Ryan Mishap's Reviews > Natural Alien 2nd Ed 2/E

Natural Alien 2nd Ed 2/E by Neil Evernden
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Feb 16, 09

bookshelves: environment, philosophy

Aren't environmentalist causes taken more seriously and victories being won? So it appears, but the reality of the destruction of the earth is devestating and it is only our perceptios of how "green" is the new god that have changed. Sound familar in this age of greenwashing and "sustainable" business? The situation was no different twenty four years ago when The Natural Alien was published in 1985. Evernden isn't critiquing the failures of the environmentalist--he wants to get rid of that word, in fact--, nor is he listing the atrocities committed against nature by our rapacious culture. Instead, he argues that the world view of the environmentalist is compromised from the start and that it shares too much in common with the view of the developer, the exploiter. Evernden argues that it is Cartesian thinking (some might say civilization's worldview) that must be dismantled.
So, you are now faced with a philosophy book rather than the environmental treatsie you thought you were going to get. How many times have you though that it isn't enough to change laws, change systems, change leaders, change tactics...no, we have to change minds, the way humans view the world. This is what Evernden attempts.
The argument begins with a discussion of science, the Romantics, phenomenology, Heidigger, Huessrl, and much more. The main thesis of the book is that we are able to "cut the earth's vocal cords" becuase of reification: turning subjects into objects. You can have a relationship with another being--a subject--but not with an object. There is, of course, much more here and it is well worth reading.
The book is entirely in the academic style, strangely. For Evernden's argument relies, in part, on the following:

1) We, as subjects (living beings), should trust our own experience over the science of experts.

2) Beings can have relationships and relationships are reciprocal.

Now, books, by their very nature, are not reciprocal, but Evernden limits himself even more with the academic style. He isn't a being to us--there are very few "i" statments, no personal information, life experiences--but the omniscient author keeping his audience (not people, objucts, object, the audience) at arm's length with the detached, reasoned, unemotional straight jacket that this academic style. One can forgive him this, of course, because if he rlied on direct personal experience instead of other books and thinkers, his work wouldn't be taken seriously by other academics. This goes for relating to the reader as well. Just as he describes the environmentalist as being trapped by mechanistic thinking, so, too, is he trapped by academic standards and this limits, a little, the effectiveness of his argument.
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