Land and Liberation: a 1-day environmental philosophy intensive for adults that explores the connections between biome and culture.
freedom is the gift of nature
In 1736, the Reverend Jonathan Edwards observed that the Nonotuck bioregion encouraged spiritual and political liberation:
The people of the county in general, I suppose, are as sober, and orderly, and good sort of people, as in any part of New England; and I believe they have been preserved the freest by far, of any part of the country from error and variety of sects and opinions. Our being so far within the land, at a distance from sea-ports, and in a corner of the country, has doubtless been one reason why we have not been so much corrupted with vice, as most other parts.
Edward said the land defined the character of the people he was leading. Geography and geology ensured they would remain morally pure.
He was thinking of the Tom and Holyoke mountains when he stated this environmental philosophy–this idea that “where you are is who you are.” These mountains can not be ignored; they dominate and define the region. Their abrupt inclines have always been striking and, when Edwards was writing, their east to west alignment was singular in North America. He was pointing out that these mountains enabled, inspired and protected his Great Awakening, the first consequential expression of a genuinely “American” theology. Edwards felt free to experiment with his concepts of God, and develop a “new and improved” way to experience divinity–all thanks to where and what Nonotuck was.
The mountains and soils and waters of Nonotuck continue to provide the basis for a bioregional culture unique in the U.S. Other small cities and towns can claim similar attributes, Boulder CO and Arcata CA come to mind, but none are so deeply rooted in the American history of liberation (and none are so close to Vermont!).
After the Revolutionary War, Daniel Shays and his supporters revolted against the Federal government in Northampton. Upon hearing of this while in Paris, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
a little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
A few decades later, Sojourner Truth joined the utopian communal society called the Northampton Association of Education and Industry. These figures and their stories provide the model for later denizens who continue to develop and display the high-minded liberal y backwoodsy libertarian ethos of Paradise City.
Look closely around Nonotuck, the farm land situated between the coast and the mountains, and you’ll see the biocultural history of land and liberation alive today, a history that links Jonathan Edwards to Rachel Maddow. This one day touring and hiking intensive lets you smell, touch and taste its fading traces and freshest productions. Readings (beforehand) and discussions while en route let you entertain the most interesting thoughts about nature and culture. Letting the season and weather dictate our course, we’ll investigate whatever seems ripe at the moment–the mountains, forests and fields; the downtown streets, markets, stores and cafes; the museums and greens, the architectures, and the not-marked-on-the-map places: wherever Nonotuck’s biocultural history is expressing itself.
Land and Liberation introduces you to a way of reading the environment so it tells you the stories of humanity. Once you perceive how that story is told, you’ll be able to see it anywhere.
“There’s more there than you think.”
A 1-day intensive that investigates the biocultural history of the Nonotuck bioregion.