As far as thought processes go, the first thing that comes to most peoples minds when they think of the word “nature” is pretty straightforward: the natural world, the physical environment which life on earth has developed. Most often this comes in the form of greenery: forests, woods, lakes, waterfalls, and such images pop up.
Coates plays with this though, in that we look at what definitions of nature to use. The basic existence of plants and animals without human intervention? Too simple, humans themselves developed out of a particular thread of animals, and it is possible for other species to develop and evolve as well. At any rate, he looks at the attitude that various cultures and societies in history have had towards nature, and how it has developed.
Now while I enjoyed the structuring of the book for its “civilizations” theme, I did feel that it at the same time lacked focus: things seemed disjointed a lot of the time. A lack of flow or organization. He kind of took a lot of what other people said and just expanded on it: indeed the citations page is almost 50 pages long!
The author did bring some interesting thoughts to the table though. Do humans base their values and morals and societies out of their own minds, or do they adjust them according to what the surrounding environment affords them?
What I did enjoy is the section ascribing the role of Christianity in telling people about their dominion over nature, a very clear stance. One that lead directly to the Industrial Revolution in Britain, the use of coal and new technologies to develop economies, and responsible for more after that, including the excess pollution of industrial London, the development of the urban city and work place, the expansion of territory in search of materials and land, conquest and the development of commonwealth nations and their relationships to the mother country, the Marxist counter to this and Lenin’s development of the Soviet Union out of those philosophies.
Overall, a decent read here.