Author Archives: sarabeara30

McCandless vs. Thoreau

After watching Penn’s film Into the Wild and reading a (mini) biography on Henry David Thoreau in Hull’s Infinite Nature (chapter 12), I am convinced that Chris McCandless was a modern-day Thoreau! Alright, get this: Thoreau abandoned everything to live a simple and frugal life in the forest. Chris (or Alexander Supertramp), abandoned his life as well to live in nature. Hull describes Thoreau as being a loner, and although I don’t know much on the REAL Chris, from the movie and from his notes he described his journey as being lonely; his only companionship being the people he encountered on his journey. In his books Walden and Walking, Thoreau explains the beauties and wonders that can be found from living a simple life and experiencing life in nature. Penn’s depiction of Chris’ life in the wild (ha!) is sort of Chris’ memoir of the same ideals that Thoreau had. Although I could go into more detail on this, if you want to see the comparisons yourself, you will have to read Thoreau and watch Into the Wild, take some notes, and see for yourself the reincarnation of one of the most influential naturalists!


The Importance of Symbolism in Princess Mononoke

For my paper, I am going to delve a bit deeper into the symbolism of Princess Mononoke. I believe that Miyazaki uses specific characters, scenes, dialogue, and symbols that express the relationship between humans and nature that aren’t explicitly noted in the film. 

            I will introduce my paper with a brief definition and explanation on the relationship with humans and nature. This will introduce the film into the paper as being a symbolic example of humans and nature. My thesis will be “Although Princess Mononoke is an animated film, through its use of symbolic references and images one can see the relation of humans and the natural world in the realistic world outside the realm of the film”.

            In the first part of the paper I will summarize the film, focusing on the aspects of the relationship of humans and nature from the symbols. For example, I will skip some of the unimportant dialogue and focus on discussing the scenes that include the “evil muck” that infects the creatures and eventually the land and San.

            I will then discuss the kind of relationship that we humans must have with nature in order to live fulfilled lives. I will use sources such as articles from Taking Sides (an environmental ethics compilation) and various other articles that I have accumulated to discuss these relationships.

            The next part of my paper, I will describe each symbol that I identify from the film, and how each character, creature, scene, or object relates the philosophy of nature and human relationships.

            Finally, the last part of my paper will be a wrap-up of my paper, along with my thesis. I will conclude with describing the importance of maintaining a relationship with nature, even if it means the destruction of industry and other commodities that we have relied on for survival.



Goldman, Rebecca L. “Ecosystem Services: How People Benefit from Nature”. Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2007. 44-53. Print.

            I will use this article to describe the many ecosystems of the natural world. This article shows how specific ecosystems are important to human development and growth, and I can describe the citizen of Irontown wanting to create a sustainable environment within the ecosystem.

Attenborough, David. “This Heaving Planet”. Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2007. 246-251. Print.

            This article explains the problems of the growing population, which includes the destruction of the environment because of human influence. I will use this article to show how the humans in Princess Mononoke are affecting the natural environemt.

Berry, Wendell. What Matters. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010. Print.

            Berry explains the importance of work and culture for a community to survive. I will not only explain the community of Irontown, but also the community of the spirits of the forest and how they must too work for their species’ survival.

Berghoefer, Uta, Ricardo Rozziand Kurt Jax. Many Eyes on Nature: Diverse Perspectives in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve and Their Relevance for Conservation”. Ecology and Society. Vol. 15, No. 1. Leipzig: The Resilience Alliance, 2010. 28, July 2013. Web.

            This online article explains the importance of the relationship between humans and nature. I will use this article to focus on how nature is something that humans should tend and care for.

Brown, Peter G. & Geoffrey Garver. “Humans & Nature: The Right Relationship”. Minding Nature. April 2009, Vol. 2, No. 1. Center for Humans and Nature, 2009.—nature–the-right-relationship-article-38.php?issue=5. 28, July 2013. Web.

            This article will help me to explain why humans should have a relationship with nature. Brown and Garver give specific examples of the relationships with the land that we already promote. This article, along with the film’s symbols, will help me explain the importance of the human/nature relationship maintenance.

Into the Spirit

Into The Wild

There is so much to behold in nature than what meets the naked eye. One fails to see the spiritual aspects of the dirt beneath one’s feet or the sky above. Sean Penn’s 2007 film Into the Wild tells the true story of a young man who sets out on the journey of discovering nature. This film shows the beauties and wonders in a spiritual nature which seems to be masked by today’s society.

Chris McCandless, a recent college grad, has his whole life planned out for him: wanting to continue education at Harvard, having over $24,000 in savings, and even the chance to receive a new car from his parents. However, this mundane, materialistic life forces the adventurous Christ to leave everything behind in pursuit of a life in the natural environment of Alaska. Along the way, he meets and works for many people who not only influence his travels, but also his “new life” story. In this new life, Chris must learn to adapt to living in nature by collecting his own food and surviving harsh weathers and conditions. Gaining new friendships, love, and wisdom along the way, Chris’ death is not in vain. He realizes in the end that his journey’s purpose was to take him away from the world he knew into the world that he was meant to live in.

Most of Into the Wild takes places in the setting of a variety of places outdoors: Colorado Rivers, South Dakota farms, and even the borders of Mexico. Chris, who is the protagonist of the story, leaves his life at home to trek to these natural spots to live and survive on the resources around him. What becomes apparent towards the end of the film with the encounter with Ron is that the wisdom gained from his journeys allows Chris to see the natural world for what it really is: spiritually created by God. While looking down on the world with Ron, Chris tells the man that “God’s place is all around us, it is in everything and in anything we can experience. People just need to change the way they look at things”. And boy, did Chris change his perspective of the world. Throughout the movie to this point, Chris learned to live in a world with nothing but the clothes on his back and the money he gained from various jobs. His friendships and guidance along his journey allowed him to see the beauty of the spirit within people, and by living in nature he was able to see the spirit all around him. At his dying moment, he thought of what it would be like to return to his family. However, he wouldn’t have gotten the chance to die a happy death in which he became one with the spirituality of nature.

God in Nature

What I loved most about Emerson’s Nature was the comparison of spirit and nature. Because God the creator designed the beautiful nature that is around us, it is an obvious thought that the spirit of God would be in nature. As stated by Emerson, nature’s purpose is to “stand as the apparition of God” (54). Wouldn’t it make sense, then, that every time we walk outside, inhale the air around us, soak in the sun, lay on the grass and embrace nature that we are indeed embracing God? Nature is as much a part of creation just as we are. And, if we are made in God’s image, wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that nature is made to be beautiful and perfect as well? I can’t tell you how many times I walk outside and see trash and pollution scattered over the ground and in the air. We wouldn’t treat ourselves as trash; why should we treat nature, which is an apparition of God (therefore, nature is spiritual), like garbage as well. To treat nature as such is to turn away from God. Although this sounds harsh, just think twice the next time you throw your McDonald’s wrapper on the ground.

What’s In a Name?

Henry David Thoreau, in his essay “Walking”, discusses the importance (or lack-there-of) of having a name. For example, my name Sara, taken from biblical context of Abraham’s wife, Sarai, was given to me when I was born by my parents. It even says my full legal name on my birth certificate that I am indeed called Sara. However, Thoreau believes that “there is nothing in a name” (108). Man can be individualized by his race, character, or other variety, but a name doesn’t tell an outsider much about a person besides having a label. A name is merely a tag given to a person, but a familiar name won’t make a person any more familiar to a stranger. Thoreau says that a name doesn’t help to make distinctions of a person.

So, is he basically saying that I am worthless? I am not sure which stance Thoreau is taking, but to me it seems as if he is inexplicitly stating that man is made equal by name, but gains his individuality by personality, characteristics (physical and emotional), and other features. Therefore, I shouldn’t be identified as just being “Sara”: you can now call me “loud and obnoxious”.


What a Wonderful World

In chapter 12 of Bruce Hull’s Infinite Nature, the beauties of the natural world are discussed by using examples of natural parks. Hull says that parks provide people with areas of recreation, a chance to witness extraordinary experiences, a way to see beauty all over, and also to see something that is designed to be neat and wonderful. When I first read this chapter, I was immediately reminded of my trip to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. This natural, rocky park gives hikers, tourists, and environmental guru’s the chance to witness nature in an interesting perspective. When I visited, we rode horses up one of the larger red rocks at sunrise. I have to say, it was one of the most serene experiences I have ever had; feeling like I was at the top of the world, with no technological distractions and seeing natural beauty for miles. Like Hull states, the feeling that I had when interacting with nature helped to “promote feelings of peace and tranquility” and even to “contemplate God’s grace” (188). It truly is a wonderful world that we are living in; if only everyone would appreciate the beauty in front of them.


Mononoke Madness!

Princess Mononoke

            “In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where, from ages long past, dwelt the spirits of the gods. Back then, man and beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed”. The opening lines of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke are not only a foreshadowing of what the story is to be about, but it is also a reflection of the reality of the effects of industry on nature.

            Ashitaka, the main character of the story, must go on a journey to either meet his fate of death or to rid himself of the curse he has received from the demon boar. The land, which once belonged to the boar and the rest of the forest gods and demons, has now been destroyed and industrialized by humans in search of the lands’ iron resources. Once Ashitaka realizes that the leader of this Industrial Revolution, Lady Eboshi, wishes to kill the spirits and creatures of the forest, he rebels and joins forces with Princess Mononoke (San), the self-proclaimed defender of the spirits. However, not wanting anything to do with Ashitaka or humans in general, San wishes to assist the boars and other forest gods in the war against Eboshi and the rest of the Irontown villagers. Unfortunately, the blind boar, along with San, become demons at the hand of the humans. Through the power of love, and from a little help from the Forest Spirit, Ashitaka is able to save San from becoming a demon. But, love can’t save the Forest Spirit from the hands of humans. Eboshi beheads the spirit, and all hell breaks loose. The dead come back to life, and it’s up to humans to restore the chaos. Ashitaka and San return the Forest Spirit’s head, and all is restored; Irontown is destroyed and replaced by greenery, the tree spirits return, and the humans realize their faults. In the end, San agrees to protect the forest, and Ashitaka helps humans restore their home. It is a perfect agreement between humans and nature.

            Princess Mononoke shows the relation between humans and nature, after the effects of the Industrial Revolution. The evil inflicted on those who have been touched by the “demons” of industry can only be restored by the beauties and love of nature. Even in today’s world, nature seems to be hard to come by; everything is either industrialized or destroyed. It is a rare beauty to find oneself in the midst of a green, serene nature. Ashitaka represents those trying to restore the bond between humans and nature. San shows how nature can restore a person, while Eboshi embodies the effects of industry on the human being. The ending of the movie, with the agreement between San and Ashitaka, show that even in today’s world there can be a healthy and loving balance between human industry and the natural environment. We just have to work for this bond, even if it means compromise.