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WHAT IS NATURE? AND WHAT IS NATURE FOR? QUOTES FOR THE WEEK The Lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.

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WHAT IS NATURE?

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What is nature l.jpg

WHAT IS NATURE?

AND WHAT IS NATURE FOR?


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QUOTES FOR THE WEEK

  • The Lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.

  • Life without labor is guilt. Labor without art is brutality.(John Ruskin, 1819-1900, British artist, scientist, art critic, poet, environmentalist, philosopher, and said to be the greatest Victorian except for Queen Victoria).


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The Economy and Nature: The Simple Model

FIRMS

NATURE

AS A

SINK FOR

WASTES

FROM

ECONOMIC

ACTIVITY

wastes

NATURE AS A

SOURCE OF

INPUTS FOR

ECONOMIC

ACTIVITY

$

labor

$

$

commodities

$

HOUSHOLDS

wastes


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HOUSEHOLDS BUYING FROM FIRMS

SUPPLY*

SUPPLY

Price

p*

p

DEMAND

q*

q

Goods and Services


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HOUSEHOLDS BUYING FROM NATURE

SUPPLY

Price

p

p*

DEMAND

D*

q

q*

Recreation days


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FIRMS BUYING FROM NATURE

SUPPLY

Price

p

p*

DEMAND

D*

q

q*

Quantity of timber


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FIRMS BUYING FROM HOUSEHOLDS

SUPPLY

Wage

p

p*

DEMAND

FOR LABOR

D*

q

q*

Quantity of labor


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The Evolution of Nature as A Commodity to be Traded

  • Of course individuals had always used nature

  • But colonialism involved nature in a web of long-distance trade

  • And this precipitated colonialism


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The Economy and Nature With Trade

Foreign Countries

Domestic Economy

Nature

raw materials

IMPORTS

FIRMS

$

foreign exchange

EXPORTS

Firms

NATURE

AS A

SINK FOR

WASTES

commodities

commodities

foreign exchange

NATURE

AS A

SOURCE OF

INPUTS FOR

ECONOMIC

ACTIVITY

$

Households

labor

$

$

commodities

HOUSHOLDS

$

IMPORTS

$

commodities

environmental goods and services

$


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COLONIAL EXPANSION

Brockway writes of science in the service of colonialism

  • British East India Company – 1600

  • Dutch East India Company -- 1602


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Interested in spices, timber, etc.

That is, the extraction and importation of exotic materials from the tropics for domestic consumption

The British in India


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The Evolution of Colonialism

  • But the British were also interested in the tropics as a laboratory for science and the nation state to support colonial outposts

  • The exposure to India induced an interest in tea among the British, but of course tea does not grow in Britain.


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The Emergence of the Tea Triangle

  • Britain started out importing tea from China, but Britain had little to trade that the Chinese wanted to have

  • This created a problem in the outflow (drainage) of British pounds to China

    • A nation will run short of its own currency if it imports too much from elsewhere


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Solving the Currency Problem

  • Some way had to be found to get tea from China without draining the British Treasury of Pounds, Shillings, and Pence.

  • The answer would be found in something that China wished to have

    • The answer turned out, unfortunately, to be opium


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So the Tea Triangle Emerged

  • The British would grow opium in India

  • The British would take the opium to China

  • The opium would be traded (bartered) for tea that would then go to England


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Hong Kong as a Colonial Entrepot

  • Hong Kong became a British territory in order to facilitate the opium trade (and trade in other goods)

  • China (at least Southeast and East China) was a colonial outpost.

    • Hong Kong and Shanghai were British

    • Macau was Portuguese


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The Opium Wars of 1839-1842

  • By 1830 the British had become the worlds largest drug traffickers, importing opium to China in exchange for tea and other goods.

  • This trade was centered on the inland city of Canton (now Guangzhou).


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The Opium Wars

  • By 1836 China had criminalized the opium trade but the British bribed Cantonese traders and kept the trade vibrant

  • Opium dens and addiction spread

  • See: http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/CHING/OPIUM.HTM


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The Brockway Article

  • Relates similar stories for:

    • Cinchona

    • Rubber

    • Sisal


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The Dutch East India Company

  • In 1642 The Dutch established an outpost at Cape Town

    • The purpose was to provision the ships with meat, citrus, etc.

  • The Dutch were interested in spices (the “Spice Islands”).


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Outpost at Cape Town Fueled European Occupation of Southern Africa

  • Huguenot’s quest for religious freedom

  • Dutch immigrants seeking land and opportunity

  • Discovery of gold and diamonds

  • The rise of apartheid


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Nature and Social Policy

  • The discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa is best understood as the precursors to apartheid

  • The large supply of low-wage labor willing to work in the mines led to widespread unemployment in the 1950s and fueled the rise of a “white supremacist” government that lasted until 1994.

    • Nelson Mandela spent 27 of those years in prison


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And so we see that nature and colonialism produced a particular “economy” in most of Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Indeed the number of poor developing countries that have NEVER been colonized by Britain, Germany, France, Belgium and the U.S. is very small indeed.

This history is important to our own experience here in the U.S. We were, after all, a colony of settlers--just as South Africa was.


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America as the “Garden”

  • Early European immigrants saw America as a garden—verdant, unspoiled, lush, productive and waiting to be both conquered as well as revered.

    • It was “empty” and there for the taking.

    • See The Machine in the Garden by Leo Marx

  • Recall Locke’s idea that nature was to be subjected to human conquest.

    • That is what nature is FOR—the purpose of nature


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The Evolved and Created Purpose of Nature in America

The purpose of nature was to produce food and fiber

  • Timber

  • Minerals

  • Agriculture

  • Water for transport and energy production


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Environmental Awareness (Earth Day) in the 1970s was concerned with working out a newPurpose of Nature

  • This meant challenging accepted attitudes and beliefs and behaviors.

  • It meant working out reasons to regard nature in other terms.


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And So Environmental Literature

  • Environmental literature is giving us other reasons to see nature.

  • It is giving us meaning that we did not see before.

    • By “meaning” I have in mind ways to talk about and to think about nature that was missing before.


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Recall our earlier discussion of beliefs, rules and customs, and behaviors?It is from here that we can understand a profound change in the purposes of nature (that is, what is nature for?).


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BELIEFS, RULES & BEHAVIOR

BEHAVIOR

RULES

BELIEFS

Rules are the structural parameters of a society—these are both legal and cultural (or customary “habits of mind”).

Beliefs are the thoughts and attitudes that inform and shape both rules and behavior.

Behavior is the actual choices that people make—what they do.


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The Purposes of Nature

  • The early vision was that nature was for the provision of raw materials for our sustenance and material enrichment.

  • Now there is an evolving sense that nature is for something less materialistic.

    • Perhaps nature is not just to extract from, and to receive our wastes?

    • Perhaps nature is to be “enjoyed” (“used”) in a way that does not take FROM nature, but regards nature as something we can “experience.”


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