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

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Sabbath Sunday # Posted on April 2, 2014 at 09:00

Reply to Mirabel’s reflections by Sabbath Sunday

I agree with you Mirabel in your introduction that there is still a challenge in linking human/cultural and natural histories in order to strengthen our perceptions in environmental history as a multidisciplinary field. This is perhaps because individual disciplines are still ‘protective’ and conservative of their fields. However, the real issues being raised in environmental history require scholars and learners like us to make compromises and shed off the old thinking. Carolyn Merchant is a good example of this observation because in her book, she balances natural history with human/cultural history. Her philosophy of nature as a organic whole in the metaphor of a productive ‘woman’ who has been subjected to domination and degradation in time and space calls for natural history analysis. Meanwhile, the history of humans/culture is depicted in the intensification of exploitation of ‘Mother Nature’ through power and technology which she calls ‘mechanistic nature’.

I am attracted to your mentioned ‘partnerships ethics’ which I agree with because it brings worthwhile ideas which have been agreed on by everybody and can stand the test of time. This actually brings us very close to sustainability as you may know that in order to restore/rehabilitate the environment some long time programmes must be drawn basing on ethics and respect for ‘Mother nature’. The main issue here is to ‘live and let live’. If all mankind were in a collective ethical partnership in conservation and sustainable development then nature would be in harmony with humans. This takes us again to the issue of ecofeminism which I think is a call for gender balance in the ‘partnership ethics’ to protect nature. Needless to say, Carolyn Merchant’s approach to this discourse is ecofeminist because she develops her perceptions of nature in the picture of a woman who has been dominated and humiliated who needs to liberate ‘herself’. However, the onus is on all mankind (both women and men) if we have to continue surviving in harmony with nature. In fact the ‘partnerships ethics’ should be gender sensitive and also between the rich and the poor.

Finally, until today the unfavourable and exploitative relationship between the organic and the mechanical world still looms, but if environmental activism/idealism were intensified, of course including ecofeminism; decision making and policy formulation would be redirected for positive results. Thank you Mirabel for raising these issues.