The second section of Coates’s Nature struck an odd tone, for it seemed significantly more eclectic than the first half of the book. Indeed, the historical progression of nature’s perception was abandoned in favor of an assorted look at how differing ideologies process and address our relationship to the land. Of course, the only thing that appears consistent is that humanity’s treatment of “nature,” no matter how eco-friendly it seems, is merely a reflection of ourselves. To speak of nature is to indulge oneself in anthropocentrism. In part of his lengthy discussion on enclosures and landscapes, Coates offhandedly states that “A ‘place’ was not found, but made” (Coates 115). Here, he is referring to the historical reservation on acreage in Britain for leisurely purposes as opposed to exploitation for natural resources. The point, however, is that regardless of how that acreage is used, it is still an expression of human dominion. Still, at least this acknowledgement can be admired, for it is self-aware and authentic. If one is to practice landscaping, it is far better to embrace the style of Henry Hoare II, with his infused statuary and classicism, than that of Capabilities Brown’s pastoralism. At least the former openly admits, by way of design, that it is an artifice which reflects the inclinations of its demiurge.
This embossment of personal predilections or ideologies on the landscape obviously exceeds the realm of gardening. In demonstration of a more impactful example than landscaping, Coates brings attention to the unsteady relationship between socialism and environmentalism. He uses numerous examples, and many indicate socialism’s tendency to advocate for a position of human dominance. Marx thought that “natural resources should be managed on a sustainable basis,” while Engels noted that “The earth’s surface, climate, vegetation, fauna, and the human beings themselves have changed, and all this owing to human activity” (Coates 149). In the situations where mankind is compared to nature, as Kropotkin did in his defense of mutual cooperation, nature is still subordinate to a specific outcome for humans. In this case, nature merely served as a means for justifying an ideology. Although not necessarily socialist in nature, the deep ecology movement is also paradoxically anthropocentric. As Coates puts it, “deep ecologists deny humans any rights over nature” (Coates 154). To even discuss rights in conjunction with “nature,” one must impose a kind of framework for adjudicating rights. In turn, denying rights to humans in respect for nature is left up to human powers, who must enforce it somehow. In order to enforce it, however, it must have some jurisdiction over nature in order to keep it segregated, much as how the police will enforce a restraining order. However, the entire framework of rights is, albeit debatably, a human-forged illusion, and by introducing rights with nature as the defendant, the deep ecologist is engaging in a kind of legal or ideological oppression of nature. By even seeking to rid oneself of any authority over the natural world, one is condemning oneself to defining it. That is to say, shaping what nature is into one’s own vision, and this is the embodiment of authority.
Admittedly, this post has been a bit of a ramble, though it does express some of my thoughts on the many things Coates introduced throughout the book. The largest takeaway from Nature is, I think, the question of whether or not the construction of “nature” is a discursive or recursive phenomenon. Do we ever consult the natural world when we are imprinting our ideologies, the latter, or do we blindly imprint ideologies in succession over time, the former? To put it another way: does the signifier, us, ever consult the signified, nature, over the sign, “nature”? Ultimately, I don’t think we do, or I think that the process of creating nature is always a discursive process. We don’t continually reflect on the current state of affairs of nature when discussing “nature.” After all, we’ve already been inculcated with enough ideologies that have already determined what “nature” is for us, the real nature aside.
Scientists have acquired evidence that a certain species of octopus, octopus tetricus, actually builds so-called “cities” in the ocean. These “cities” are described as artificial reefs comprised of clam and scallop shells, which were fashioned into dens for the octopuses to occupy. Apparently, however, these octopuses are quite quarrelsome, for they will frequently try to evict their neighbors from their respective dens.