Chapter 4: The Advent of Modernity
“Mankind experienced a decisive alienation from nature between the Renaissance and the scientific revolution… people desacralized nature, a process furthered during the enlightenment”
Question 1: How is this “alienation from nature” manifested in today’s society? Are we still in the process of desacralizing nature or did that end with the loss of experiencing nature as a sublime/fear-inducing place in which one could be closest to God?
Coates argues that all of these epochs/events contributed to our modern views and relationship to the natural world/environment.
Enlightenment a.k.a. “The locomotive of modernity”
“The real legacy of the Enlightenment project to humankind has been the subjugation of nature”
Industrial Revolution a.k.a. The watershed between today’s impoverished world and the nature we have lost”
Translated the alienation from, and the desacralization and subjugation of, nature into “highly visible environmental change”
Renaissance: a.k.a. “The spread of urbanization and the emergence of capitalism”
“Nothing has value independent of the human valuer”
“People no longer believed they belonged to the natural world”
Question 2: How do we interpret these claims in today’s society? Do you personally agree or disagree with these sentiments?
Major Religious Sects on Nature
Protestantism: “questioned virtually every existing source of authority save that of humans over the natural world”
Lutheranism: “nature was cursed”
Calvinism: “it was man’s duty to God to subdue the earth”
From humanistic ideology “flowed the modern scientific study of the natural world informed by theory and experimentation”
Renaissance thinkers wanted “to figure out how things worked” and believed that “humans can make the world in which they live”
“The full range of natural phenomena were now considered legitimate for study, entirely knowable and at man’s disposal”
“‘Animals might be strong, but man, because of his superior intellect, was stronger’”
Scientific Revolution a.k.a. “The handmaiden of capitalist modes of production”
“By transforming nature from a living organism into a machine…the new mechanistic philosophy assisted the commodification of nature and fuelled the cancerous ethic of ‘growthism’”
Who we should blame a.k.a. “The Lords of Nature”, “Dead but still Dangerous White European Males,” or “The evil midwives of modernity”
-Nature should be “moulded, enslaved, and penetrated”
-from “what is nature?” to “what can we do with nature?”
-progress is defined as “improvement in the material condition of humanity through ever deeper control of nature”
-”Bacon rendered the square, unbruisable tomato thinkable”
Question 3: Would we still have come to a place where genetic engineering/modification is acceptable if nature was never conceived of as something that could and should be controlled?
-”the act of thinking was the criterion of existence and the status of humans as thinking beings ultimate proof of their separation from the rest of creation”
-animals are “mere automata regulated by the same principles as the clock”
-”French philosopher Rene Descartes didn’t believe animals had souls. To test his theory, he nailed his wife’s dog to a board and chopped it open while the poor thing was still alive.”
-The scientific revolution ”sanctioned the domination of both nature and women”
-”new science was a white middle-class male product calculated to serve this group’s interests”
-”the patriarchal enterprise of modern science debased women by strengthening their association with lust, animalism and diabolism”
-this ideology “retained the femininity of nature” but turned nature into “a woman who can be freely violated”
-Prior to the renaissance, natural disasters were interpreted as punishments for violating the natural environment, Post scientific revolution, however, nature is described as an evil stepmother “who wickedly conceals her bounty from the deserving and needy children”
-Nature who was once depicted as having her clothing ripped away by humans is portrayed in statues as “coyly removing her own veil and exposing herself to science”
Question 4: Do you agree with the claims posited by ecofeminist theorists? Had you ever before considered feminism and environmentalism to be linked?
Question 5: Which of these four time periods (the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution, or the Industrial Revolution) do you believe is most responsible for current environmental problems?