Nature Peter Coates Ch. 1 – 5


  • Nature seen as an “objective reality…source of external reality”
  • Coates considers the ideological verses the material factors which have changed society’s perception of nature
    • These changes have led us astray from living aside nature, to an attitude of living above nature. Coates wants to know what led this shift and when it happened.
    • He explores attitudes of reverence, non-monetary value, and reaction to the consequences of mistreatment and overuse

Historical categories for nature: “nature as…”

  1. physical place
  2. collective phenomena in universe
  3. essence that controls the inner workings of the universe
  4. inspiration or authority over human affairs
  5. the conceptual opposite of culture
  • Nature as the cosmic setting of life goes back to the Romans in 55BC

Charles Wilson Peale’s Artist in his Museum–the necessity of having a place to preserve and study natural elements in America even in the early 1800’s (1822); nature as spectacle

  • “We actively manage nature to keep it in a desirable state” HOWEVER “Nature’s dynamism and redemptive tendencies raise profound questions for those seeking to preserve nature” — brings up question of why use human efforts to preserve something that innately changes and adapts on its own?
  • culturally selected wilderness, man curates landscapes; we have not created the natural world but we have design and conceived “nature”
  • “We see in nature what we have been taught to look for, we feel what we have prepared to feel.” – Marjorie Hope Nicolson

  • Wilderness as a Western construct used to control and subvert flora, fauna, and other humans. Wilderness as the unpredictable habitat for dangerous animals and savage people (to colonialists.) Associations of disorder and chaos in the “wilderness” led to a cultural phenomena of racism…that brown and black peoples are waiting to be “saved” from their chaotic lives and violent disorder. This concept is derived from power sources within White culture–royalty seeing the wilderness as a place of wealth, mysticism, hunting, and folly; from poets and artists came romanticism and associations of beauty, joy, and solace…all ideas creating a greater cultural impression that nature is made for us and exists at our disposal.
  • Environmental history is new, arose from the deconstruction of sources of oppression and mistreatment
    • Interesting: London air quality was already aggravated from wood and sea coal burning since the 13th century. Pollution is not a 19th century invention
    • p. 18 Idea that oppression and mistreatment is a part of the history of environments. That we must deconstruct and acknowledge this history in order to liberate what remains from its past and into a new era a conservation history.
  • “The relation of man to nature is is excluded from history and hence the antithesis of nature and history is created.”

  • Nature is a principle and process
  • Transition from Gods as one with earth into a Judeo-Christian conception of God (after whom humans were designed to be) removes us from the context of nature
    • Religions prior to Christianity are more liken to “earth care”
    • Bronze Age eco-matriarchy: art containing women as Gaia devoid weapons. Idea that a society can take care of earth, that power is not synonymous with violence and submission
  • Nature as time keeper: clockmaker as to clock, so is nature to God
  • Nature as neutral
  • p. 85 quote on imperialism

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