Uncommon Ground

“…Environmentalism has often asserted its moral authority by invoking nature as an uncontested and transcendent category whose appeal is so compelling that no right-thinking person could resist it. As soon as we label something “natural,” we attach to it the powerful implication that any change from its current state would degrade or damage the way it is “supposed” to be. But in fact we are rather selective about the parts of nature we choose to view in this way. It is in some sense “natural” that very large numbers of human beings should die from epidemic disease each year, and yet this does not prevent the vast majority of people – to say nothing of the entire infrastructure of modern medicine – from trying to resist that fate. Manipulating landscapes and growing seasons to produce agricultural crops is of course a profoundly unnatural enterprise, and yet almost all of the human race depends for its survival on doing just that. Indeed, civilization itself could hardly be less “natural” – even though it is civilization which has spawned modern environmentalism and taught us to value nature in the highly civilized ways we now do.”

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Uncommon ground – rethinking the human place in nature edited by William Cronon