Mirror, mirror . . .
I have occasionally used my space in this paper to remark on the dearth of the scenic in most of central Illinois. In “Living in three dimensions” I observed in a helpful tone that whatever good the glaciers did for the central Illinois farmer, “they did no favors at all for the central Illinois sightseer. The sediments that buried the pre-glacial landscape hereabouts had roughly same effect on scenery that cheese sauce has on a horseshoe sandwich.”
Painters have coped by painting not the central Illinois that is but one they made up since, as I noted in “Flat land into flatscapes,” “the picturesque is what sells, and the picturesque has long meant mountains and trees of which central Illinois has none and few, respectively.”
In fact, the landscape hereabouts is “irrepressibly drab and awful.” Well, that was John Cleese describing an accountant, but you get the idea.
Now you don’t have to take my word for it.
In the late 1990s the federal government devised a measure of the best and worst places to live in America, from the standpoint of scenery and climate. The "natural amenities index" is intended as "a measure of the physical characteristics of a county area that enhance the location as a place to live."
The index combines "six measures of climate, topography, and water area that reflect environmental qualities most people prefer." Those qualities, according to the USDA, include mild, sunny winters, temperate summers, low humidity, topographic variation, and access to a body of water.
The alarmingly industrious Christopher Ingraham over at Wonkblog, from where I pinched the above, mapped all the counties in the lower 48 according to where they rank on the natural amenities index.
The results were no more unreliable than the effusions of the tourism promoter, just unreliable in different ways. Overall, however, the results seem fair enough.
And where does Sangamon County rank? With No. 1 being the most beautiful county of the 3,111 surveyed (it’s in California, natch), Sangamon stands No. 2,770.
Oh well. People used to think that mountains were ugly. Maybe someday they will change their mind about mud and parking lots too.