Posts Tagged earth’s body
As a young girl, I never found the outdoors appealing. Perhaps it was my abrupt transition from a concrete jungle lifestyle to the easy-going atmosphere of suburbia living. Perhaps it was my risible and what then I considered disgust towards insects. Or perhaps it was my attraction to jungle gyms, which later on turned into an unrequited love after suffering from many injuries. In any case, as I think back to my childhood, my relationship with land was near to inexistent. Apart from watching my grandmother from afar planting and cultivating her vegetable garden tirelessly for hours on end, I had very little exposure never mind direct interaction with land that surrounded me.
Attending boarding school in a desolate location surrounded by forest, my relationship with nature developed but still tended to fluctuate as I searched for a reason as to why I was interacting with nature. I had friends who would go on ‘nature walks’ just to retract from the hectic school schedules while I found solace in afternoon naps. I mean, I knew the land around me in terms of navigation because of various science courses, but apart from classes, I intentionally limited my exposure to the outdoors because I did not see a ‘point’ in exploring nature. Thus, I graduated from high school without a personal relationship with the land I had been a part of for three years.
With all that said, when Professor Bartlow announced a “day with soil,” one could imagine my instant dismay. I could not help but cringe at the thought of senselessly playing with soil for the sake of, well, I wasn’t exactly sure. I had thought that Dickinson’s was well kept especially with the hype around our sustainability initiatives and continuous grooming of the landscape, so what was the purpose of this seemingly invasive task of discovering soil? Well, had it not been for my one-on-one time with a small section of the land on campus, my sentiments towards nature would have been continued to be deeply rooted in the few frivolous encounters I had with land throughout my life. An immediate sense of guilt and shame took hold of me; I immediately began asking myself, “Whose land is this?” “Is this soil natural?” “Do I have the right to dig up flowers and uproot species from their natural habitat for a short-lived moment of ‘self-discovery’?”
PRIVILEGE:The source of my guilt
At that moment, I acknowledged the limitless power of the land beneath my feet. Right then and there, I had the ability to dig up soil that had been a component of the land for years without seeking permission from a higher authority. In David Suzkui’s Made From Soil, Suzki defines land as a “place or context…it means the nation or the region we belong to, as well as the part of it that belongs to us; it is also place of safety” (Suzki, 77). While the land around is a physical support system, the ways in which mankind has taken advantage of this support and exploited the land’s natural resources far outweighs the benefits the land reaps from human involvement. Essentially mankind was never granted access to changing, cultivating, or manipulating nature.
With the rise of industrialized nations over time, humans have been conditioned to view the Earth’s body as empty, barren, and purposeless even though at some point or another during our childhood inhaled and digested the same soil. How is it that some nations around the world are removed from this discourse of ignorance and nature to focus on preserving soil’s sacredness? Our land is entirely too complex and rich in history for us to alter with its roots. “Land is one organism,” (Suzki, 78) says Aldo Leopold. When we land, we risk ending the lives of several thousands of other species inhabiting the land. Instead of taking ownership our land we should be learning to foster the natural reciprocal relationship between man and land.
Forces of patriarchy, oppression, and colonialism surely contribute -and if not fully responsible- for the exploitation of our environment, as Wangari Maathai illustrates with her work on The Greenbelt Movement. Maathai draws upon the connections among people and their roots, God, and the environment within the Kenyan communities. Because standing cultural values were obliterated during the movement of colonization, many Kenyans see the environment degraded to nothing more than a commodity.
Expounding upon this issue of oppression a bit further, an ecofeminist would look at the connections between the violation of nature and the violation of females. One prominent connection is that between the defilement of the earth’s body and the defilement of black women’s bodies. In Delores Williams’ “Sin, Nature, and Black Women’s Bodies,” Williams equates the exhaustion that comes along with strip-mining the earth’s body to the exhaustion of the “practice of breeding female slaves” (Williams, 25). Oppressors continue to oppress both the land and black women’s bodies despite aware of the potential long-term effects.
As a citizen of this earth, I believe each person has an unspoken responsibility to save the earth in his or her own way. Through this process we must remain patient, humble. As Vandana Shiva urges her readers in Soil Not Oil, “we are not an Atlas carrying the world on our shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying us.”