Science, art, and environmental reclamation: three projects and a few thoughts
Environmental reclamation, and the public support essential to that effort, challenge all of us engaged in the field to broaden our constituency and offer the opportunity to reconnect the sciences and the arts. Drawing on three examples – one in western Pennsylvania, one in southwestern Virginia, and a third on the Oregon coast – this chapter suggests that good reclamation science alone may not be sufficient to address the larger problem. Particularly in places with significant public access or visibility, we need to address the underlying culture as much as the science. Engaging what academia traditionally defines as the arts – history, design, the perspectives of literature, and much more – can significantly improve the public understanding of, and commitment to, our work in environmental improvement; and it can enhance the nature of that response as well. Good design is more than a nice plan; it is also an opportunity for public engagement, even delight. Good history opens opportunities for better understanding of the origins of the contamination we seek to remediate, for greater reflection on the values and achievements of our predecessors and on our contemporary role in that continuum of history and environmental commitment. Equally important, engaging the arts and the sciences as necessary but not sufficient partners brings the depth and range of perspectives essential for expanding community interest in addressing critical needs in our national environmental patrimony.