Anyone curious as to how at least the more educated of those Europeans who colonized this continent viewed its natural environment and native inhabitants might want to take a look at William Robertson’s 1777 History of America. For instance:
The labour and operations of man not only improve and embellish the earth, but render it more wholesome, and friendly to life. When any region lies neglected and destitute of cultivation, the air stagnates in the woods, putrid exhalations arise from the waters; the surface of the earth, loaded with rank vegetation, feels not the purifying influence of the sun; the malignity of the distempers natural to the climate increases, and new maladies no less noxious are engendered. Accordingly, all the provinces of America, when first discovered, were found to be remarkably unhealthy (Robertson 1777:Book IV:17).
The colonizers had their work cut out for them – get to work and embellish the continent, render it wholesome and friendly to life. We can all agree, no doubt, that they were very effective, and we’ve all followed proudly in their footsteps.
1777 The History of America. London, A. Strahan. See http://books.google.com/books?id=_ONOAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:%22William+Robertson%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=7lXZUpKDM5fKsQSmoILIAw&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false