— William Blake
Robert Anderson: Your book [Forests], particularly the end of it, criticizes some of the basic ideas that motivate environmentalism and ecology. In particular you argue that when we conceive of deforestation as “loss of wildlife habitat,” or “loss of nature,” or “loss of biodiversity,” we’re not capturing the full loss that we face. First of all, what is the extent of that loss, and in your view has ecology changed much in the past twenty years?
Robert Pogue Harrison: That’s a good question. When I’m critical of modern approaches to ecology, I’m really trying to remind my reader of the long relationship that Western civilization has had to these forests that define the fringe of its place of habitation, and that this relationship is one that has a rich history of symbolism and imagination and myth and literature. So much of the Western imagination has projected itself into this space that when you lose a forest, you’re losing more than just the natural phenomenon or biodiversity; you’re also losing the great strongholds of cultural memory."