Ecocritics work to create awareness that the environment simultaneously affects and is affected by human culture, and interaction. According to the text, the aim is to view ”nature as a part of the community rather than as a commodity”. I feel that this has been true since the beginning of time as we feed of the Earth’s resources, and parish when they parish. There is a direct correlation between human prosperity and the prosperity of the soil we live of, that is, up until our recent advanced technological age. For instance, today American Literature class we read William Cullen Bryant’s ”Thanatopsis”, which speaks of the nature of death. The cyclical aspect is repeated throughout in lines such as ”Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim/Thy growth, to be resolv’d to earth again”, which is exactly the message ecocrticism sends concerning the ebb and flow of the relationship between humanity and the natural world. Bryant describes the Earth’s tendency to nourish us, and then it will reap our growth once more. A particular line in the poem that contained heart wrenching imagery explain ‘The oak/She send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould”, which I found to be moving in the sense that our flesh is being pierced by the soul of nature. We will alas, be at one with nature in our dying day and dually, we will be fed and nourished by nature throughout our entire lives.
What I find to be somewhat disturbing, which the book notes, is that America created the genre of this nature writing, and ecopoetry, but today, we are the #1 polluters in the world. I speculate that this is a result of digital technology that has replaced agricultural and physical labor technology. We outsource, so instead of reaping the fruit of our lands directly, we outsource and have lost appreciation for the nourishment that we get from the natural world. Thus, the ecopoetry and much of the literature and art that falls under the category of ecocriticsm has been somewhat ineffective because it has had little success in the country of its audience.
I couldn’t agree with this entire blog post more. I am a huge advocate of the environment, and though a lot of people just think I’m a crazy hippie, I am constantly astounded by the amount that America pollutes daily. I definitely agree that, though there is lots of ecocritisism, American still is totally disconnected from its origins. It seems like people don’t know how to get back to their roots and, by merely going through their days, are so distanced from nature that they don’t even realize it surrounds them. All of this is ironic, of course, because I’m writing this on a computer over a blog, instead of speaking face to face about this subject. However, I am very glad that, slowly, this country is waking up and seeing the damaging effects of what they have done to pollute the Earth. This can be seen in so many different places, especially in Flint, Michigan. However, it is terrifying that people like Kanye West get precedence in the news over legitimate poisoning of an entire community’s water. To me, this makes me especially angry, because one of my good friends comes from Flint, and it’s terrifying to think that his family is being poisoned by a water source (and a country) that he originally trusted. I’m really glad that you brought up this dichotomy between ecocriticism and pollution. It’s really very frightening, as you say. I only hope that more awakening can be produced from more writings and publications about the environment and its damages.
Great conversation here! I agree that eco-criticism is a western response to a western problem–the regret, analysis, and cautionary awareness voiced in response to environmental degradation. In a way, Bryant’s poem romanticizes death by weaving humanity into the broader, and continuing, story of regenerating nature. Whitman does the same in a poem called “This Compost.” An eco-critic might note that such a message is ultimately damning, however beautiful, because it emphasizes the plight of the human through a consoling natural force. The human cannot influence nature, in this narrative, but can only, eventually, be acted upon by nature. It’s humbling, this business of being “resolv’d” to the earth. But it also blunts a sense of environmental impact. We are at a stage in history where we’ve acted upon nature to such an extend, as our authors note, that we need to protect it (rather than be protected from its encompassing power).