John Muir and Environmental Values Workshop

The Fox the Deer and the Trees

Philosopher Emily Brady asked us to put together a presentation that referenced Muir while talking about our research on the Black Wood at Rannoch in Highland Perthshire. We worked from a paper that Reiko had drafted “Perceptions and symbolic relationships in a Caledonian pine forest.” We rewrote it with the intent to close the workshop by offering a counterpoint to Muir, beginning with a reference to Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s ‘Song to the Foxes as a way to talk about the often conflicted relationship, but the fundamental social and cultural interrelationship with nature in Scotland. We also tried to provide some insight into how we work from a philosophical and experiential point of view to conduct a deep reading of place and its historic and contemporary meaning.

This was a brilliant series of presentations with each speaker adding another layer to how Muir is understood across the shifting sands of time and how it informs (and at times misinforms) what we understand today. The breadth of the presentations were as inspiring as the depth of connected issues and meaning that could be drawn through them all. We also had the benefit of a great discussions with philosopher and performing arts critic and theorist Wallace Heim who traveled with us on the way home.

John Muir and Environmental Values

Old Library, Geography Building, University of Edinburgh
Friday, 3rd July 2015


Workshop welcome

Simon James (Philosophy, Durham)
Nothing Truly Wild is Unclean: Muir, Misanthropy, and the Aesthetics of Dirt


Emily Brady (Geography, Edinburgh)
Muir and the Sublime


Fraser MacDonald (Geography, Edinburgh)
Scotland After Muir

Jeremy Kidwell (Divinity, Edinburgh)
Muir the Presbyterian: Reading the book of nature, eco-piety and modern ecological action.


Reiko Goto and Tim Collins (Collins-Goto Studio)
The Fox the Deer and the Trees

Closing discussion

Location: The Old Library is in the Geography Building, on Drummond Street (EH8 9JX) within the High School Yards area of the University of Edinburgh campus.

We are grateful to the Institute for Geography and the Lived Environment, University of Edinburgh, for supporting this event.

Sylva Caledonia at Summerhall

Sylva Caledonia was an exhibition and seminar series held at Summerhall, Edinburgh, in Spring 2015. It was developed and funded by the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Our participation was initiated by James Howie of ascus. Holly Knox Yeoman curated the installation.

Participants included ourselves with studio associate Sara Ocklind, Gerry Loose and Morven Gregor and Chris Fremantle. We presented ‘living sculptures’, videos and the large map of Breadalbane; developed over a number of years working in the Black Wood of Rannoch. Gerry and Morven presented concrete poetry, photographs, sculptures and selection of small hazel trees developed over years working in the Sunart Oakwood on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Chris presented the current development of his extensive ecoart portable library in an adjoining study room.

Chris organized a great series of discussions for the exhibition.

  1. The first was a discussion between the artists and Paul Tabbush Chair of the Landscape Research Group.
  2. The next one included philosopher/artist Beth Carruthers, author and curator Amy Cutler and the noted historian of Scottish art Murdo Macdonald.
  3. The third talk included representatives from Forest Research David Edwards and Bianca Ambrose-Oji, Richard Thompson and ecologist from Forest Enterprise and Rick Worrell a consultant with a wealth of experience working in ancient semi-natural native forests.

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