Anthropocentrism Taking Over


When is the last time you stopped to smell the roses? The quickening pace of life in most societies today, especially American society, has deprived such cultures of the beauty of appreciating nature. Everyone is busy – every gender, every race, and every class of American society are so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that no one has time to watch nature and appreciate its true beauty and worth. It is the anthropocentric outlook on life that humans have recently obtained that prevents us from valuing land and truly appreciating what nature has to offer.
As an environmental studies student, I like to think that I do have a strong sense of respect for the environment; however, it is a very rare occurrence that I take time to stop and think about the wonders and amazements of nature. Sure, I turn off the lights when I leave the room, recycle, and save water; but, I very rarely take time from my busy day to think about why I work to conserve such precious resources.
Through the ideals of ecofeminism, my perspective on the land has drastically changed. One instance in particular during my recent studies of ecofeminism has grabbed a hold of me and taught me something that is extremely important about land. As the class and I stared into the Cumberland Valley on top of Waggoner’s Gap, I discovered something that changed the way I look at land. Everywhere I looked from that bird’s eye view had been touched by humans. Looking down, it was hard to imagine what the valley would have looked like before humans took over the land. Where there was once a strong, thriving forest, there is now clear-cut land for farming, industry, and roads, and the clear skies are now filled with a thick film of smog and numerous power lines. Everywhere I turned on top of the mountain was an area of land that had been affected by humans.

Waggoner’s Gap, Carlisle, PA.
Why is it that humans feel the need to dominate nature? What gives humans the right to clear-cut the forest and build things that we, humans, feel are imperative to our daily lives? These are the questions that were running through my head as I reflected on this observation. At that point in time, I gave myself the challenge of finding a plot of land that had been completely untouched by humans. This task is actually much harder than it seems, especially in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As I discovered how difficult it truly is, I thought about reasons as to why this is so, and I thought about possible solutions to this problem. Carolyn Merchant proposes a suggestion from her article Reinventing Eden, “I draw on the framework of progressive and declensionist plots, on the roles of men and women in transforming and appreciating the environment, on ideas of contingency and complexity in history, of nature as an actor, and of humanity as capable of achieving a new ethic of partnership with the nonhuman world” (7). Although it is rather unrealistic to reconstruct humanity’s relationship with nature, wouldn’t it be nice to work as one with nature to benefit both the land and humans?
It starts with an appreciation of the environment. If humans could take time to reflect on nature and find an appreciation for all it has to offer, beneficial to us or not, the land would be treated with much more respect. When humans are finally able to see a non-anthropocentric view toward nature, it might be possible for a plot of land to be untouched and appreciated.

- Maggie Rees
Sources:
Merchant, Carolyn. “Reinventing Eden”. A Garden Planet.

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  1. #1 by Jual Kosmetik on April 23, 2012 - 6:21 am

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  2. #2 by Maggie on October 14, 2010 - 8:01 pm

    Claire,
    I definitely do understand your point; however, the people that work with the land every day are working for anthropocentric reasons. Would farmers be farming simply to benefit the land with no benefit to humans? It seems to me that even these working class people are not trying to connect with the intrinsic value of nature and that is the point I was trying to make in this blog post. The “intrinsic” value of nature is lost.

  3. #3 by claire tighe on October 13, 2010 - 2:27 am

    Maggie, I beg to differ that : “every gender, every race, and every class of American society are so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that no one has time to watch nature and appreciate its true beauty and worth.” What about the working class that literally puts their hands on the land each day to plant or harvest (think farmers or migrant workers to name just two). Although I would agree that it is possible for humans to get caught up in their work each day and therefore forgetting the beauty of land and nature, I think that there is a class (and inevitably an intersected gender and racial) difference between likelihood of appreciating or remembering nature. Don’t forget that your own experience and social position (gender, race, class) that might affect how you perceive everyone else’s social positions…

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