Immediately after starting this book I realized why students in the past have disliked it. This book is a lot like a text book. A few pages in I then realized the book’s redeeming qualities that justify its return each semester. Peter Coates knows his stuff. There are so many random things I wouldn’t have even cared about before reading this book. Just by the title the book seems fairly boring Nature: Western Attitudes Since Ancient Times. I expected this book to be another boring historical novel, in a way it is, but these facts are actually interesting. Now, I realize we wouldn’t be reading some terrible book if it has been used for multiple semesters past, but I was still a little skeptical.
Page seven illustrated one of my favorite points in the first half of the book: the suburban lawn. Coates says, ” the suburban lawn may seem an unlikely choice but it illustrates nicely the clumsiness of the received categories of nature and culture”. Although grass is a part of nature it is something we have domesticated and now know as nothing close to nature. The lawn, just as the seed, could be seen as a part of nature, but anyone in their right mind would not consider a lawn nature. After so much domestication lawns are so far away from natural. Coates poses the question whether a lawn could ever be a part of nature. Do we have to let it become overrun with dandelions? I believe as long as the lawn is being used by humans it can’t be nature. How could it be?
Would a lawn placed in the middle of a forest, even if it is never used by man, part of Nature with a capital “N”?
Early on in the Book nature as an advertising technique was discussed. Maybe it was my lack of attentiveness, but other than Marlboro, Michigan, and Irish Spring I had never really noticed nature being “exploited” in this way.
When reading about the royal forests and how they were preserves of sorts another example of exploitation was presented by Coates. He says when people were granted access to the forests they were immediately exploited. I did not find this surprising, but it did find it interesting that immediately when given the chance humans exploit things. Just as Coates says some of the rationale behind this is Christianity. I am not attacking anyone’s faith, but to follow god’s words fully each “man” has to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).A Christian Environmental Group
1. How much hace Christianity and other religions affected nature recently?