated in passion and persistence for thoughtful, long-term outcomes. I imagine their work echoed discovery and planning missions that occurred thousands of years prior. I wonder if reintroducing this type of example can influence a shift away from today’s efficiency-motivated extraction-depletion models toward an efficiency-motivated, regenerative-reciprocal-restorative model?
With this in mind, here are two infographics about land use from Our World in Data. A shared source of quality data seems like the right place to have informed conversations about how land is discussed and used.
Finally, a shout out to surveyors around the world – Global Surveying Day is celebrated on March 21. Thanks for the wonderful work you do!
Our World in Data: Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser, 2019; Hannah Ritchie, 2020.
https://ourworldindata.org/greenhouse-gas-emissions and Emissions by Sector. “CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions”.
Published online at OurWorldInData.org.
Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions’ [Online Resource]
Creative Commons BY license.