The land was a lot less complicated before Ecofeminism. Prior to this course I was focused on how to fix the environment while I should have been also looking at the underlying causes of environmental degradation. Our class readings and discussions around our place in nature have expanded and enhanced my perception of and relationship with the land. As an Environmental Studies major I have taken myriad courses highlighting the wide-ranging dynamics of the environment, mostly in the pragmatic sense. However, environmental science, policy, and economics classes fail talk about the latent connection humans have to the land. Thus, back in September I still had the conception that there was a dichotomy between humans and nature. For a long time I have been aware of how humans mistreat the Earth, though I had not thought much about the deep causes of our self-appointed superiority.
Our race has a habit of thinking in a binary manner: male or female, white or black, natural or manmade. In Dueling Dualisms, Fausto-Sterling exemplifies this behavior through the case of Maria Patiño, a Spanish hurdler who was disqualified from the 1988 Olympics after she was found to have a Y chromosome. Because Patiño did not fit neatly into the “female” box, she was unable to compete in her sport. Such binary thought is applied to most all facets of human life, including our perception of the environment. Dualistic thought results from humans need for a subordinate other in relationships (Plumwood 41). Throughout much of human culture, nature plays the role of the subordinate other. While I have been aware of this dominant position that people take, I had not previously known its deep-rooted origins. Christian theology has been a key influence on human’s hierarchical relationship with nature. As Carolyn Merchant points out in her work Reinventing Eden, mankind’s desire to ease labor via managing nature is an effort to reclaim the carefree, blissful Eden that Adam and Eve once inhabited. In addition to this, Genesis 2 directly states that human are to be stewards of nature. I had always assumed that technology’s purpose was to make tasks easier and more efficient for our own sake, disregarding the influence of the past. Past cultures were truly affected by the idea of the Fall from Eden and how their disposition has in turn affected the course of human history.
My previous understanding of my relationship with the land was tainted with unchecked dualistic thought and misconception of technology. Our class discussions on our dependence on soil further clarified our connection to the land. David Suzuki draws attention to our complete dependence on soil in Made from the Soil. Without soil, our food, oxygen, building materials and more would not exist. People estrange soil, though, by associating it and its counterparts with undesirable things: being dirty and soiling oneself, for example. I now recognize these negative associations when I hear them and realize the incomparable value of soil. For example, soil represents a bond between all living things as every being’s vitality depends on it. Acknowledging the fundamental role of soil in all life has strengthened and expanded my appreciation and understanding of the land.
Lastly, our class trip to Waggoner’s Gap allowed me to contemplate our relation to land in terms of time. The land was here before any living creatures inhabited the Earth and just looking out from North Mountain one can see how swiftly people transform the land. In less than 300 years this land has been developed to the point where trees are far and few between. Through these observations I felt more than ever like an inconsequential blip on the timescale of the Earth. By remembering how ephemeral my life is I was able to once again attain greater respect for the land.
The lessons I have learned can be applied to any school of thought: all relationships (whether the parties are animate or not) is multifaceted and should be examined in order to decipher the underpinnings of that relationship. By following this standard one can defy ignorance and work towards more meaningful relationships with beings, structures, and systems around us.
Fausto-Sterling, A. 2000. “Dualing Dualisms.” From Sexing the Body. New York: Basic Books.
Merchant, C. 2003. Reinventing Eden. New York: Routledge.
Plumwood, V. 1993. “Dualism: The Logic of Colonialism.” From Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. New York: Routledge.
Suzuki, D. 2006. “Made From the Soil.” From The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre.