Friday, August 13, 2010

Nature, Humanity and History

Discussed this well known idea in class and came across it in an article. I thought it might be a nice one to share. It is, as mentioned, a well known thought as often seen in nature and climate change television documentaries. It might be comforting to note then, that the idea impacts history as an academic discipline. That was a comfort to me. Also, I just like how this is worded.

"In recent years, many environmental historians have argued that a perceptual division between ideals of "nature" and ideals of "culture" is at the root of many current environmental problems (see, e.g., William Cronon; Richard White; Neil Evernden). The notion that "nature" exists outside of and stands separate from human society and technology presents a challenge for addressing ecological problems in the twenty-first century. Not only does this dominant way of thinking mask many environmental tensions, but also it creates a sense of separation between most people's lived experiences and the environmental impact of their day-to-day activities. To conceive of "nature" as existing separately from "culture" is to deny the sense of interconnectedness that affects all forms of life on Earth. As Neil Evernden argues, "Nature is [. . .] nowhere near as independent or as 'given' as we like to suppose" (xii). For those concerned with addressing twenty-first century environmental issues, a critical re-thinking of what "nature" is and means is necessary....

Cultural production has long dictated the ways in which animals are conceived of and, ultimately, treated in Western society. From novels and fairy-tales to paintings, films, advertisements, and postcards, representations of nonhuman species continually shape the dynamics of interspecies interactions. These representations have firmly solidified the perceptual gap that exists between "nature" and "culture" in North America. In the realm of nature, such animals as bears, deer, and bighorn sheep are conceived of as "wild" and "untamed," while nonhuman animals encountered in spaces characterized by notions of "civilization" fit into very different systems of representation. In urban centres, for instance, nonhuman animals tend to be grouped into categories that label them as either "pets" or "pests," both commonly recognized as resulting from human desires, behaviours, and habits."

Cronin, Keri. "The Bears are Plentiful and Frequently Good Camera Subjects": Postcards and the Framing of Interspecies Encounters in the Canadian Rockies." Mosaic : a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature. Winnipeg: Dec 2006.Vol. 39, Iss. 4;  pg. 77, 16 pgs.


random uni student