Maria – Reflections on Science and Poetry on 6 October

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History Maria – Reflections on Science and Poetry on 6 October

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October 7, 2014 at 20:16 #14903

The discussion concerned our relation to “romantic ecology” and “ecological sensitivity” and what art can do to make people understand the scientific description of the natural world inclusive ourselves, and take action for the environment. Much of the content was recognized from texts we have studied in previous courses on human/society ideas about and impact on the environment. Midgley writes about the scientific view of the Earth relative to the theory of Gaia about the globe. I find her description interesting and agree to much of it, but have difficulties to see the Earth as an organism, even though you easily could make a metaphor with the human body. She also discusses human rights and morality, and our self-knowledge, with respect to what and how nature has a right. The human society is dependent on natural resources for surviving, so what economic rights do we give to “nature”.
The next part of the seminar was to talk over the pieces we had chosen linked to nature and our relation to nature. By this way we had narratives instead of academic texts for a discussion about relation to nature. I found this concept to work out very well, and it was highly interesting to listen to what the class mates had chosen and why. I looked up quotes on Internet by looking for “beautiful nature quotes” and found a lot of knowledgeable sentences. I chose a quote from “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” I found this encouraging and considerate, although I do not believe that nature will “survive” or that we according to the Gaia theory can cure the earth. It is too late for several reasons; overpopulation, overconsumption, greediness, ignorance and short term thinking, which unfortunately overwhelms politics and economics. Still, we all have the moral duty to act responsibly towards the environment that actually is necessary for our survival. Other poetry texts, which actually easily made me get a clear vision of how different you can describe nature and compare human and “environmental” nature. Like, for example, the famous Chinese poem about a waterfall, referring to other natural phenomena instead of comparing with human nature, or the description of the Dutch winter, a very grey and depressing picture. Another example was a Slovenian lullaby about the desire for a dead beloved woman. I found the idea innovative and seminar was very inspirational.

October 8, 2014 at 10:19 #14909

Response to Maria’s Reflection.

Your scientific background provided an interesting insight as always! All of our diverse backgrounds usually make a well rounded discussion, and in this seminar your perspective helped give us all an alternative way to see things. Sometimes it is difficult to know to what extent different scholars are dealing with a rift in academia, to me, Gaia theory is just one of many theories and I do not have the background to implicitly know how it was received on the ground. It is interesting to hear how organism metaphors work in some directions, yet you have difficulty with it entirely fitting with the earth. Just goes to show that there needs to be a more open manner in which we teach and are taught. It seems if the end result is a similar respect for the planet and its boundaries, then it is silly to get caught up in which teaching method should be universally accepted.

I quite like the quote you brought in. Carson has a very poetic way of writing, and this excerpt illustrates it excellently. I like that you focused on a quote with optimism despite feeling much more pessimistic about the whole affair yourself. I suppose it just shows the longing for optimism if nothing else.

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