Nature: Part II

As I read the second half of Coates’ Nature, I had the following overarching conclusions of the book:

  • We are an important part of nature’s history just as we are an important part of this history of nature.
  • Going back to Coates’ original argument of the five definitions of nature I think we can now conclude that nature is not a simple, objective idea, but instead a concept that is shaped in historical context by time, culture, and place.
  • We must separate our perception of nature as a physical place and recognize how cultures are not in opposition of nature, but shaped by them by their attitudes toward nature and utilization of it.
  • Nature is a foundation for religion, science, and social attitudes (gender, ethnicity).

One thing that I found interesting was the objectiveness of the book. Coates was acting only as a historian, providing context only in the sense of facts. He does not elude to his own opinions of what nature is or is not, which I found both frustrating and admirable. I felt that this is what made the book so difficult to read in places – you had no idea what the author actually believed or agreed with because he continuously contradicted his passages by providing different perspectives.

Aside from this realization, my opinion of the book did not changed. I remained to be simultaneously fascinated and bored. I found chapter 6 to be one of the driest in the book while chapter 9 was quite powerful.

One passage in particular I would like to bring forward from chapter 8:

                “According to the deep ecological world-view, ‘we the people,’ who drive too many cars, use too many disposable nappies and eat too many hamburgers, must shoulder direct responsibility for our ecological predicament, instead of palming it off onto some wicked military industrial complex, fat-cat elite, or exploitive economic order. ‘Real’ solutions are sought at the individual level.” (154)

I found this passage particular provoking when reflecting on the lecture on Monday. The speaker definitely did not have a deep ecological world-view in a sense. While she (rightfully) blames people for the environmental crises of today, she does not think solutions can be found at an individual, stating that we only participate at an individual level for personal ethic, not because we can find solutions on such a small scale. What would Coates have to say about this?

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