social construction of nature


Berry and Tucker (2006) claim that "such damage to the entire functioning of the planet Earth in all its major biosystems is obviously the consequence of a deep cultural pathology" that is in need of a "deep cultural therapy" (p. 17).


They go on to explain that:

The devastation of the planet can be seen as a direct consequence of the loss of [the] capacity for human presence to and reciprocity with the nonhuman world. This reached its most decisive moment in the seventeenth-century proposal of Rene Descartes that the universe is composed simply of 'mind and mechanism.' In this single stroke, he devitalized the planet and all its living creatures, with the exception of the human. (p. 18)


The accumulated effect was that the earth became a collection of objects, rather than subjects.

The thousandfold voices of the natural word became inaudible to many humans. The mountains, rivers, wind, and sea all became mute insofar as humans were concerned. The forests were no longer the abode of an infinite number of spirit presences but were simply so many board feet of timber to be 'harvested' as objects used for human benefit. Animals were no longer the companions of humans within the single community of existence. They were denied not only their inherent dignity but even their right to habitat. (Berry & Tucker, 2006, pp. 17-18)


Through ongoing speech, action, and other everyday practices in Western culture (and research), the more-than-human are maintained as objects, making an animate, spirited natural world difficult to conceive of. Can one make visible and re-present insights gained from plant, animal and sky-persons with whom one can co-create knowledge, while at the same time maintain a position as a legitimate academic and educator?