Friday, September 20, 2002

MIT Press, 2002.

Why do people destroy the environment that sustains them is a psychological question as well as a political one. This book probes the ways our feelings and past experiences can help or hinder our relationship with the natural world. Nicholsen does this through stories and meditations on the work of authors in many areas who have much to say on this subject.

She teaches environmental philosophy, and this book lays groundwork for a better and deeper understanding of human thought, feelings, culture and human relationships, based on our collective and personal relationships with nature. Most of us feel so distant from nature in everyday life that we no longer realize how deep our feelings are, and how important nature is to how we live in the world.

Just as importantly, understanding our relationship to nature can be a key to addressing many problems that seem to be impenetrable barriers to a better future. For example, empathy, altruism, even heroism as well as "why can't we all get along" make much more and much deeper sense when we reflect on our complex place within nature, and our relationship with the rest of life.

Many readers will find themselves reflecting on their own feelings and experiences with the natural world-and we all have them, wherever we are. Nature writers usually inspire us to experience our positive feelings about nature and to add to them, which this book also does. But as Jung wrote, "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious."

It is now very important to dig into our unconscious fears and unconscious barriers to allowing the truth of our place in the natural world to determine our behavior. This book also gently explores some of that darkness.

Last but not least, the writers that Nicholsen quotes on nearly every page-including Paul Shepard, Jack Turner, Gary Snyder, James Hillman-are writers from different "fields" who have read and admired each other's work. Now their insights are combined, and the reader who doesn't know them has the bonus experience of being introduced to a host of powerful writers and original minds.
By bringing together so many other voices, including the perceptions that modern artists like Cezanne and Klee share with indigenous peoples, she brings to light many hidden relationships to nature we all have in common.

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