Early Morning Reflections

Hello there blog family!

This is no surprise to me that I am writing my blog post at the last minute. I thrive (and freak) on procrastination. It is something I tend to dislike about myself, but then again continue to work under the last minute again and again.

I wanted to begin by saying a little about myself and my excitement for the course. Please do not mistake my procrastination as a sign of disregard for the course. I promise this is my go to game plan for every class I am taking…I always tell myself, no worries Melissa, you work better under pressure! Please tell me I am not the only one who lies to their self this way?!

I am an environmental studies minor with no background in Art (except of course the required Art History class). Fear of the unknown has become excitement as I relish in our required readings and art pieces. I hope to gain a better understanding of Art and its constant and ever changing influence on the current “environmental movement”. I also cannot wait to critique National Parks in a way that has never been done before; at least in my history of understanding the parks as beautifully preserved landscapes.

Next, I would like to reflect on Roderick Nash’s reading: “Old Work Roots of Opinion”. In the ES 300 course Eco-Resistance in Appalachia we discussed a lot about “cultural legacies” and I could not help but make particular connections between Malcolm Gladwell’s Ouliers and Nash’s reading. I love when that happens! I feel as if I am building knowledge for my environmental studies minor, and that I did not waste 800 big ones on a class that “I will never use again! Grrrrr” (That was me talking to myself again). I am going to do a bit of a review of the article for anyone that may have not read it and then come back to those connections I was telling you about. Bear with my scattered, ADD brain. 

Nash explains that Europeans and the initial inhabitants of the New World saw wilderness as a place of fear. He goes on to say that “safety, happiness, and progress all seemed dependent on rising out of a wilderness situation” (9). I must point out that this was also a common theme within Appalachia. Mythology and folk tales describe beasts and hairy half goat half men inhabiting the wilderness; they were to be fear and avoided at all cost. 

I know, I know…movies like Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings have made these characters look “cool” and worth meeting these days (which is a whole other topic for a free form) BUT back in the day, these were feared creators that would steal your young and rape your woman. Not anything to go dancing through the woods in order to encounter and drink magical tea with. What Nash makes known is that folk tradition in the West scared people of wilderness.

But folk tradition isn’t the only piece of Western tradition that gives fear the power to rule the wilderness. Judeo-Christians as a majority feared the wilderness. It was a place of unknown and sin. If God was happy with them the wilderness would be prosperous and just the opposite if he was unhappy with man. The wild country or what is understood as the desert was understood as a dry place where the devil resided and the sinful sentenced. Now there are some exceptions, like with St. Francis of Assisi who preached to animals as equals, but he was looked upon as a bit of a nut because that clearly contradicts Genesis 1:28 where God clearly places Man in charge and over rule of the birds, bees, and beasts.

This brings me to an interesting contradiction that Nash brings to our attention. In the far East the most popular religions include Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. These practices have a specific respect for nature as oppose to the Western ideas of being above nature and thus feeling responsible for concurring the vast unknown. He states that the Eastern countries link God and the wilderness instead of contrasting them. The most interesting thing I found about this comparison is that “Chinese and Japanese landscape painters celebrated wilderness over a thousand years before Western artists” (21). A THOUSAND YEARS! That is a heck of a long time y’all and I do think this has affected who we have become today as nations.

Today, we can still see a huge cultural attitude difference between the East and West with regards to wilderness and its preservation. Now, it is obvious that the West has infected and thus affected countries such a China and India with the American and European desire to consume consume consume! Extract, extract, extract! But there is an obvious contrast in day to day way of life in Eastern countries compared to the West that has stayed with these countries; a “cultural legacy” as Malcolm Gladwell puts it in his work Outliers.

One example that comes to mind is in India where there are specific zones of land set aside that are specifically GMO free. The American corporation Monsanto has brought their crap corporate practices to India and now they are fighting back. Americas dirty, polluted, over (mass) consuming/ producing, way of life is looked down upon by Easterners. (Can you blame em’?)

So my connection since reading Nash and understanding the idea of cultural legacies is the past ideas of wilderness in the West: fear of the unknown and thus desire to conquer and own, versus the East: living within and respecting wilderness, has greatly affected how we now view wilderness. I hope that makes sense. I am saying that since we westerners have been brought up for thousands of years (with folk tales and religion) to fear nature that is the exact reason we have so little left! the primitive man “appreciated what contributed to his well-being and feared what he did not control or understand” (8). So therefore we have learned to cheat God in a way with our advanced technology. The East has held on to the love and respect of wilderness and when we do not see that respect it seems to be a reflection of the West onto the East.

Hope you guys continue to seek and understand cultural legacies and how they can certainly affect how we live and respect the earth as a whole.

Until next post. 🙂

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