O my America, my new found land

by Amy

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‘In my first class at the University of Kentucky, my American Literature professor came in, and the first sentence out of his mouth was “The central theme of American Literature is an attempt to reconcile what we’ve done to the New World.”

I wrote that down in my notebook, and thought, “What is he talking about?” But that’s what I think about now. The New World and what we’ve done to it.

I did a story for the Geographic on Lewis and Clark, and Stephen Ambrose was the writer. He said, “I’ve got the easiest job in the world. I just have to re-tell the story of the greatest fishing, camping, hunting, canoeing trip of all time. You, Sam, have the hardest job, which is, pretend like nothing has happened in the last 200 years.

That statement woke me up to the fact that the landscape that Lewis and Clark came across was greater than the Serengeti. And it’s gone. It’s been replaced by agribusiness and hydroelectric projects, and cities and towns, and networks of transportation. If that happened to Africa, there would be a world-wide outcry.

But it happened here.’

- from an interview on A Photo Editor with Sam Abell, the photographer (photo top) whose work includes – but does not exclusively consist of- the Marlboro man photo ‘appropriated’ by Richard Prince.

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‘One of the causes of degradations is that population pressure is forcing farmers to cultivate increasingly marginal land. In Malawi for instance, escarpment land that has a slope of more than 12% – and that therefore should be forested- is being cultivated, causing erosion, the flooding of fertile crop land below and the situation of stream beds and irrigation canals. Thus erosion is threatening the future of one of the few countries in Africa that is successfully feeding itself.’

-from Land and environmental degradation and desertification in Africa by Prof S.C. Nana-Sinkam of the Joint ECA/FAO Agriculture division, February 1995

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