Reply To: Mon 31 March: Science History, Ecology and the Idea of Nature

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History Mon 31 March: Science History, Ecology and the Idea of Nature Reply To: Mon 31 March: Science History, Ecology and the Idea of Nature

Author Replies # Posted on April 1, 2014 at 15:51

Reflection by Yaqi Fu
Question: How does Merchant help us understand Global Environmental History?

From the book “The death of nature” and her lecture, I have got a clear trail of changes on how human viewed nature in different time among Western countries. From the nurturing mother in ancient time to the witch image in renaissance age, and then to subordinates of human’s control, and last to now the partnership with human, nature’s image is always changing. Though examining these changes, I understand more of the global Environmental history in terms of ideas and thoughts.

Among these changes, what I found most interesting or still confusing me is the change from the nurturing mother to witch. This change is by no means trivial, and indeed a big shift. How did it happen? Merchant explained the disorder of nature happened because “the discoveries of ‘new science’”, “the social upheavals” and the release of people’s vices. Although she also admitted, nature is both virgin and witch like woman, what she wanted to stress in the renaissance is nevertheless the witch portrait of nature. But backing to ancient time, she did by no means present the witch side as a part of nature. Then I wondered how the witch nature could hide so long behind the nurturing mother in ancient time until the Renaissance. In common sense, natural disasters should be serious and untamed which made people suffered more before the age science was developed. Probably Merchant did not admit this side in ancient time or because the ancient writers did not provide her such materials or she partially used the records. Whatever, I may think the lack of evilness in ancient nature would be the part she did not explain clearly. What I hope is that she could if possible provide a more comprehensive view about the image of nature in the ancient time.