Humanity & Nature Are Not Separate

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Though a varied and complex story, the widespread separation of humans from nature in Western culture can be traced to a few key historical developments, starting with the rise of Judeo-Christian values 2000 years ago. Prior to this point, belief systems with multiple gods and earth spirits, such as paganism, dominated. They generally considered the sacred to be found throughout nature, and humanity as thoroughly enmeshed within it. When Judaism and Christianity rose to become the dominant religious force in Western society, their sole god – as well as sacredness and salvation – were re-positioned outside of nature. The Old Testament taught that God made humans in his own image and gave them dominion over the Earth. In the early 17th century, French father of modern philosophy René Descartes framed the world as essentially split between the realm of mind and that of inert matter. As the only rational beings, Descartes saw humans as wholly separate from and superior to nature and nonhuman animals, who were considered mere mindless machines to be mastered and exploited at will. Descartes’ work was hugely influential in shaping modern conceptions of science and human and animal identities in Western society. According to Val Plumwood, the opposition between reason and nature also legitimized the subjugation of social groups who came to be closely associated with nature – women, the working class, the colonized, and the indigenous among them.

Original Article:

Humanity and nature are not separate – we must see them as one to fix the climate crisis by Heather Alberro, 2019.

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