What is Natural? The Wooden Chair Discussion by Ivy Helman

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”

“Respect: Dualism Subversion and So Much More in Survival Reality Television,” by Ivy Helman.

20151004_161012In “Ecofeminism and Wilderness,” Linda Vance believes that Western society defines wilderness by “… the absence of humans, we are saying, in effect, that nature is at its best when utterly separated from the human world. The idea of wilderness is thus an extreme manifestation of the general Western conceptual rift between culture and nature,” (62).  Reality television shows, focusing on survival or living off the land, often reproduce this dualistic way of thinking.

At the same time they reproduce another of Vance’s concerns, “I would argue that wilderness recreation “re-creates” more than the self: it also recreates the history of the conquest of nature, the subjugation of indigenous peoples, the glorification of individualism, the triumph of human will over material reality, and the Protestant ideal of one-on-one contact with G-d. And as for the elements of physical challenge and risk, I think it goes without saying that they appeal most to those for whom day-to-day mobility is a given, and for whom danger isn’t always close at hand,” (71).  However, by presenting this dichotomy, many of the shows also subvert the ideal of untouched wilderness, challenge the notions of human abilities and highlight our lack of embeddedness and embodiment when it comes to survival situations. Continue reading ““Respect: Dualism Subversion and So Much More in Survival Reality Television,” by Ivy Helman.”

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