Week 5: Nature Pt. 2- SP


Coates does a lot better with the end of the book. Maybe its because i found the topics a lot more interesting. Ancient Greece and Rome aren’t really my first choice when reading about the environment. In his chapter Reassessments of Nature: Romantic and Ecological, I enjoyed when he explains how people are finally caring for the environment. When Coates mentioned the pesticide DDT I recognized it right away. From the 1940’s till about the 1970’s, million of pounds of DDT and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) were being dumped into the ocean off of Southern California. Marine wildlife such as dolphins, seals, fish, and bird species such as the Bald Eagle were greatly effected. As the chemicals made their way through the food chain, we started seeing its effects on Catalina Island. The Bald Eagle ate the fish that were contaminated, and in turn, the eagles were laying eggs with abnormally thin shells that would break when the birds would try and keep them warm. The Bald Eagle population on Catalina dropped significantly from around 35 to almost none, Dr. Sharpe (our high school librarian’s husband) and his team with the Institute for Wildlife studies helped restore the Bald Eagle population. He was lowered into Bald Eagle nests around the Island by a helicopter to retrieve the freshly laid eggs and replace them with artificial eggs. They would then take them to the lab and incubate them. After they hatched they returned them to the nest in which they were laid. On beaches around the island, 5-7 seals would uncontrollably roll around and make awful painstaking noises until they eventually died. This is what was happening from a pesticide! I’m glad Coates mentioned this in his chapter; we definitely saw what could happen as a result of careless human action. Check out the Live feed from a Bald Eagle nest on Catalina!

In the same chapter Coates explains the romantic vs ecological points of view about nature. Many romanticists had sexual references with nature. William Wordsworth in The Prelude (1805) referred to the “flowers and fruit” that nature has to offer as well as women and mother nature. There seems to be a trend of people in history referencing women and nature together. In an article called Nature Being Represented as Woman, women tended to have a more loving, graceful, pure, and gentle demeanor, while men were seen as the independent, hard-working, adventurous kind which didn’t really fit with the ideal nature that everyone thought of. Different languages with gendered nouns may have been part of the association: Old English:  gecynd; Latin: la natura; Italian: la natura; French:  la nature; Spanish:  la naturaleza; Greek:  ÆÍÃ. Each word for nature is made with feminine endings. If I were to choose I would probably pick an ecological point of view. I was happy to see Darwin mentioned in this chapter! It was also interesting to know that not all scientists were environmentalists. Today it seems like if you are in a science field, you are somehow partly associated with environmentalism or sustainability of habitats ect.

His next chapter kind of threw me off guard when he discussed environmentalism and capitalism. Its non very comforting to hear that in a Soviet textbook for 12-14 year olds it read “We must take from the Earth.” It reminded me that not everyone is out there to save the planet. It also encouraged me to think the opposite and to preserve what we have, because just like he says,“real solutions are sought at the individual level.” Another sentence that struck me was how human and nature have been corrupted by western civilization when a child asks, “Daddy, what is the moon supposed to advertise?”

My favorite chapter of the whole book was the last chapter, The Future of Nature. There were a couple interesting viewpoints on nature’s future. According to Francis Fukuyama in The End of History (1989), environmentalists were the greatest threat to history of the human control over nature. He claimed that environmentalists were dangerous enemies because they question the notion of an ever-upward historical trajectory and want a history like it was—when nature was in control. I could see how he saw the relation to environmentalists and nature going down hill because of their association with nature, but he’s got it backwards. Yes, environmentalists are involved but I don’t think they’re hurting the environment. I think another important topic that is brought up is the “new ecology” perspective. No matter where humans are or what they have done, nature is always in a state of flux and will forever change in response to anything that happens to it at any time and space scale.

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