Nature Notes – Amanda Marshall

Chapter 1:

  • When did we start to “dominate” nature? Or have the dominion mindset
    • Aristotle? Socrates?
    • No human society has ever lived completely inside nature or outside of environmental change
  • Environment studies and conservation are complicated because people view the environment differently
    • Utilitarian verses intrinsic
  • LOVE Thinking like a Mountain
  • Historians did not historically focus on the environment
    • First conservationist environmental history was in 1864 by George Parkins Marsh. Emphasized damage and destruction
    • Isn’t that ethnocentric as well? Animals alter their environment too

Chapter 2:

  • Thoughts on nature were inseperable from scientific, philosophical and religious speculation. They were intertwined
  • Large deforestation in Rome destruction of rivers, over grazed areas,
  • Died of lead poisoning from pipes, in food and wine
  • Not just Christianity, all agrarian and urban societies are anthropocentric
  • Greek deities were nature based
    • The natural world was ordered and sanctified
    • They lived on mount Olympus so shrines were In natural areas
  • But they still clear cutted and killed a lot of non divine animals
  • Aristotle believed that animals had souls, but that these were lesser souls and could still be treated like property
  • Romans flocked to the countryside to cure their “urban ills”
  • Most dramatic affections toward wilderness sprang from hunting
    • Artemis’s grove may be the first nature sanctuary
  • Discusses the coliseum and the violent games
    • Important for social order

Chapter 3:

  • It’s hard to construct how nature was in the distant past
    • Literary accounts can get carried away with their imagery
    • So who knows how things were?
    • Argues that it is still important to study regardless of accuracy
  • Use archeolagy aerial photography, pre-enclosure maps, pollen analysis
  • Britain’s heathlands were previously wooded
  • Danger of overinterpreting records
    • Were the monks scary, and ploughed everything?
  • “In 1086 only 15% of England constituted woodland and woodland pasture” – page 45
  • Bubonic plague led to abandoned fields and towns
  • Landscape = power was a common pattern in this era
    • Lead to most woodlands being owned and privatized land
  • Forests were protected by hunting rights for the upper class
    • Forest Law of king Henry the second
    • Hunting organizations play a big role in conservation today
  • Environmental concern arose in the 1960’s
  • Christianity à Stewardship tradition
  • This bit on St. Francis is interesting. He does not say the word “nature”, but calls animals brother and sister
  • The splendors of nature reflect God’s love and beauty
  • A theme to retreat to the wilderness for spiritual refinement
  • Can the earth’s systems be transformed without loss? – Page 56
  • Peasants believed that the seasons and winter were gods curse
    • Beauty or curse? All about perspective
  • Gardens were potent state symbols

Chapter 4:

  • Has humanity reduced nature to a gas station pump, something to get resources out of?
  • The Renaissance was anthropocentric
  • Some argue that science has caused a divide with nature
    • one could also argue that it has brought us closer through biological and ecological discoveries
  • Has nature taken the back seat as we learn more and more about how the world works?

Chapter 5:

  • Arguing that economics have caused our attitude and abuse of the environment
    • Makes the point that Christianity may have kept this in check a bit
  • La Casas, “going native”, nice to hear about a humanistic conquistador
  • Brings up that ecocide goes along with genocide
  • Native Americans were likely proto-ecologists, and looked at relationships and systems in the environment
    • Not necessarily perfectly living within nature
  • Oh boy, the Pleistocene extinction again. Was it people or climate change?

Chapter 6:

  • Landscapes are comprehensive and cultural. It encompasses everything we see in our surroundings
  • No true “untouched” landscape
  • Environmental extremists existed in the 1600’s
  • In the 1700’s it became fashionable to privatize and convert woods to hunting lands
    • Were fond of managed gardens and manicured nature
  • This chapter makes me want to garden
  • Wilderness was something you molded nature from

Chapter 7:

  • Page 125: “The new youth movement sought out nature not ‘as a holiday from what is real. They go to nature as a source. The salt water of the sea is the salt water in their blood. The forest is where they came from, it is the place where they feel closest to themselves, it is renewal.’”
  • Page 127: “The sound of the wind in the trees was sweeter to them than any symphony.”
  • Are people freed by nature and enslaved by man?
  • If nature is good, than is human nature good?
  • Change of questioning in Britain in regards to animal treatment. Went from “Can they reason?” to “Can they suffer?”
    • Overflowed into slave and child labor
  • The search for “picturesque” alienates/excludes many landscapes
    • Do all landscapes have value? Or only the “pretty” ones?
  • Page 133 “From my youth upwards, my spirit walked not with the souls of men, My joy was in the wilderness.” – Lord Byron
  • When we experience nature are we getting “physical and nervous regeneration or spiritual assurance?” Or both?

Chapter 8:

  • Many shades of “green”
    • Utilitarian verses intrinsic
  • Page 153: “A filthy smokestack is still a filthy smokestack whether it is owned by the state or a private corporation.”
  • Are real solutions sought at the individual level?
  • Underprivileged people suffer from the environmental degradation as well


  • The author criticized famous “green” thinkers who happened to be inspired by Thoreau, but he did not critisize Thoreau. His Walden experience wasn’t 100% genuine

Chapter 9:

  • Is nostalgia and environmentalism a threat to the future?
  • “Nature” will not die, the wilderness will
  • Is gene spicing ethically different from selective breeding?
  • Our tastes in nature are manipulated by our culture and society
  • We don’t need to “move back to nature” we just need to move “elsewhere”


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