Week 5 – Coates’ Nature part 1 + Environmental News Item

Thoughts on Nature:

Peter Coates’ views of nature seem to compare similarly to William Cronon’s essay “The Trouble with Wilderness”. Granted, Coates’ book approaches western thoughts on nature as did Cronon’s, so this explains the similarities. Because both readings have been alike, I was able to appreciate Coates’ book on western ideology and attain a better grasp of the concept of nature.

My favorite chapter of the book so far was “The Natures of Nature” (pages 1-17) because of the repetitive topic of the juxtaposition between nature and culture. We are very much determined to compare nature as a separate entity from ourselves that we don’t recognize that nature in and of itself is a human construct. Coates cites a C. S. Lewis quote that I found to be a wonderful analogy in comparing nature and human ideology:

“If ants had a language they would, no doubt, call their anthill an artifact and describe the brick wall in its neighborhood as a natural object. Nature in fact would be for them all that was not ‘ant-made’. Just so, for us, nature is all that is not man-made; the natural state of anything is its state when not modified by man.” (9)

To some, this quote may be extreme and perhaps even silly, but it poses a fantastic point that we are just as ‘natural’ as an ant colony constructing its own home and reshaping its environment. As I have said before upon reading Cronon’s essay, we serve as much of a purpose to reshape our environment as do ants and beavers and any other organism that has the ability to alter the physical landscape. Humans, however, feel entitled to consider anything we do as ‘unnatural’ simply because we have the mental capacity to comprehend that what we are doing could be creating an impact and perhaps damaging the environment. Just because it is damaging doesn’t make it any less ‘natural.’

There are many ways to interpret nature and its overall meaning, but I think that Coates’ research behind his book provides enough evidence to support my definition of nature. While there is much debate about the impact of humans and the ways we change our environment, I know for certain that it is not entirely unnatural.


Environmental news item:

The monarch’s stupendous migration, dissected

This article was inherently interesting because it told a story in a comic book format. It included pictures as well as a lot of context for understanding how monarchs migrate to Mexico in the fall, and how they migrate back north in the spring.

Essentially, monarch butterflies rely on the sun’s rays to guide them where they need to go. When the sun is hidden by clouds, the monarchs’ rely on eyes located behind their compound eyes to detect UV rays emitted by the sun through the clouds. The butterflies also rely on the earth’s magnetic field to get them where they need to go, as do migratory birds. There were many experiments done to conclude that this is how monarch butterflies get from point A to point B.


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