Thesis snippets: on closeness

We live in the shadow of a western philosophical legacy that has us convinced of humankind’s separateness from the rest of the world, rather than our integration, entanglement and kinship with it. This has real, and dire, ecological consequences. As William Cronon argues

By imagining that our true home is in the wilderness, we forgive ourselves the homes we actually inhabit. In its flight from history, in its siren song of escape, in its reproduction of the dangerous dualism that sets human beings outside of nature-in all of these ways, wilderness poses a serious threat to responsible environmentalism at the end of the twentieth century.’(William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness: Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” Environmental History 1, no. 1 (1996): 17.)

 

Every decision, conscious or otherwise, to locate nature out there, means a decision to not locate it right here. The disconnect makes it easier to flick a switch to consume electricity from a coal-fired power plant, to drink water from a dammed wild river, to eat food from an industrial-scale agricultural machine. We are removed from nature encounters, though still utterly vulnerable to it, and at its mercy. As ecologist James R Miller observes, ‘not only are direct encounters with nature on the decline, but the encounters that do occur tend to be in environments of progressively lower quality.’ (James R. Miller, “Restoration, Reconciliation, and Reconnecting with Nature Nearby,” Biological Conservation 127, no. 3 (2006)).  A shift in thinking that entangles us with nature in our home environments, our neigbourhoods, streets, backyards, and nearby vistas readies us to protect it far more fiercely than when nature is decoupled from where and how we live. If we are to confine nature to weekend road trips, stunning nature photography, and perhaps our bucolic childhood memories, in so doing we confine our future prospects as a civilisation, perhaps our prospects of surviving at all and most certainly our prospects of surviving well.

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