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TitleLiving Through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism
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Table of Contents
Note on Photographs and Sources
1 - Introduction
2 - American Environmentalism and Boundaries
3 - The Dream of Naturalism
4 - The Dream of Mastery
5 - The Great Vanishing: Into the Postnature World
6 - The Nature of Wilderness
7 - The Nature of Climate Change
8 - Being an Environmentalist: Decisive Uncertainty and the Future of American Environmentalism
Document Text Contents
Page 1


The Future of American Environmentalism


Page 2

Living Through the End of Nature

Page 133

118 Chapter 5

advances are erasing the boundary between nonhuman animals
and people.

The most extensive types of such erasure can be found in
the emerging world of biotechnology. Among its many vari-
ants, splicing genes from one species into another to affect cer-
tain characteristics represents one of the deepest human cuts
into nature. According to physicist James Tre�l, our ability to
manipulate genes has allowed us to “get under the hood of liv-
ing systems.”15 Once there, it appears the sky is the limit. So
far, we have been able to do relatively simple things like inject
vegetables and fruits with salmon genes to avoid freezing, and
engineer potatoes to produce their own insecticide. We have
also bioengineered a bovine growth hormone that increases the
amount of milk a cow can produce by 20 to 30 percent, created
mice programmed to grow certain cancers, and inserted genes
into corn to kill off corn borer. And we have created cows that
can, with the help of an extra synthetic humanlike chromosome,
manufacture human proteins in their blood. Along these same
lines, we have inserted a human gene that produces the blood
protein antithrombin into goat DNA and have been using the
offspring involved to produce large amounts of the protein for
medical purposes. We are apparently also on the cusp of build-
ing “humanized cows” that can have complete human blood in
their systems and thus provide a source of plasma for human
transfusions. The list of such bioengineered creatures goes on:
cows that can produce forti�ed human milk, rice that can gen-
erate vitamin A, bananas that can grow vaccines, and crops
that can produce their own pesticides. Such bioengineered crea-
tures represent fundamentally new species. They did not evolve
out of the long evolutionary process but rather came into being
as a human fabrication. Far from emerging out of the wild such
life-forms are being cooked up in laboratories and stamped
(and often patented) by the human �ngerprint. In this sense,
bioengineered species are arguably closer to artifacts than so-
called natural entities.

Page 134

The Great Vanishing 119

When environmentalists rehearse the litany of environmen-
tal woes, they usually do so to warn against our steady en-
croachment on the natural world and how we are reformatting
wildness in our own image. Bioengineering represents the outer
reaches of such encroachment. It involves not simply pushing
nature to the edges of our experience but rather getting inside
of life itself and rewriting its genetic instructions. This, indeed,
is the next frontier of our ascension from nature and our entry
into not only a postnature world but also a posthuman one.
Such a world represents not just another step in humanity’s
long trajectory of insulating ourselves from nature; but also
the rewiring of ourselves as a species. If our ascension from
nature has thus far been about freeing ourselves from nature’s
“givens”—nature’s biophysical constraints as we �nd them—
then the end of humans involves freeing ourselves from our ge-
netic givens. It enables us to design human life anew.

There are tremendous debates these days about how much
human experience is a matter of nature versus nurture. Those
emphasizing nature are increasingly on the defensive as cultural
critics point out how so much of what we take to be natural is
really a matter of sociocultural constructions (an orientation
that I will examine in greater detail in a moment). We are told
that our sexuality, psychology, and sociality, for example, are
not expressions of deep-seated, given characteristics but sim-
ply of predominant discourses or ways of socially ordering our
world. And yet few deny that genes play a central role in the
unfolding of individual human lives. Genetic codes determine
hair color, height, sex, and according to many, predispositions
and certain talents. At the outside, our genetic constitution
makes us human. It distinguishes us from dogs, cats, orchids,
and whales.

Bioengineering offers the possibility of our altering such dis-
tinctions. It promises to unleash us from our genetic makeup
so we can design ourselves as we see �t. According to many
observers, now that we have mapped the human genome, we

Page 266

Index 251

Lomborg, Bjørn, 83
Louv, Richard, 72
Love Canal, 48
Lovins, Amory, 33
Lynx, 143–144

Magnol, Pierre, 123
Magnolia, 110–111, 122–124
Malthus, Thomas, 43–45, 58,

84, 190, 196
Marsh, George Perkins, 35, 45, 47
Marshall, Bob, 63
Mastery, dream of, 23–24,

30–33, 79–105, 152–156,
184, 189

McDonough, William, 63, 181
McKibben, Bill, 5–6, 15, 59,

115–116, 169–170
McNeill, John, 112
Meyer, John, 62, 93
Middle path, 27–28, 33, 129,

134–135, 157, 190, 197, 202,
204–207, 211–215

Mill, John Stuart, 14, 54, 90,
107, 134, 190, 197, 202,

Misanthropy, 183
Modernity, 4, 41, 65, 91, 93
Muir, John, 18, 20, 42, 45, 49,

71–74, 133, 164

Nanotechnology, 116
National Audubon Society, 45
National Trust, The, 42
National Wildlife Federation

(NWF), 45
Native Americans, 137, 160–

161. See also Indigenous

Naturalism, dream of, 22,
29–32, 53–76, 129, 134–135,

Natural Resources Defense
Council (NRDC), 46

Naturam sequi, 61, 63–64, 73
Nature Conservancy, 49, 133
Nature-de¤ciency disorder, 72
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

National Monument, 149

Obama Administration, 9–11
Olmsted, Frederick Law, 75
Organization of Petroleum Ex-

porting Countries (OPEC),

Ozone depletion, 8, 57, 114–
115, 201

Patriarchy, 25, 65
Pinchot, Gifford, 45, 47
Plato, 4, 39, 80, 89, 103
Plumier, Charles, 111, 123
Pope, Carl, 63
Population, 5, 25, 43, 46–48,

57–58, 84–85, 144–145
Population Connection. See

Zero Population Growth
Project Tiger, 140
Promethean. See Cornucopian

Received wilderness idea, 134,
146, 165

Regan, Tom, 66–67
Renewable energy, 191–192,

194, 198
Reservation ecology, 147, 150–

158, 178,184, 203
Rilke, Rainer Maria, 201
RiverNet, 146
Roosevelt, Theodore, 42, 45, 49,


Sandel, Michael, 212–214
Shelley, Mary, 40

Page 267

252 Index

Shenandoah National Park,

Sierra Club, 42, 63, 71, 133
Simon, Julian, 24, 84–85
Singer, Peter, 66–67, 97
Sinks, 5, 42, 59, 85–88, 94, 171
Socrates. See Plato
Solomon Sea, 177
Sustainability, 30, 36, 38, 43–45,

58, 180, 183
Suzuki, David, 63

Thoreau, Henry David, 1, 3, 7,
20, 40–42, 72–73, 133, 206, 175

Union of Concerned Scientists,

Utilitarian ethics. See Conse-
quentialist ethics

Virtue ethics, 97
von Humboldt, Alexander, 44

Watts, Alan, 27
Whiteside, Kerry, 53, 206
Wilderness Act 1964, US, 68,

Wilderness Society, 45, 133
Wildlands Project, 63, 133
Wildlife corridors, 157–158, 165
Williams, Raymond, 18, 127
Wilson, Edward Osbourne, 74,

Wordsworth, William, 40–41,

45, 49
Worldwatch Institute, 83, 191
World Wildlife Fund, 49

Yellowstone National Park,

Yosemite National Park, 7–8,

Young, Simon, 79, 88

Zero Population Growth, 46

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