Pacia Purcell: Nature Part 1

September 20, 2016


In many instances Coates refers to how throughout history and even in today’s age some nature is placed above other nature. These places range from ancient sacred groves to national parks and wildlife preserves. Coates described the Ancient Greeks as having shrines and temples in the most beautiful places that had guards to make sure they were left undisturbed. Coates finds such places to be the “classical national parks” (pg 31). Coates also describes a Cypress tree in California that is protected by law. Another example he uses is the United States law against killing a Bald Eagle, because it is a National Symbol. Coates several examples point out that our biased love of some nature if not a new thing, but has been happening throughout history as well.Although people mean well by protecting these beautiful animals of landmarks and species, do not all places and animals deserve to be treated with such respect?

As Coates describes the history of man’s view of nature and environmentalism it becomes evident that pollution and environmental  degradation are not just modern human’s doing. A quote from Rene Dubos states that the pollution and degradation have always existed, but that “world population constantly increased and the means of destruction became more powerful” (pg 17). Coates describes how Europe was deforested for firewood, which also released greenhouse gases, and to make room for agriculture. Rene Dubos states that “the goat has probably contributed even more than modern bulldozers to the destruction of the land and the creation of deserts” (pg 28). In the Middle Ages, peasants were oppressed and were not able to use much of the land. However, eventually this rule was abolished and the peasants were set loose. The peasants treated the land as if they were the King of it, cutting down “two firs to make a single pair of wooden shoes” (pg 47). All of these examples point to one possible outlook: humans have always thought that they were in charge of nature, instead of a part of nature. Humans have always used nature for their own benefit, never thinking of how they are impacting the environment or others living there. As George Marsh states “Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned to discords” (pg 21).

Elephants, an endangered species, were always thought to be that way because of the ivory trade. This is mostly true, however, its also true that their habitat destruction and use as beasts of war also helped to decimate their population. Elephants could be tamed and then taught to charge, spearing opponents with their large tusks and stomping people into the ground.


In ancient Rome a common form of entertainment came in the form of venationes, or the staged hunts in which professional killers killed animals for an audience. One protest to this absurdity came from Cicero saying “what pleasure can it give to a civilized man when…a noble beast is pierced through and through by a hunting spear?” (pg 38).This practice was also compared to Nazis “who were in many other respects decent and well-balanced individuals, could be conditioned into thinking of such acts as utterly normal” (pg 39). Just as the Nazis would go home to a their loving families, so would the participants and spectators of the venationes. Looking back on these examples modern humans see them for the cruel and intolerable acts that they are, but they turn a blind eye to those happening in the present. Do not the majority of people eat an animal that has been treated with cruelty its whole life and then killed with cruelty, but go home and shower their dog or cat with love and adoration? One again this is the treatment of one species as better than another.

In one section in the Middle Ages chapter Coates describes the effect Christianity plays in the way that humanity regarded nature. Christianity turned the focus from nature to God and God’s children who were created in his image, humans. This separated humans from nature by grouping them with God so therefore superior to nature and other creatures. This furthered the human idea of exploiting nature for their own benefit. Coates also states that the Christian belief in Armageddon furthers humans exploitation of nature, because if the world is going to end why should we take care of it? However, although Christians are above nature and its inhabitants, they do not rule over them (that’s God’s job). Instead God wants humans to be stewards of nature.

Coates also describes the animal trials in Europe. In such trials animals were put on trial for their “crimes.” These ranged from murder to criminal trials. Some examples include:

  • A donkey accused of bestiality was confirmed innocent after witnesses testified of her good behavior and virtue, while her human counterpart was put to death.
  • A rooster was put on trial for the act of laying an egg, which was supposedly spawned by the devil.
  • Many pigs were put on trial and found guilty for murder.

Native Americans are generally thought of as ecologically friendly and are praised for exhibiting the right way to live in harmony with nature. They are at one with nature, taking only what they need when they need it. However this is a broad generalization. Not all Native American tribes lived similarly. Some participated in deforestation for agricultural purposes, some participated in the European fur trade, and according to Paul Martin, some were responsible for the extinction for megafauna such as mammoths and mastodons. The Native Americans had a different way of living than anything Europeans were used to seeing. However, just because it was different does not mean it was more environmentally friendly.


Project Proposal: Campus Sustainability Plan

September 23, 2016



To gain awareness, feedback and support for the Campus Sustainability Plan


Awareness: This step will involve further outreach to the OWU community so that the majority of staff, faculty, and students are aware of the draft of the plan as well as the current state of sustainability on campus. To further the awareness, a interactive online version of the plan with expandable sections and tags will be available along with longer summaries of the visions and details for the specific parts so far as they have already been developed.

Feedback: This step includes meeting with important figures on campus to receive input on the plan. This input will answer the questions ‘What does the campus want out of the plan?’ and ‘What goals are feasible for the campus?’. Meetings will include with Peter Schantz (Head of B&G), Gene Castelli (Head of Chartwells), the Sustainability Task Force, Ryan Bishop and Caroline Hamlin (representatives from WCSA), President Rock Jones, Environment and Wildlife Club, and others. Further drafts of the plan will then reflect this input where possible. The plan will also fill in details where progress is already being made on campus within the four categories.

Support: The culmination of the first two steps, awareness and feedback, will result in the final support of the campus for the final draft. This support will be included in the proposal of the plan to the trustees to show that the plan actually represents (as best as it can) the desires and the abilities of the campus for sustainability projects and policies.

Expected Outcome:

To have a final draft of the Campus Sustainability Plan to be proposed to the Board of Trustees. This draft may not be the final plan approved by the board but will be a baseline for conversations among the board addressing the desires of the campus.

History of Horses in North America

September 21, 2016

By: Amanda Apicella

Since it came up in class and I wanted to look into it a bit more I did some digging on the history of horses in North America and in general.

The Arabian is believed to be the oldest breed of horse, some dating the breed back to around 2500 B.C (source) and is known for its endurance and soundness. Another example of an Arabian horse’s appearance can be seen here.


A white Arabian horse (image from Wikipedia)

When it comes to horses in general its history is quite complex. The genus Equus seems to have originated in North America around 4 million years ago based on the fossil record. They migrated to Eurasia by crossing the Bering land bridge 2-3 million years ago and there apparently have been migrations to and from North America afterwards as well. Although there were several extinctions of Equus species in North America the last of them died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago (the genus still persisted in Eurasia and Africa though).


They were reintroduced to North America by Europeans through colonization and exploration. Native Americans captured and domesticated horses brought over by the Europeans (obtained either through trade, stolen, or re-captured escaped horses) and some tribes ended up being quite skilled in horsemanship and breeding. Although horses were only part of their history for around 150 years (although their ancestors did have experience with them thousands of years ago they were long gone by that time) they are still associated with one another as in many tribes horses became an integral part of their way of life, especially nomadic tribes and the ones that followed/hunted buffalo.

If you want to read more here are some sources:


Nature reading notes and thoughts: Patrick Watson

September 21, 2016

Nature: Western Attitudes Since Ancient Times by Peter Coates took the reader through history with quite an atypical lens. While history has been heavily one sided for as long as written history has been recorded, focusing on religion and war and politics, natural history rightfully made its debut in this book. While I feel I may have missed some of the finer details of this book as it was somewhat dense, the main idea was clear, we need to look at the history of our environments in order to be able to understand and plan for the future of our world.

By cross examining human history with natural history we have the opportunity to finally see the actual impacts us humans have on our environment and what it does to the land. Ancient Greek and Roman farmers utilized the land until the soil was drained of nutrients and then moved, over and over again in a cyclical manner. This shows how the people of the time used the land they had but it never takes into account why people were using and treating the land the way they did. Coates looks at historical thought processes and religions to understand their concepts and views of nature and how that then impacted our interaction with nature. The take over of America is a good example of what Coates was showing I think. The Native Americans worshiped many aspects of nature and viewed it with a sense of mystical power and as such respected and treated the land relatively well. The viewpoint of the colonizers, however, was that they saw themselves as entitled and righteous; they therefore felt enabled and did destroy and take anything they needed from nature with no moderation or return.

While this is just one example that I understood and could visualize easier, the idea of this whole book really enlightened me. How we interact with and impact our environments is strongly influenced by our perspective and attitude toward it. I think that is a vital part of trying to recover and protect our environment now, we need to change attitudes before we can start changing peoples actions.

Notes on Nature

September 21, 2016

By: Amanda Apicella

I found his descriptions of the Western World’s different categories of defining nature throughout history to be quite interesting. The way we define “nature” and the basic concept of it has always been fascinating to me as it is one of those terms we tend to take for granted without realizing how abstract and odd it is in that it isn’t clear cut. The different attitudes and approaches towards what “nature” is and humanity’s relationship with it are diverse and vary with different time periods and cultures. Coates appears to explore much of the grey area that surrounds this term/concept as well as critiquing historical and modern attitudes towards it.

I personally found the part where he quoted C.S. Lewis to be quite thought provoking as I personally had never considered this way of looking at it:

“As C.S. Lewis had mused: ‘If ants had a language they would, no doubt, call their anthill an artifact and describe the brick wall in its neighborhood as a natural object. Nature in fact would be for them all that was not ‘ant-made’. Just so, for us, nature is all that is not man-made; the natural state of anything is its state when not modified by man.'”

It highlights how the very concept of nature tends to be based in an arbitrary separation between humans/our influence and the world around us. It’s origin seems to vary between a sense of humans being superior/”above” the world around us (and therefore nature is subject to us/should be conquered) and humans being inherently “wrong” or almost a force of corruption in which nature is considered “pure” and “moral”. This odd balancing act and a culture’s beliefs about humanity’s relationship with nature (whether a part of nature or separate from) is what causes the term nature to have such a ambiguous and continuously changing meaning. Whether a culture/people views itself as separate from “nature” or a part of it seems to drastically affect its treatment of the world around them and animals. It also allows people to pick and choose what forms of “nature” have value and which do not such as certain animals being devalued as to be used for food and treated cruelly but dogs and cats are loved as pets.

Current Issues: Max Kerns

September 21, 2016

Article: Climate Impacts: Melting Glaciers, Shifting Biomes and Dying Trees in US National Parks

I found this article very interesting. Mainly in the way that it was written. The article is discussing many of the issues that global climate change is effecting and stating that national parks are excellent sources to track this. What I found most interesting was that the article continuously states “Human Global Climate Change” though never really offers any direct correlation to this claim other than to state the obvious conditions. Furthermore, it goes on to say that national parks are pretty much doomed and will only be a remembrance due to biome shifting.  I am not saying that there is not any merit to the dialogue as I think it is important. However, I personally believe the message could have been stated in a better sense, allowing the reader to grapple with the ideas it was referring to, instead of plainly saying this is fact based on, I said so.

Nature, Peter Coates: Max Kerns

September 21, 2016


General Quotes and Ideas:

p. 1 – Nature is often presumed to be an objective reality with universal qualities unaffected by considerations of time, culture and place, an assumption especially evident in appeals to nature as a source of external authority.

So nature itself is a perspective of the cultures that directly interact with it. So that is changes throughout time due to cultural interaction and political motives.

p. 2 – the stages of emergence of dualistic, or so-called ‘homocentric’ and ‘anthropocentric’, thinking

p. 3 – Five historically important categories

                1. Nature as a physical place.

                2. Nature as a collective phenomena of the world or universe.

                3. Nature as an essence.

                4. Nature as an inspiration.

                5. Nature as the conceptual opposite of culture.

p. 5 – This is an interesting concept when dealing with Lucretius’s view, how we are connected to nature but the mind then allows us to perceive this nature we are part of. Curiously makes me wonder how many other species are aware of their place in nature.

p. 29 – Interesting idea as the Pythagoreans see all living creatures as having rational thought.

p. 37 – This is a very interesting transition, from “tenderness towards wildlife” (Greek) to the natural world being controlled by human, for consumption and entertainment (Roman).

p. 49 – The separation of human and nature, human rose above and separated from the natural world. What is particularly fascinating to me is that it suggests God transcends as well as human being made in God’s form.

p. 62 – The idea of technology and the effects it has on attitudes towards nature. There is this concept of humans becoming the exploiters of nature.

p. 75-76 – Descartes, ideas on thinking and existence, with animals not truly in existence but automata, no more able to sense pleasure and pain than a basic clock.   I just think this is an interesting perspective as my clock does not scream when I drop it from the nightstand. I also wonder why the break with animals when the connections were so powerful.  Possibly, p. 80 – we see that it was typically a bad time to go against the word of God, so therefor to make nature fallen, and needing to be rescued this allowed for science to get a foothold.

Thoughts on Nature by Peter Coates (Pessell)

September 21, 2016

I had a really hard time getting into this book. It was really dense and the writing was really dull. In addition to that, it was really similar to many of the other environmental books I read in Environmental Ethics last year.

The book tackled the idea of nature and the ways in which we bring out own morals into it. Human culture and urban spaces are seen as separated from nature. When society discusses nature and the wilderness, it is seen as pure and of the earth. Humans are opposed to this as we destroy the nature to make room for our own pleasures. We pollute the land and are not worthy of the nature surrounding us.

Coates seems to follow many other environmentalists in questioning weather that’s the way things should be seen. We to must follow the same natural laws that a forest does. Our buildings and objects are built out of natural material. Human’s follow their instincts based on feelings and senses like animals, as much as we may want to reject that fact. Coates questions in the first half of the book many of the problems we see as purely human constructed problems such as pollution. He points out that many of these things existed before the dawn of modern civilization and continue to happen in nature today. Species go extinct, forests burn, and greenhouse gases are released all the time throughout natural history. We contribute to that not only as our species but as members of the planet. We do speed up these natural processes, but to say that we are the only ones who contribute would be in error.

Environmental News

The death toll of a huge forest fire and a resulting haze in Indonesia last year has been released, saying that over 100,000 people died from the event. The cause of the disaster was from deforestation to make room for more palm oil plantations. The dry season and strong El Niño helped cause the intense size of the fire. Additional effects of the disaster was that the fires alone caused more greenhouse gases than the entire U.S. on the worst days. (Source)