Reading the first few chapters of Nature, by Peter Coates, was a refreshing departure from 19th century style Romanticism that seems to be so common in any discourse on nature. I particularly enjoyed the second and third chapters for their review of historical conceptions of nature. It was really interesting to read about how even the ancient Romans sought to escape the stress of city life for the quietness of the countryside. I was also glad that Coates decided to mention the theory of how over exploitation of resources contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. It is a worryingly similar reflection to what is happening today, except instead of deforestation and insufficient grain we have global warming and depletion of the fossil fuels that we so heavily depend on.
It was also very fascinating to read about how the evolution of dominant theologies effected human perceptions of nature. From the ancient shamanistic cults that revered certain flora and fauna as having some kind of divinity to the patriarchal and polytheistic beliefs of the Greeks, who were certain that man was above animal while at the same time recognizing a degree of holiness to certain plants and animals, sometimes even attributing them to a particular god. I especially enjoyed the representation of how Christianity has been read to be both in favor of nature and against it. While the book of Genesis can be seen as vindication for those who believe that the rest of the earth exists for humanity’s convenience and exploitation, it can also be argued everything created by god is holy and is meant to multiply just as humans do. One quote from C.S. Lewis that nicely puts things in perspective is about how if ants could speak, they would call their anthill an unnatural construct while seeing a brick house made by humans as part of nature.
An interesting article I found about the pollution caused by pig farms. The global livestock industry is an underestimated contributor to environmental degradation that doesn’t get discussed anywhere near as much as fossil fuels, and it deserves more attention.