Nature: Western Attitudes Since Ancient Times- Peter Coates

In this book Coates talks about nature and the history of how people interact and view it. I did think at times he might have contradicted himself with some examples. Coates outlined the major understandings of ‘nature’ in the western world since classical times, from nature as higher authority to its more recent meaning of threatened physical space and life forms.

One main idea that i was able to pull from the book was the idea of different types of nature “nature as a physical place; nature as the collective phenomena of the world or universe; nature as an essence, quality, and/or principle that informs the workings of the world or universe; nature as an inspiration and guide… and source of authority; and nature as the conceptual opposite of culture”

Coates’s chief contention, that nature itself is something we rarely encounter now. What we pass through, and plough or chop down, and photograph or paint or write about, is almost nowhere the stuff that either issued from the hand of God or grew out of what Darwin called the ‘self-developing energies’ of the cosmos.

Unlike many others, this book places the history of attitudes to nature within the story of human-induced changes in the material environment. And few others take a supranational perspective, or cross the divides between historical eras.

A distinctive unifying theme is Coates’s interest in how ‘green’ writers over the last thirty years have interpreted our past dealings with nature, specifically their efforts to diagnose the roots of contemporary ecological problems and their search for ancestors. He concludes with a discussion of the future of nature in the context of developments such as the ‘new’ ecology, global warming, advances in genetic engineering and research on animal behavior.

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