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Posted 11 Jun 2001   For week ended June 08, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 10Jun01

By Mark Wright

Author Examines LDS Attitudes Toward Environment

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Environmental concerns have become an increasingly visible and vocal subject of disagreement in countries throughout the world over the last few decades. Advocates for the present environmental movement are gaining influence while opposing factions all along the spectrum begin to form coalitions and alliances to promote their own varied agendas and views of the world. As a natural outgrowth of the fervor driving the debate, extremists on both ends of the spectrum are more visible than ever. Against this emotionally-charged and politically-sensitive backdrop, author Dan Flores, a history professor at the University of Montana, has released his new work, "The Natural West."

Flores' book is comprised of a series of 10 essays that examine various aspects and attitudes, all related to the environment. In his book, Flores has attempted to illustrate how the natural environment helped to shape our history and, correspondingly, how our history has helped to shape the environment. While raised in an LDS family, Flores hasn't been active in the Church for more than 20 years. He does, however, offer some of his insights regarding the interplay between the religious culture of the Church and the current trends in the environmental movement.

One essay, entitled "Zion in Eden," presents the author's views on the attitudes of members of the Church and the environment. To make his point, Flores quotes both past and present Mormon notables and highlights what he views as a somewhat ironic insight into the Mormon culture regarding the environment. From Brigham Young, "There shall be no private ownership of the streams that come out of the canyons, nor the timber that grows on the hills. These belong to the people, all the people." Then from Senator Hatch, Flores quotes some rather unflattering terminology, with Hatch labeling environmentalists, "toadstool and dandelion worshippers."

While exploring his subject on the various cultural influences on the environment, Flores uses his book to present his view that many long-held opinions about the environmental history of the west are fundamentally flawed. For example, regarding the commonly-held view that pre-European North America was a natural wilderness, Flores first notes that generations of people had lived on the continent for centuries prior to the arrival of European explorers and then writes, "the ecological changes that many people could produce over that full span of occupation could only mean that North America when Europeans first saw it was in fact a managed landscape, much of its look and ecology the product of the human presence."

While often polarizing, the issues surrounding our environment will no doubt demand more attention from us all as we examine and act on man's undeniable impact on our world. Flores' new book provides additional food for thought, discussion, and, most certainly, disagreement.


Flores Explores the West's Uneasy Relationship With the Environment
Salt Lake Tribune 3Jun01 A2
By Martin Maparsteck: Special to the Tribune


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The Natural West
More about "The Natural West: Environmental History in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains" by Dan Flores at

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