Jan 17: Gerrard 1 (“Pollution”)

Gerrard claims that “As ecocritics seek to offer a truly transformative discourse, enabling us to analyse and criticise the world in which we live, attention is increasingly given to the broad range of cultural processes and products in which, and through which, the complex negotiations of nature and culture take place” (5). How might you explain what he refers to with “the broad range of cultural processes and products in which, and through which, the complex negotiations of nature and culture take place”? Offer an example or two to demonstrate your understanding of what he’s referring to here.

5 thoughts on “Jan 17: Gerrard 1 (“Pollution”)

  1. The statement defining the “broad range of cultural processes and products in which, and through which, the complex negotiations of nature and culture take place” should be broken up into two parts. The range of cultural processes and products that Gerrard speaks of could indicate the values within American society, predominantly that of a disposable, consumer-driven nature. American producers do not often make products to last and use methods or items that are harmful to the environment. The complex negotiations referred to could mean the ramifications which people now face, as a result of non-environmentally conscious products and modes of production. Global warming, air pollution, and many many more problems can be traced back to the complex negotiations between nature and culture.

  2. In this article, Gerrard speaks often of how nature and culture are intertwined. When speaking of “the broad range of cultural processes and products,” I believe that Gerrard is referring to both the obvious and less obvious interactions of nature and culture. Gerrard uses Carson’s “Silent Spring” as an example for the obvious connection between culture and nature, for the fairy tale emphasizes “the ‘harmony’ of humanity and nature that ‘once’ existed” (1). A broader and less obvious connection between nature and culture is the contrast between “wilderness” and “an industrialized, materially progressive world view and social order” (9). Gerrard uses the example of sports utility vehicles being shown out in the wilderness to make that connection between nature and our fast-moving, ever-expanding culture and technology.

  3. The “broad range of cultural processes and products [and] the complex negotiations of nature and culture” can be understood as “nature” being defined by “culture” and vice versa. Also it is the commonly held definitions to what “nature” and “culture” are. Gerrald’s example of “weed” that is not held as a “botanical classification” is thusly defined by “cultural analysis” (6). Culture goes through a process of negation to produce a definition as to what nature is and vice versa.

  4. Earlier, Gerrard references the schools of feminist and Marxist critique to situate ecocriticism as an inherently political mode of analysis, one with a “moral and green” agenda. Thus, these “broad…cultural processes” can be applied to the world in which we live in today, an increasingly globalist society predicated on pursuing capital. The “negotiations of nature and culture” can then be translated as to the everyday decisions made by consumers and suppliers in this society, which Laurel defined in greater detail by giving examples of such decisions. To give my own example, the average working class consumer in the global South has considerably fewer options when deciding on food options for the family, than does the bourgeois consumer in the North. Each of these consumers is limited by their local context along multiple lines of race, class, and national economy, as to how much effect they have on the world’s overall climate change. The Global North is notoriously a greater source of pollution than the South, and thus bourgeois consumers may or may not feel a greater responsibility to choose organic goods and services, depending on their background. But the choice of the term “negotiation” for Gerrard indicates that this decision making process of consumption is not one way: ecocriticism in recent years has forced scrutiny upon industrial suppliers and standards, such as Upton Sinclair’s focus on slaughterhouse workers in the early 20th century, or the more recent “Food Inc.”. Gerrard shows us the reader that ecocriticism produces awareness and an analytical lens in order to examine relations between human and environ.

  5. What Gerrard refers to here is the uniquely human ability to control our environment. In essence, human society has always been defined by its relationship to nature. In our earliest days we existed as a mostly migratory society, following packs of animals to hunt for sustenance. Achieving mastery of concepts such as farming and animal husbandry, humanity then came to be defined by our ability to produce our own food without the need to hunt for it. While the production of food is much less visible in modern society, our relationship to nature remains our defining human characteristic. The “negotiations” that Gerrard refers to is that give-and-take between human society and our natural resources. One could say that in an era of rising global temperatures, shrinking ice caps, and an entire way of thinking that denies the empirical evidence of climate change, this negotiation is beginning to break down. Nature is treated more like a commodity today than the source of virtually all of our cultural trappings and the ramifications of this way of thinking has led to the response of ecocriticism; the idea that culture and nature are undeniably intertwined and that that relationship is what defines our place in the world.

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