LIFE: Our Splendid Outdoors

Below are some excerpts from from an edition of Life Magazine published on December 22, 1961:  “Special Issue: Our Splendid Outdoors.”  I thought it was great for many reasons — (1) it can be analyzed to understand something about how mainstream America viewed nature in the 1960s;  (2) it has a great feature on prominent American naturalists of the time, including Rachel Carson (which is how I discovered this issue — I was interested in seeing how Rachel Carson was portrayed by mainstream media at the time and comparing it how the media covers her now); (3) it has an AWESOME 10 page fold-out poster of a prairie habitat being modified over time; and (4)  it has a very big article about the extinction of the passenger pigeon. I can’t wait to pore over it more to see what else it has to offer.

As somebody exploring the “human dimensions of environmental issues,” I have become fascinated with exploring how mainstream media portrays nature/the environment — and it’s really cool (interesting/disturbing) to see how media portrayal changes over time. Of course, as it does today, media content tends to reflect the interests and values of readers — so by looking at how the media engaged nature, we can get a sense of how the public felt engaged with nature, too. Understanding the nature of this relationship as it occurs over time — and factors that influence the public’s changing environmental values/opinions/interests — can be potentially helpful for understanding how people relate to nature today (important for those involved in environmental education/communication).

I’ll post some more thoughts later — definitely a lot brewing (as always).

Description of the issue:

This special double issue is about Our Splendid Land – America’s outdoors – and the living things that share it with us. More and more, Americans are beginning to regard the delights of the land – its animals, wilderness, seas, and lofty crags – as a universal heritage. This issue shows how we take pleasure in this heritage and how it enchants the naturalist, inspires the philosopher and recharges all of us. It also shows how we have despoiled it, how threats still hang perilously over it and how we are fighting everywhere to save the land we love and enjoy.

Here are some scans of just one of the featured stories — I’ll try to transcribe it and post highlights/reactions/responses soon.

Featured Story: “A New Elite of American Naturalist: Heirs of a Great Tradition,” by Joseph Wood Krutch












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