Saturday, February 19, 2011

Philosophy: Objectifying "the" Environment

Of all of the debates that fall prey to absurd polemicism, protection of the environment is one of the worst. On either side of the debate, you seem to have people entirely incapable of discussing a concern that by all rights they should both share. The liberal side seems willing, at times, to die for the environment, and to treat as callous an evil anyone who will not. On the other side, concern for the environment is seen as a kind of pagan madness.

The problem in the debate about the environment is... well... just that - "the" environment. That we talk this way indicates a mistaken psychology. Speaking of "the" environment says that we have objectified it, made it into a thing other. It is that objectification which radicalizes the debate. Do we or do we not sacrifice to care for this thing. But the environment is not a thing, not in the way a shoe or a rock is a thing. It is not, properly speaking, the environment, but our environment. Our environment emerges out of a vast network of trees, and rocks, and people, our environment extends beyond us, it supports us, and, in shaping us, it is even a part of us. This is not the "our" of possession, but the "our" of inclusion, the our we use to speak of our own bodies - it is in us and we are in it. If we recognize this, the radicalism on both sides should disappear. We could not pretend it was a thing disconnected from us to which we owe no fealty, but we could likewise not see it as some static other to be nobly sacrificed to.

1 comment:

  1. I've discovered there is an entire blog on this subject at