Natural Environment and Human Beings Essay

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Ecocriticism & Nature

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Phillips (1999, p. 578) in his article “Ecocriticism, literary theory, and the truth of ecology” asks a question: what is the truth of ecology, as well as what is the truth that is addressed by literature? And also, such questions are frequently asked by many other ecocritics (Phillips 1999, p. 578). Ecocriticism has been a hot topic among scholars and there have been many cultural debates around the topic in recent years (Phillips 1999, p. 578). What is ecocriticism? Glotfelty and Fromm (1996, p. 107) defines it in this way: “ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment”. The definition shows that ecocriticism is a study which is around nature or ecology, which is different from the human world where there are products made by human beings. But what is nature or what is wilderness? There are two different ideas towards the concept. According to Hess (2009, p. 87), nature lies where there are no humans and where the human impacts are absent from the areas. But some other scholars think that nature actually contains all natural things, and human beings as one part of the natural creature forms one part of the nature. Accordingly, Barry (2002) in his book “Beginning theory: an introduction to literary and cultural theory” concluded such situation of debates as a kind of struggle to define nature. From the two texts of “The cows on killing day” and “what is ‘wilderness’? Why protect it? A mission for the future...”, some concepts of ecocriticism can be found and analyzed based on several debates between nature or culture binary, anthropocentrism and ecocentrism. The purpose of this essay is to give comparable analysis related to ecocritical concepts to analyze the two texts covering the debates in the subject of ecocriticism.

In the article of “what is ‘wilderness’? Why protect it? A mission for the future...”, Boyes mainly discussed some historical events in Africa that aimed to protect wilderness areas in Africa and he also gave some suggestions and explanations of why people should protect those wild areas on earth. This article depends strongly on one dimension “wilderness”. Barry (2002) tries to identify the connections and differences between nature and culture, and to clarify them, he uses many terms to explain like “the wilderness”, “the scenic sublime” and “the countryside” or “the domestic picturesque”. He also states that whether for the wilderness, the nature or culture, they have one thing in common: they are all real. However, conceptual map towards nature is also important for it determines how people think of the usefulness of nature rather than merely the physical usefulness (Kern, 2000). Whether for real or just conceptual, these two dimensions form the basis of ecocriticism. In the text of “Wilderness”, it adopts the idea that the ecosystems “dis not arise through sustainable management or conservation interventions but through millions of years of natural selection and evolution in the absence of modern man”. From this statement, it can be seen that the wilderness in this text refers to those animals, lands, or creatures which has not been influenced by modern technology, industry and modern human beings. For example, as explained in the text, the Amazon, the Congo, poles, oceans and all ancient refuges are all wilderness which does not contain the human beings, especially the modern people and modern construction. Such statement about wilderness may be a little narrow for it just focuses on the areas where there is no modernization or culture made by human beings.

According to Hess (2010, p. 86), it is of significance for people to not connect the life of human beings to nature for it will be of no essence for both human beings and nature since the current environmental changes cannot be protected without the participation of human beings’ life. The text of “wilderness” uses a