http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/mariana-trench-pollution-pacific-ocean-chemicals/

Leave A Comment, Written on February 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

15 February 2017

Reaction Paper #3

In Frank Sinatra’s song Love and Marriage, he famously sang “you can’t have one without the other”. That notion is applicable to William Cronon’s view of the “wilderness” and society in his piece “The Trouble with Wilderness”. Cronon argues that the idea of “wilderness” is a social and cultural construct created to satisfy people’s need to escape from the hardships and troubles of everyday life. He writes the wilderness “is a place of freedom in which we can recover the true selves we have lost to the corrupting influences of our artificial lives”.

Many writers advocating for the preservation of “wilderness” due so on the basis that nature has an intrinsic value and that man has an innate desire for it. These ideas are echoed in Muir, Abbey, Thoreau, McKibben and others. Compared to those writers, Cronon’s argument is provocative because it challenges many of the fundamental premises of the environmental movement.

Both explicitly and implicitly, Cronon highlights the shortcomings of man as a primary reason for our fascination with “wilderness”. He implies that the human race would rather flight than fight. He explains how “wilderness” is synonymous with hope, for example the myth of the American frontier and the clear distinction between humans and nature. If “wilderness” still exists there is still some part of the world to run to when the idea of starting fresh is easier than facing challenges directly. This begs the question: can the environmental movement be summed up as nothing more than fear? Cronon writes that some of the biggest supporters for “wilderness” preservation are those that have gained the most from the capitalist system and industrialization.

In the process of explaining the merits of “wilderness”, American society has misrepresented the Native Americans’ relationship with the environment. Native Americans’ are portrayed to have had a minimal impact on the environment, and even are depicted as stewards of the environment. However, Cronon debunks these commonly held assumptions. He cites examples of Native Americans burning large areas of land for farming. He writes that Native American tribes played a significant role in manipulating the environment. Additionally, Charles Mann writes that researchers grossly underestimated the time frame when Naïve Americans first appeared in the Americas. If we do not know definitely when Native Americans first appeared, how can we possibly know that the Native Americans had a minimal impact on the environment? Mann writes that when Columbus arrived in the West Indies it was “thoroughly dominated by humankind”. With that information in mind, it is not far-fetched to claim that history is taught through rose colored glasses.

Interestingly, Cronon describes the accounts of early English settlers in New England in his book “Changes in the Land”. These settlers are not described as viewing the Native Americans as perfectly harmonious with the environment. Rather, it appears that the settlers are more interested in comparing the typical gender roles and culture of the Native Americans to their own. Cronon’s historical account of the “new world” is vastly different the story of Pocahontas and what children are taught in elementary schools

Cronon made an excellent point. He identified the subconscious reasoning for people’s fascination with the “wilderness”. While his ideas depict the human race as more fragile than many would like to accept, his view towards the environment is pragmatic and honest. While Cronon’s views are starkly different from many other environmental writers, I believe his ideas will resonate with more people than one might initially expect.

Leave A Comment, Written on February 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized

The readings by Charles Mann and William Cronon implore us to expand our understanding, and lessons gleaned from the Indians in North and South America. In doing so we radically shift our understanding of wilderness, and hopefully begin to manage the land in a restorative way.

In “Uncommon Ground” Cronon describes why he believes that wilderness is actually a cultural creation. He says, “The myth of the wilderness as ‘virgin,’ uninhabited land had always been especially cruel when seen from the perspective of the Indians who had once called that land home” (79). Cronon goes on to make this a point of, “just how constructed the American wilderness really is” (79). History books often forget, or under-stress, the legacy of Indians in wilderness areas in America. We imagine their population and impact on the land to be small. However, Mann helps us understand that this is not the reality of history. He argues that, “Indians were here in greater numbers than previously thought, and they imposed there will on the landscape. Columbus set foot in a hemisphere thoroughly dominated by humankind” (42). One reason is because historians previously did not understand the enormous impact disease had on Indian populations. He notes that in many cases disease wiped out anywhere from half to 95% of the population, even before attempts to actively remove them from the land. Mann states that, “All the heavily urbanized societies- was wiped out” (45). This is part of why we picture Indian societies are more rudimental and nomadic that perhaps they actually were.

Mann also corrects out idea that Indians barely impacted the “natural” ecology. In fact, Indians had broadly sculpted the landscape to best suit their survival needs (especially agriculture and hunting). He suggested that the American prairie was a product of Indians burning the land to hunt buffalo, and that a large part of the Amazon was human constructed. Cronon also highlights the significant effect agricultural practices had on “reshaping and manipulating the ecosystem” (48). Mann concludes that Indians were the “keystone species” at the time because of their practices of actively managing the landscape and thus affecting the entire ecosystem’s ecology. He says that after the Indians were largely wiped away that is when “wilderness” (environment without human modification) really existed, not before.

We must accept this change in logic of Indian impact, because it teaches us environmental stewardship as opposed to purely conservation. In “Uncommon Ground” Cronon writes, “If this is so- if by definition wilderness leaves no place for human beings… then also by definition it can offer no solution to the environmental and other problems that confront us” (81). He argues that this view of humans as separate from nature is dangerous. In order take social responsibility we must recognize that humans are still the keystone species. However, where the Indians cultivated and managed wilderness we are doing much more to pollute and destroy landscapes. In describing the ability of Indians to turn poor Amazonian soils into rich productive soil that, “regenerates itself” (52), Mann said that, “Faced with an ecological problem… the Indians fixed it” (Mann 52). Mann ends his article imploring governments to learn from the Indians and begins to actually manage the ecosystem for its benefit.

These lessons are more important than ever. Never before has the world’s ecosystem been so damaged and degraded (note: I did not say altered). However, it is time humans start taking more responsibility for their impact, and make it positive. In order to protect our world we cannot simply preserve spaces, we must restore and work to rege

Leave A Comment, Written on February 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized

So far we have tended to think of “the human place in nature” as a modern concept.  That now, in modernity, we as a species have the population and technology to utterly destroy nature, or to preserve it.  In class most of our moral pondering has been concerned about this modern era and our current relationship with nature.  Once we had a place in nature, but with modern technology and the ability to construct our environments we have divorced ourselves from our position within nature and therefore must return to it.  Yet as Charles Mann points out, we have always been and will always be the global keystone species.  Our presence or lack there of contributes wholly to the current state of global ecosystems.  So it seems whats important is not finding this metaphysical place in nature that we have somehow lost but rather returning to it, or using our historical context to construct a modern way in which humankind returns to its place as a keystone species that balances the environment and keeps that dynamic processes of ecosystems in check. 

The theories expressed in Charles Mann’s paper contradict everything one learned in middle school social studies.  Yet the backlash some of these theories received points to an almost radical belief in colonial superiority.  With hundreds of years of literature and rhetoric to back up the idea of European superiority over the native peoples it is not without merit.  However this belief is blinding to both historians and environmentalists alike who cannot fathom a world where native dominated their environment. 

When I was in Peru, I visited Machu Pichu, famed Incan city and UNESCO heritage site.  There next to the sun temple and one of the most masterfully crafted walls at the site is a massive, jutting unrefined boulder.  Although around it was crafted and sculpted into an architectural wonder, that boulder, for all intents and purposes remained pristine.  When I asked our guide, a Quechuan woman from a village that had existed for hundreds of years at over 4,000 meters, she explained that the Inca’s always tried to work with nature, not subdue it.  They yielded to it, working around what was already there rather then bulldozing across it to make room.  This idea has stuck with me and led me to ask the question:  If the Incan philosophy on the environment had prevailed over the European one, how different would our world look? 

If we believe Dobyns then there were roughly 100 million indigenous people living in the Americas pre-Columbus, more than Europe at the time.  Yet even with such vast numbers of people the continued observations for centuries was the discovery of the Americas as pristine and untouched by man.  As cited in Mann’s article, even the Wilderness act in the 1960’s contained rhetoric noting the untouched conditions of the environment pre- colonials.  The missing link to understanding how native peoples viewed there place in nature could be credited to any number of things, whether it was the huge swathes of land and resources at their disposal, religious traditions or just the lack of stresses to force technological advancement, native people have demonstrated again and again their method of working with the natural world to meet the needs not only of the people but also of their environment.  The idea of humans as a keystone species fits well into the narrative of native peoples, but also confounds a modern environmentalist view of preserving nature in its pre- discovery state.  The Native American’s had a firm hold over the environment and guided it in a way that helped them, yet it would seem that no one would ever claim their influence was negatively impacting the environment the way modern people do.  Maybe the human place in nature is exactly that, in nature interacting and guiding the environment in ways that are mutually benefit to all.  The best part is, they did it without science.

Leave A Comment, Written on February 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized

ENST 406

02/15/17

Jackie Goodwin

In studying the most talented nature writers, it becomes clear that there is a romantic or transcendental sense in the relationship man has with nature. Thankfully, in Uncommon Ground, Cronon debunks the work of these men by arguing that they only perpetuate an unrealistic perception of wilderness, as these places are not completely untouched. Nearly in alignment with Bill McKibben’s argument that there is nothing truly natural left, Cronon enters the debate proclaiming that this desire for solace in a “natural” place that is perhaps a national park is impossible because of the imprint Native Americans have left on the land, one that European descendents were taught to forget. While these native people sustained themselves off the land, elite colonialists pushed them away and insisted on designating areas of sanctuary for the white, rich men. Thoreau’s land is not as untouched as he may have thought and McKibben’s argument should not begin with the alteration of our planet through carbon, but rather through man’s development as a consumer of the land.

Globalization has warranted many incredible developments in human history, but it is not without its downfalls. When colonialism struck the Americas and Africa, it brought with it disease, violence, and dominance. Charles Mann speaks to this by discussing that more than half of the crops grown today originated in the Americas, meaning that their seeds were brought across borders. Not only did this improve agriculture and account for varied diets in singular ecosystems, but created the very unnatural process of transferring what was meant to be grown in a particular place. The further development of maize in the Americas caused an enormous population boom in Africa, which ultimately made the slave trade possible. This constant exchange of people and plants is utterly invasive. The Europeans were an invasive species in the Americas and used Native American techniques and seeds for farming to perpetuate their invasions in other areas of the world, such as in Africa.

Cronon writes, “The dream of an unworked natural landscape is very much the fantasy of people who have never themselves had to work the land to make a living-urban folk whose food comes from a supermarket or a restaurant instead of a field..” (80). This collection was written in 1996, closer to McKibben’s work than Thoreau’s and with the same dose of cynicism. Cronan brings many important topics to light, but this fails to address many present day phenomena. Ever more present on this campus is the need to make an association with the food we eat. We study it in academia, we practice it at the farm, and we embody it in our cafeteria. There is an amount of privilege associated with eating locally now, or at least being aware of the fact that you are. What used to be a fact of life for the Native Americans is now achieved through wealth and knowledge. We have therefore further removed ourselves from the “natural” world, as our attempt to revert back to these organic agricultural practices is only in response to the overwhelming productivity of factory farms.

As conversations persist on projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, it is imperative to remember that this is not the first time that the white man has dictated what should happen to sacred land. Yes, there are certain measurable dangers to water systems should the pipeline be implemented, but people have been altering our land for as long as they have been alive. We can call it a case of environmental racism or further disgrace of minorities in this country, but the overarching fact is that this is not new, and behavior is unlikely to change. If the earth is ruined anyway by carbon and consumerism, what does one more pipeline really do? Would Cronon chalk this up to one more incident of attempting to preserve a wilderness that is already gone, or a further violation of Native American rights?

Leave A Comment, Written on February 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized
Wesley Lickus
Human Place in Nature
Professor Beevers
15 February 2017
Week 4 Response“The time has come to rethink wilderness”, Cronon boldly states in his work Uncommon Ground. Is it fair to assume that the life long conversation of what wilderness truly represents is all wrong? We need to change our discussion from what wilderness is, to what can wilderness be if it is changing so rapidly? The 1989 McKibben would defeatedly say that wilderness is gone, however other writers such as Mann and Cronon may have other suggestions for ways to rethink nature and wilderness.

The amazon rainforest is a living human artifact. Observing the Bolivian rainforest from above allows Mann to see hummocks of forest connected by strait land bridges too exact for nature to mold itself; instead, they are believed to have been constructed by ancient civilizations with traces to the bearing straight, 12,000 years ago. It is often thought that native people marked little to no impact on their environments in order to maintain the wilderness. These understandings of native people are wrong according to Mann. They had the capabilities to greatly alter the land, and to do so to their benefit and sustainability as a people. Mann thus presents “the pristine myth”. Nature is resilient he implies, it covers up its scars and grows taller and stronger around us all. The wilderness that Mann viewed below him was actually the familiar land of an ancient civilization, it was not wilderness to them. Mann ends this section with a short discussion of wilderness and what wilderness is. To him, the place on which he is standing is not wilderness because he is educated to the fact that it is not a first growth forest, and that ancient people altered and effected the flora and fauna that he is standing in. However, he expresses feeling the same empowerment that must have been felt by indigenous tribes upon their first arrival to these forests. Even to someone such as Mann who is searching for the answers to humanities’ ancient interactions with nature there is an innate desire to the emptiness he feels.

Cronon’s chapter from Changes in the Land expose a noteworthy comparison to America’s new and old inhabitants. Upon first landing in New England, colonists were confronted with a great wilderness, unfit for their arrival with lack of food. But as they conquered the land and native people what they used to call wilderness was tamed and exploited. Wilderness seems to end in the spring when life is not lived day by day. Animals return and the weather acts more gently towards the success of new civilizations. The movement of animals springs human life into full flurries of hunting and gathering. Two opposing groups, the new world conquerers and native inhabitants seem to act as one in their quest for survival off the resources of the land. In Changes in the Land, Cronon introduces another noteworthy concept while discussing the differences between the Native American and colonial European ways of preparing for winter through what he calls the “paradox of want in a land of plenty”. To europeans, it did not appear logical to willingly go hungry during the food poor winter months. Only those who were new and uneducated to the unanticipated harshness of a New England winter starved. It was survival of the quickest and most adaptable. To natives, on the other hand, living through a hungry winter was nothing new and unusual. There was no sense of want in their culture, only an understanding of the minimalist needs; a practice that Thoreau would later replicate as he searched for the roots of needs and wants. Natives were one with the wilderness, and lived harmoniously within its limits. The result of this practice was already understood and had been practiced for generations by Native Americans: the way they chose to life had allowed them to subsist for lifetimes, and there was no need to change this ethic.

“The more one knows of its peculiar history, the more one realizes that wilderness is not quite what it seems”. Meaning that, based on the time and place in history, what we currently may refer to as nature may have once been bustling with human activity. Nature is a feeling too, as Cronon continues to describe a feeling of being in the “presence of something irreducibly nonhuman” such as encountering an animal and interacting with it as if you are equal with it. It is a feeling of removing yourself from being human, to a simple piece of the larger puzzle of the world. The transition of nature’s connotations that occurred through the 1700s relates back to Cronon’s other chapter from Changes in the Land. Nature was a wasteland for those who entered it seldom returned, and those that dared attempt to live in it would be disappointed with it’s ability to sustain yourself.

Leave A Comment, Written on February 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized

According to Cronon, the myth of the wilderness is bust: mankind has officially ‘touched’ all nature (88). No part of nature is scared or free of man’s presence. “Humankind is a keystone species everywhere” essentially because humans have basic needs that exert relative amounts stress on the natural environment–but an ever present stress nonetheless (Mann 53). Historically, it has been understood that the Colonial, Anglo-Saxon White man is the arbiter of environmental doom in North America—exerting more stress on the continent than any other group. Unlike the native peoples, Europeans didn’t understand the “periodicity” of their new land and refused to adapt for the sake of stability and ‘home’. These men prefered ‘home’ over, what they considered, the burden of migration and yet expected this ‘new world’ to be the “land of plenty” regardless (Cronon 41). According to Cronon, Native Americans approached nature with an entirely different goal in mind. They were at once utilitarian, efficient and considerate (Cronon 38). Access to water sources and crop-able land were just characteristics of the surrounding nature. Rather than settle and manipulate to their liking, Native Americans moved when the resources changed. They worked within the periodic nature of the environment—but still sacrificed in doing so.

Apparently, the extent of this sacrifice is up for debate. This narrative of the oppressive ‘bull in china shop’ colonist versus the kind, understanding and somewhat meek Native American is part of the classic canon of colonial teachings. We are taught that the Native Americans were already small in number, and that many deaths were due to accidental widespread disease. While this is at least partially true, there is evidence that Native Americans were a more complex and less ‘considerate’ society than Cronon suggests. Their burning techniques—either for cropping or to create open land or for game—eternally changed the environment both physically and chemically (Mann, 50). More specifically, the Midwestern prairie was almost entirely “created and maintained by fire” by and for Native Americans (50). It can be argued that the Native Americans were actually just more successful at manipulating the environment for personal gain than the settlers were because of their familiarity with its’ capabilities—not necessarily due to an overall respect for nature’s ‘wildness’ per say.

Scholars have a problematic tendency to view the world through a Eurocentric lens that greatly impacts how we currently understand history. For example, if the Native Americans aren’t building ‘traditional houses’ or irrigating and manipulating the land like the colonists then they aren’t abusing it. In fact, they are one with it. Transcendentalists assigned this religious and moral value to nature that is rooted in this very idea: living with and among nature with gets you closer to yourself and to God (Cronon 72). Many scholars and writers only saw that Native Americans were functioning differently and decided it was somehow better, and therefore, more in tune with nature. In the end, no one is free of blame. In realizing our biases and assumptions, it can be understood that there was never a society that did not manipulate nature in some way. We must now function under the awareness that the myth of wilderness is no more. In doing so, we must expand our view of nature to include what we now consider unnatural; to “embrace the full continuum of a natural landscape that is also cultural, in which the city, the suburb, the pastoral, and the wild each has its proper place, which we permit ourselves to celebrate without needlessly denigrating the others” in order to appreciate what we do have (Cronon 89). The colonists’ home is no less a part of nature than the Native Americans’ or the open prairie. In this manner we can convince the world that the effort required to care about nature is very little, and it is right in your own backyard.

Leave A Comment, Written on February 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized

The paradox of the “ecological Indian” lies in the fact that our society has based the very concept and idea of “wilderness” off of the notion that Indian cultures lived in harmony with nature. As Cronon describes in “Changes in the Land” Indian societies were manipulating their surroundings long before the Old World met the new. Just like many groups and civilizations around the world, the initial forms of crop cultivation became the first ways in which the land in North America was manipulated. Indians were also known to set fires in dense forests to make it easier to hunt, and with all of this came temporary settlements and waste. This was the manipulation of nature that the Europeans walked in on and became core to the characterization of wilderness.

While it is clear from these readings that Native American societies greatly altered nature, it is difficult for me to view it to the same degree at which Europeans ultimately transformed the American landscape. In “1491” Mann discusses the work of biologist Edward O. Wilson who describes Indians as a “’keystone species’ of American ecosystems” (53). What he means by this is that with the removal of Indians through epidemic disease the ecology of the land significantly changed, seeing the increase in population of species such as buffalo and elk. Mann ends his piece by saying “Native Americans managed the continent as they saw fit.” Even with the manipulation of the environment depicted in these readings, Indians lived in greater symbiosis with the environment than the people of the early colonies.

When early colonists arrived what they saw before them was not the wilderness they though, but managed landscape. Cronon challenges our modern view of wilderness through this thought in “Uncommon Ground.” Throughout time humans have used supernatural characteristics to describe wilderness, as seen in Abbey’s experience floating down Glen Canyon. Within the human mind, being in the wilderness can be a religious experience. The idealization of wilderness in this way causes us to view the landscape of our own home differently. Cronon argues that once we put up borders and subject land to the regulations of the government, wilderness becomes tame and safe. But if the origins of what we call wilderness is in fact land that had been altered for centuries what does that tell us about the great American frontier?

The very basis for which “wilderness” is defined is manipulated in a drastic way by and for humans. But does this influence suddenly make the world around us unremarkable? No. The very idea of Amazonian dark earth is incredible. The way Indians cleared land for agriculture and managed to come up with the cultivation system of the three sisters, which fixed nitrogen and improved soil quality while at the same time giving them a diet with a complete set of amino acids, should be described as innovative rather than destructive.

Humankind is an anomaly on this planet; our very existence from the first tool we created has impacted the ecological make up of the land. Cronon calls us “the most dangerous species of life on the planet” (87). Humans are the keystone species to every ecosystem on Earth, and we always have been. But there are innovative sustainable ways for us to produce the goods and services we need for modern life, by managing ecosystem services in ways that work with, not against, natures cycles.

Leave A Comment, Written on February 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized

In their earliest years of school, American children are taught about Christopher Columbus’s great journey across the Atlantic to North America, where he discovered a vast rugged land, teaming with natural resources. This romantic portrayal often paints a landscape largely void of human influence, with mountains and valleys ready for exploration. These historical accounts have shaped the American perspective of what wilderness and natural landscapes should look like and contain, especially evident in today’s U.S. National Parks system. Through this week’s readings, the legitimacy of what society refers to as natural is brought to question, and the reader is challenged to justify the continued preservation and protection of landscapes that may not be unscathed from human hands after all.

Contesting the American societal construct of wilderness, Charles Mann’s article 1491 debunks the common perception that European settlers were the first to largely impact the Northern American landscape.   In fact, he states that in the pre-Columbus era, approximately 112 million people lived in the Americas, outnumbering European populations at the time (p. 43). These compelling population estimates cause one to wonder what impact Native populations were already having on the continent before Europeans arrived. As discussed in Cronon’s article, Native Americans had developed extensive agricultural and hunter-gatherer systems particular to their surrounding environments, to include felling of trees and burning brush. With tribal settlements covering vast areas of the continent, these systems had large-scale existing effects on the landscapes, which Europeans came to identify as natural environmental conditions.

Disregarding the influence of Native Americans, the modern day concept of wilderness was created in the mind of rich, white city-dwellers (Cronon, p. 78-79). The men of early explorations often characterized the American frontier as masculine in nature, where rugged landscapes could be dominated for the sake of nationalism. With the advent of the National Parks system in the 1870s, areas of wilderness were artificially stripped of human presence. Though as Mann pointed out, these regions had been under anthropogenic influence for centuries. Today, we continue to place physical boundaries between society and the environment, suggesting that something cannot be natural if humans are present.

In review of these readings, I was left quite disgruntled. Though I was aware of the discrepancies of early-American history education, I did not realize the magnitude of influence that Native Americans most likely had on the continent. We have come to identify ideal natural landscapes as void of civilization, but the very landscapes that European settlers discovered and sought to protect had already been altered by humanity. If what we think of as wilderness is not actually wilderness after all, how should we think of it? What grounds does the U.S. government have to cordon sectors of the Earth from present day indigenous populations in the name of environmental protection, if these populations have been tending to the land for generations long before Europeans arrived?

As Cronon begins to suggest, perhaps the solution to our misconstrued socio-environmental perspectives is the abandonment of nature dualism (p. 88-90). He suggests that nature exists on a spectrum, and that we must recognize that there is wildness in all things. We should not view our landscapes as black or white, natural or unnatural. Instead humanity must shift towards non-dualism, recognizing the interconnectedness of civilization and our entire planet.

Leave A Comment, Written on February 14th, 2017 , Uncategorized

Naviya Kafle

Even a few decades after McKibben wrote the book, the ‘end of nature’ is still a difficult idea for me to fully accept; it suggests a diminished hope for the future and reduced faith in humanity. Nevertheless, he is right about the extent to which we have modified Nature. There is no place on this planet that we haven’t reached. As he points out, the impact of our “local” actions are global, the consequences usually invisible or unpredictable. Climate change and global warming, therefore, still remain controversial concepts. Perhaps it is the confidence in Nature—that it is vast, powerful and resilient, so we can do nothing as a species to harm it, or the utmost faith in the human species— the exemptionalist approach that we are intelligent and capable of fixing any damages to Nature, that make even the learned people in power ignore these issues and the state of emergency they have put us in today.

McKibben talks about issues of greenhouse gases, acid rain and depletion of ozone layer in much detail. He employs a pessimistic tone, which seems important at the time to bring people’s attention to such issues, as a wake up call for the governments of developed nations to clean up their act, and most importantly, to warn the human species of the gross ramifications of their actions. The depletion of ozone layer starkly exemplifies the fragility of Nature and reminds our species of our ability to vastly modify our planet. If the Montreal Protocol hadn’t been put in place, I don’t know if we would still be enjoying the sun in the summer. However, the Protocol wasn’t able to totally revert the changes; the risk of skin cancer remains high in Australia. Yet, after decades, we continue to make decisions based on short-term economic gains, despite frightful projections of the effects of climate change.

According to McKibben, reversion of change as a result of human actions, say for example, using biocontrol or inducing fire to rehabilitate a forest wouldn’t qualify as “natural”. Nature, he suggests, only exists in its crude form, in the way it was created. When we disturb it for our gains, we end Nature. His idea of Nature resonates more with my idea of wilderness. His descriptions and accounts of the natural environments often exclude humans. He presents Nature as pristine, an idea I had a difficult time grappling with, probably because a new generation of tree saplings after a human-induced forest fire or a weed growing on the sidewalk would fit my definition of Nature. I am with him, however, in lamenting the loss of wilderness.

With the physical loss of wilderness, McKibben argues that we have also lost our spiritual connection with wilderness. We have been illusioned by our technological advancements and the comfort of our modern homes, and have forgotten that our true place lies in Nature. McKibben does a great job of reminding people of this. Although the ‘end of Nature’ if taken in literal sense can be tough to swallow, it is a strong slogan. He urges people to use the same reason and intelligence that they have used to build nuclear power plants to be protectors of the land, to decrease our carbon footprint by making small changes in our lives. In the current context, I don’t know how relevant McKibben’s advice would be. While I agree that we need to change our attitudes, I think we need to focus more on amending policies at the national and global levels.

Activists like Muir, Abbey, Carson and McKibben have been so influential in changing how people think about Nature and our connection with it. The problems with our attitudes towards Nature had been identified and understood by them decades ago and their voices were able to push for major environmental policy decisions. But activists today still struggle to pull people out of their bubbles. If climate change is still invisible, it is only because we are not looking in the right direction.

Leave A Comment, Written on February 8th, 2017 , Uncategorized

ENST 406 Senior Seminar is proudly powered by WordPress and the Theme Adventure by Eric Schwarz
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).

ENST 406 Senior Seminar

Understanding the Human Place in Nature — Spring 2017