I was finishing up Hull’s book Infinite Nature tonight since I’ve been working on my paper this week and I definitely see a lot of similarities between Hull’s chapter 12 and Thoreau and Emerson’s essays. Hull speaks about people using nature in a relaxing way – in order to get away from the stresses of everyday life. This reminded me a lot of the things Thoreau spoke about in his essay. Hull writes about modern times, whereas Thoreau was writing about simpler times back when he was around, but both are making the same statements: Nature is soothing. Hull also gives many descriptions of nature that remind me of Emerson’s essay. Hull writes about being able to “smell the soil…, feel the cool breeze against your skin, hear the leaves rustle in the air, and watch puffy clouds float above a swaying canopy” (page 183). The description of this scene in nature reminds me of exactly the kind of scene one would read in Emerson’s essay. I just thought it was kind of cool how we were reading the last couple chapters of Hull’s book at the same time as reading the two essays by Emerson and Thoreau and how much all three tied in together.
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!
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.
In Aldo Leopold’s The Land Ethic, I thought that the author made the use of land more understandable by using the analogy of comparing it to the food chain. Food chains, which are the heirarchies of the dependencies on food, are similar to the products of the land pyramid. Leopold describes the land as being a “fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals”. Although land does depend on all of living species to circulate the upward and downward slope of the land pyramid, it’s also dependent on the energy that is created through this heirarchial consuming and growth. Not sure if anyone else sees this, but this comparisson makes me see land as being a living species as well. Food chains are part of plant, animal, and human communities, just as land pyramids involve the community of soils, water, and living organisms. And going off of Hull’s chapter 11 in Infinite Nature, does this mean that the land deserves the same rights as we do?
I was very intrigued by Hull’s chapter 9 from <em>Infinite Nature</em>, especially the section on “Caring for Creation”. In Genesis 2:15, humans are told to “till and keep” the earth and all of creation. However, Hull describes that the word “till and keep” can have multiple meanings, such as “serve”, “care”, and “guard” (127). I thought this was interesting because at the beginning of time God bestowed upon humans the sole responsibility of caring for nature. He even goes so far as saying that “tilling and keeping become not just an obligation but a form of worship” (Hull, 128).
This got me thinking; wouldn’t worshiping nature be blasphemous? Nature is a product of God, but it isn’t God himself. If I worship nature over God, aren’t I disobeying the commandment of worshiping false gods? To me, this is the most logical interpretation of what Hull said. However, he further explains that nature proves God’s existence and intentional design. Therefore, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature is God; God is nature” (Hull, 131). WHAT?! God is not a tree! But, this is not Hull’s or Emerson’s point. They believe that creation embodies what truths and beauty God put on earth. If one were to destroy creation, then they are also destroying God (or what God gave them). Nature and God are almost inseparable on earth; what God made for us, his creation, is good just as we are good and just as he is good. We must “worship” nature because God reveals himself to us physically through his creations.
In chapter 8 of Hull’s Infinite Nature, the section called “Pricing a Life” disturbed me. Are we really being degraded to mere means of economic profit? Hull explains that in our world today, there are methods to deciphering the value of a person’s life, which includes being able to “equate the value of a life to the earnings of a lifetime – you are what you earn” (114). If I were to die now, with my part-time, minimum wage job, I would be considered “worthless” (or average) in today’s society. Is this fair? I can see that companies and businesses would use this model; it’s their job to gain profit to stay in business. However, demeaning a person to these methods is immoral to me. We are worth more than the dollar bill.
I was reading chapter 5 of Hull’s book about techno-optimists believing that precautionary principles are unnecessary when it comes to new technology and I must say I disagree. I definitely think precautions should be taken before new technology is used commonly. Technology should be thoroughly researched and analyzed to make sure it does not do harm to the environment. That being said, I am not quite a techno-skeptic, since I do believe technology in the future can replace certain resources that we need now, which is unlike a techno-skeptic’s beliefs. I guess this would put me somewhere in between a techno-optimist and a techno-skeptic and I am sure I am not the only one who would fall somewhere in between the two extremes. Once something in the environment is caused too much harm, the harm may become irreversible and we do need the environment, even with technology, for us to survive.