When I begin my class discussion about defining nature, I often start with a wooden chair or table. I point to it and ask the students, “Is this chair natural?” I pause.
They have already been introduced to the idea that humans are embodied and embedded beings, and therefore dependent on and interconnected to nature. I remind them of those ideas. Then, I ask again, “Is this chair natural?” I continue, “Humans are part of nature and humans made the chair, so would that mean the chair is natural? The chair is made from wood, a natural material. Does that make it natural? I could just as easily sit on a rock or a stump if those were here. They are natural, right?” The discussion begins.
At some point in the discussion, we pause to define what nature is according to the ecofeminists we read for class that day. Mary Mellor, in Feminism and Ecology: An Introduction, defines nature as “the non-human natural world,” (8). It is probably the simplest definition out there. I quite like its simplicity.
Continue reading “What is Natural? The Wooden Chair Discussion by Ivy Helman”