I've been blogging about women in philosophy but have mostly been thinking about the "problem of people and parks."
A recent (July 2009) article by Emily Wakild in Environmental History speaks to a related issue: the history of park planning along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the 1930's, Mexican and U.S. officials tried to plan an international park on the southern U.S. border which would be analogous to the U.S.-Canada Glacier Waterton International Peace Park. The planning ultimately came to naught, partly because the U.S. insisted on locating the park in a place that would be inaccessible to Mexican tourists.
What's interesting about the article is that it makes explicit the values that have supported the formation of U.S. national parks and examines the ways these values differ in another culture. The U.S. national parks favor locations of unique grandeur and untouched forests, often in remote locations. Mexican national parks, on the other hand, favored locations that offered easy access to visitors, which had cultural meaning, and which were in need of reforestation.
This strikes me as similar to the difference in the U.S. between national parks and state parks. While national parks act as symbols of American uniqueness and rugged beauty--and have been linked to economic privilege--state parks are accessible, are a way of conserving diverse lands, and embody democratic mingling of classes.
It's interesting to get this historical view on what are still current questions of land use and land preservation. Does preservation require eliminating other land uses? Does tourism aid or inhibit preservation? Are conservation goals better served by setting aside the wildest lands or by targeting resources to areas that can benefit from restoration of watersheds or forests? How does park creation further political goals and goals of democratic participation? Answering such questions often demands impossible answers, such as placing a valuation on symbolism and comparing the value of a place as national symbol to its use value.