Tag Archives: Nature

Natured Doesn’t Need People

“I have feed species greater than you,

I have starved species greater than you,”

Once a central theme, and in many circles still is, of environmental conservation was championing or saving mother nature. We are starting to learn now that our environment doesn’t need our help or protection, we need its. Over-consumption, pollution, environmental degradation, are destroying the environments our species and many others have come to depend. But life will go on. Earth has survived my world wide extinction events; gigantic environmental changes that caused the extinction of more than 90% of species and yet each time nature was ‘reborn’. Our actions and decisions won’t decide if the Earth and nature will continue live.  It will determine if we are.

Like Gloucester pined in King Lear we are “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport,” (Act 4 Scene 1, 37-38). If in the grand timeline of life on Earth humans are almost insignificant, made special by only by our unprecedented ability to radically change and manipulate our environment to our benefit. Therefore nature is often viewed as pastoral, peaceful. Something that we can harvest, sell, tame, conquer, and divide among our kin. It once and is common thinking that nature will always be providing to our needs. And that line of thought is somewhat easy to see. We our environment thrives, the species that depend on it thrive. But when we change our environment so much so that it can no longer support us, than it is inhospitable.

King Lear made his home inhospitable the minute he banished Cordelia and Kent, the two people who truly supported. Cordelia loved her father ‘according to their bond’ like any child or citizen would love their father and king (Act 1 Scene 1, 90). It is what allowed their relationship to thrive. The banishment was a decision that became an irrevocably change that couldn’t allow Lear to thrive and eventually led to him and other’s demise. Like Lear corporations and humans as a whole are irrecoverably changing our only home so that may one day ultimately lead to our demise.

Our environment ‘loves’ us only so much. It cannot heave its heart into its mouth. It supports, feeds, and nurtures only to an extent. And like Lear and the tumultuous storm, we are constantly reminded of our smallness and mortality in the many recorded natural disasters, many of these our own doing. Hurricanes. The current mega drought that entrenches the eastern United States. Earthquakes. The flooding in North Carolina.  Our bond with our environment is one that only recently gain, and our actions threaten to destroy it and our future longevity.

RQ: Alaimo (476-85) & Lear 6-8

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Directions

Keep the following questions in mind as you read Stacy Alaimo’s “States of Suspension: Trans-corporeality at Sea,” and King Lear scenes 6-8. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

Alaimo, “States of Suspension: Transcorporeality at Sea”

What does Alaimo mean by the following terms: suspension, transcorporeality, new materialism, posthumanism, and environmental justice?

Why does she suggest critics and environmentalists should trace the “substantial interchanges [that] render the human permeable” (477)?

What characteristics of the ocean make it particularly difficult to grasp?

What are some connections between humans and the sea? OR, how are terrestrial humans and marine creatures linked?

How do our environmental commitments shift if we accept that “transcorporeal subjects are always themselves part of global networks of responsibility,” (477)?

What does Alaimo mean by “buoyancy” (478)?

What does she mean when she says, “Most new materialists, would, I think, be skeptical of origin stories. As heretical descendants of postmodernism and poststructuralism, they maintain a critical stance toward foundations and essentialisms” (478)?

What happens when we take the statement “‘My mother is a fish,’ as a literal description of human ancestry” (478)?

Why is Lear (and/or people in general) “disturbed by the idea that their own bodies bear traces of their evolutionary origins in other creatures” (479)?

“Darwin, in a letter, cheerfully proclaimed, ‘Our ancestor was an animal which breathed water, had a swim bladder, a great swimming tail, an imperfect skull, and undoubtedly was a hermaphrodite! Here is a pleasant genealogy of mankind’ (qtd. Zimmer)” (479).

Does “physical relatedness provoke a rich kinship” (480)?

What allows humans “to ignore the current crisis of ocean conservation” (480)?

Is recognition of kinship enough to motivate a ethics of care or an environmental activism that locates humans as part of a cluster and not at the center?

What, according to Alaimo, does Rachel Carson’s personification of the sea accomplish? Does the personification of the sea, air, wind, rain, etc. in King Lear accomplish similar goals? Why or why not?

What does Alaimo value in the book Your Inner Fish? What does she critique

King Lear, Scenes 6-8