Nature reading notes and thoughts: Patrick Watson

Nature: Western Attitudes Since Ancient Times by Peter Coates took the reader through history with quite an atypical lens. While history has been heavily one sided for as long as written history has been recorded, focusing on religion and war and politics, natural history rightfully made its debut in this book. While I feel I may have missed some of the finer details of this book as it was somewhat dense, the main idea was clear, we need to look at the history of our environments in order to be able to understand and plan for the future of our world.

By cross examining human history with natural history we have the opportunity to finally see the actual impacts us humans have on our environment and what it does to the land. Ancient Greek and Roman farmers utilized the land until the soil was drained of nutrients and then moved, over and over again in a cyclical manner. This shows how the people of the time used the land they had but it never takes into account why people were using and treating the land the way they did. Coates looks at historical thought processes and religions to understand their concepts and views of nature and how that then impacted our interaction with nature. The take over of America is a good example of what Coates was showing I think. The Native Americans worshiped many aspects of nature and viewed it with a sense of mystical power and as such respected and treated the land relatively well. The viewpoint of the colonizers, however, was that they saw themselves as entitled and righteous; they therefore felt enabled and did destroy and take anything they needed from nature with no moderation or return.

While this is just one example that I understood and could visualize easier, the idea of this whole book really enlightened me. How we interact with and impact our environments is strongly influenced by our perspective and attitude toward it. I think that is a vital part of trying to recover and protect our environment now, we need to change attitudes before we can start changing peoples actions.

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