Zak Hill Week 6 Coates: Nature Part 2 Response


The second part of Coates’s novel Nature was very interesting, and brought a lot of new ways of thinking about our relationship to nature.  I thought the most interesting point of this section was about how when white Americans first discovered the Yosemite valley the Native Americans were already utilizing the natural features of the valley to their fullest potential.  He brings up many points about America’s romanticism with nature, and how views of conservation have affected our relationship with nature.  In this section, he talks about how Native Americans used the land to the fullest potential but still knew to only use enough that could be sustainable for the environment around them.  This is in stark contrast to the case of Easter Island which I learned about in my GEOG 347 class, where the natives overused the natural resources of their environment, and it inevitably drove them to ecological suicide.   This view that they are responsible for the well-being environment makes sustainable practices easy, and commonplace.  He also describes nature as giving us a scope of imagination, but natural scenes are framed because it paints a picture for the viewer of what nature is rather than experiencing it for themselves.  National parks are viewed in this way because the social construct of what constitutes a national park has been painted in our heads instead of deciding what nature means to ourselves.  In Nature, some are said to feel a sense of sublime, but Immanuel Kant said that you must feel an internal sense of horror to understand the sublimeness of nature.  I feel insignificant when I am out in nature, that if I was not there, it would still continue to exist.  The vastness of diversity in nature is amazing and never ceases to strike my wonder.  However when you account for population, and everyone’s impact on the environment there lies the sustainability problem.  Then when our society tells that gaining success is through acquiring land we are left with how to conserve what parts of the environment we haven’t yet touched.

I thought his point about the economy affecting our relationship with the environment was a very intriguing point, and had a lot of validity.  He attributes part of the reason of social injustice with nature stems from the social construct of nature as property.  He claims that the privatization of land is solely for the rich to enjoy the spoils fo being in nature.  That wealth is an inequitable standard of claiming land.  The way our economy works, and the way people acquire success is through material gain. You can acquire material gain through claiming land.  The idea that you can claim the land as yours, and privatize the land for selfish purposes is the exact difference between our society today, and the Native Americans.  People believe that we only just started affecting the natural world around us around the time of industrialization, but Coates argues that we have been affecting the environment since the start of time.

For this weeks news article, I found mine in the  Washington Post, and it is about my home state.  Maryland is currently suing the EPA for not placing emissions restrictions or pollution reductions in five upwind states from Maryland including Ohio.  They are suing them because, “They did nothing.”  States like Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia and Ohio have 36 power plants that are sending harmful emissions down into Maryland via the wind.  These states are all upwind of Maryland and their pollution is in violation of The Good Neighbor Provision.  Back in July, the original extension of the implementation of this act expired, and these states did nothing to reduce their impacts from these plants.  I just thought this article was interesting because it was about both places I call home, and will have a large impact on the policy that regards the environment around me.




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