A landscape is not a natural feature of the environment but a synthetic space, a man-made system of spaces superimposed on the face of the land, functioning and evolving not according to natural laws but to serve a community.
The older I grow and the longer I look at landscapes and seek to understand them, the more convinced I am that their beauty is not simply an aspect but their very essence and that beauty derives from the human presence. For far too long we have told ourselves that the beauty of a landscape was the expression of some transcendent law: the conformity to certain universal esthetic principles or the conformity to certain biological or ecological laws. But this is true only of formal or planned political landscapes. The beauty that we see in the vernacular landscape is the image of our common humanity: hard work, stubborn hope, and mutual forbearance striving to be love. I believe that a landscape which makes these qualities manifest is one that can be called beautiful.
“Scientific truth,” Marx wrote in a famous statement, “is always paradox, if judged by everyday experience, which catches only the delusive appearance of things.” The idea of the production of nature is indeed paradoxical, to the point of sounding absurd, if judged by the superficial appearance of nature even in capitalist society. Nature is generally seen as precisely that which cannot be produced; it is the antithesis of human productive activity. In its most immediate appearance, the natural landscape presents itself to us as the material substratum of daily life, the realm of use-values rather than exchange-values. As such it is highly differentiated along any number of axes. But with the progress of capital accumulation and the expansion of economic development, this material substratum is more and more the product of social production, and the dominant axes of differentiation are increasingly societal in origin. In short, when this immediate appearance of nature is placed in historical context, the development of the material landscape presents itself as a process of the production of nature. The differentiated results of this production of nature are the material symptoms of uneven development. At the most abstract level, therefore, it is in the production of nature that use-value and exchange-value, and space and society, are fused together.