The Dualism that Produces Our Attitudes Towards the Environment
and moralistic value types described by Kellert involve a bonding with
nature and a faculty of altruism or kinship toward her. Religions have
formed the basis of many of our attitudes and have contributed to our
primary ethos towards nature. Religions that consider "man"
as a supreme creation, the noblest, or "made in the image of God,"
have defined an environmental ethic that sees nature and indeed all
of creation beneath man and different from man, rather than man as a
part of nature. Ancient religions and traditions, on the other hand,
see nature as our guardians, and humans as part of nature. These ancient
"religions" are mostly philosophies of life—wisdom about
life and living on earth—which derive their tenets from considering
man as part of nature. They accord to nature a power and a role as our
benefactor and our sustenance, and in turn, prescribes our obligations
towards nature and the consequent values and attitudes. Thus Hinduism
and native American "religions" considered pantheistic in
the western worldview accord a sacred quality to all of nature, often
by defining each element of nature as a deity.
and other man-centered religions believe in a single, all-powerful God
who made man in his image and gave him "dominion over the earth."
Historian Lynn White's essay "The Historical Roots of our Ecological
Crisis" attributes the modern exploitation of nature arising from
the abuse of this "dominion," writing that "Christianity
is the most anthropocentric religion the world has ever seen."
This line of belief also engenders dualism, a separation between man
and nature, even man versus nature.
separatism, and reductionism are all paradigms or working principles
that have come under question as we begin to recognize more and more
how intertwined and interdependent all entities and processes are. Dualism
and separatism have long been convenient constructs used by civilizations
in justifying domination of one group over another. While our topic
here is the environment, and the dualism that defines man and nature
as separate, with one superior to the other, dualism has been the principle
behind other types of domination—man over woman, one race over
another, invaders over the invaded "native" or "indigenous"
groups, humans over animals, even one religion over another.
is used to separate the dominating group as the "real," "genuine,"
or normal, and the rest as the "Other." Val Plumwood has described
the attitudes and value judgments, even psychological justifications
that keep the Other separate and inferior and the dominant group in
charge. [Notecard: The literature on these themes developed particularly
as women, and oppressed groups found ways to voice what was going on.
This has since been adapted to the situation of the environment. This
environmental movement is generally called "eco-feminism,"
and is discussed later.]
Dualisms, Plumwood writes, have characteristics that stereotypes the
Other and is used to justify exclusion. The following list of characteristics
are from Plumwood's essay "Paths Beyond Human-Centeredness"
in the book An Invitation to Environmental Philosophy.
marking the other as inferior and radically different in nature. It
is not only recognizing a difference, but differentiation by considering
the other as different in nature and therefore "primitive,"
"uncivilized," "less able," etc.
The Other is seen as "all the same" in their deficiency,
and their social, cultural, religious, and personal diversity is discounted.
Denial, backgrounding: Once the Other is defined
as inferior, it can be ignored. There is no recognition of how the
dominant group depends on the Other for any important or vital aspect
of its existence.
The dominant group is defined a s the one with the "universal"
and "normal" attributes. The difference(s) in the Other is
represented not as diversity but as lack. This becomes the basis for
hierarchy and exclusion. The distinct qualities of the Other are seen
as backward and in need of refinement or civilization. An example of
this characteristic is the special position we accord Western sciences
as based on reason, and reason as the predominant human characteristic.
The Other is seen as not being independent, and in need of protection,
refining, not having (or not being worthy of) rights because she does
not have the intellectual ability and agency needed for independence.
characteristics can be said to apply to the way industrialized societies
have come to treat nature.
each of the above characteristics in the human-environment
relation. Give an example of each or a composite example
to illustrate "anthropocentrism" (or human-centeredness),
which places humans as superior, and the norm and nature/environment
each case, how would you attempt to overcome and remove
this prejudice? Consider both words/rhetoric and action
that would be useful in this respect.
is the other line of thinking that has indirectly led to harm of the
environment. The progress of science and technology has gone hand in
hand, and even owed its rapid rate to this mode of thinking. Reductionism,
or reducing a system into its components and treating the interactions
later or ignoring them altogether, has been a result of scientific,
analytical modes of thought. It has made possible our knowing large
amounts of details bout individual pieces of systems, with little knowledge
about how they fit together. Even realms of knowledge have been reduced
to disciplines as we found the advantages of specialization—that
we can know more, and that we can use and exploit that knowledge more
effectively. Thus what was "natural philosophy" to Aristotle
became specialized as science and philosophy further divided into physics,
chemistry, biology, and so forth. Philosophy in turn was divided into
logic, analysis, hermeneutics and other divisions. Two types of schisms
developed as a result. First, knowledge as represented by science (derived
from the Greek "scientia," meaning "to know") separated
from philosophy, the love of wisdom. Philosophy itself became more analytical
and "scientific." Second, knowledge and the practice of getting
at knowledge through reductionist methods, got separated from ethics,
which provided for reflective practice of linking impacts and standards
of behavior with the doing of science.
there has been an attempt at the understanding of interrelationships.
Systems science, chaos theory, and ecology are all examples of integrative
science that try to understand nature including humans and our technology
as a coherent whole. Industrial ecology is a particularly relevant example
of systems thinking where industry and economy are viewed as systems
interacting with the environmental systems.