Plastic Trees

By Keith Kloor | September 30, 2009 2:55 pm

Maybe it’s all the cold medication I’ve been on the last few days, but this reference to “fake plastic trees” as one potential geo-engineering solution to global warming, triggered a memory of Martin Krieger’s classic 1973 essay in Science magazine, entitled, “What’s Wrong with Plastic Trees?”

I remember my head nearly exploding as I read it over ten years ago, while studying environmental policy in graduate school. One of Krieger’s numerous provocative passages:

What’s wrong with plastic trees? My guess is that there is very little wrong with them. Much more can be done with plastic trees and the like to give most people the feeling that they are experiencing nature. We will have to realize that the way in which we experience nature is conditioned by our society””which more and more is seen to be receptive to responsible interventions.

The notion that our conceptions of nature are culturally constructed (as in Bill Cronon’s Wilderness critique) is anathema to most environmentalists. That doesn’t negate the intrinsic value of nature, but it does make you queston (at least for me, it does) some of those cherished (and mythical) ideas about nature. But hey, that’s not me talking, it’s the NyQuil and Benadryl.

MORE ABOUT: nature, trees

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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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