T he ‘fresh green breast of the new world’ that F. ScottFitzgerald conjured up at the end of The Great Gatsby (1925) – a lost world that ‘once pandered to the last and greatest of human dreams’ –

is more than a vision of innocence, promise and yearning. America is a phys-

ical and biological place – a material place – consisting not just of the trees

superseded by lavish mansions like Gatsby’s but also of rocks, soil and water

and creatures great and small. America the place is more than a setting

for the real action of American life. American history and culture are pro-

foundly shaped by the interplay between people and the non-human world

of nature.