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ECOS 38 (2): The Nature question

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The sample of meanings of Nature in this article shows something of the diversity of understanding in people’s minds. With Nature such a slippery concept, what are the implications for our actions in the name of Nature conservation?

    “… some are natural, others are due to other causes.”  Aristotle

In its 38 years, ECOS has accumulated a modest number of articles that tackle the question of what we mean by ‘nature’, and whether humans are part of it. It is a question that seldom gets discussed outside academe. Yet, it is a bee that some nature conservationists, promoters of wilderness, and greens in variety, cannot get out of their bonnets.

There is nothing new here, and I don’t pretend to have made an in-depth study of the matter; but it puzzles me that one can have a complex discussion around something that changes its meaning and its implications  with most new contributors: so much so that it seems to be impossible to say what ‘Nature’ is. The best we can do is say what it means to us individually, in a particular time and situation. This article tries to set a context, using the words of a variety of contributors or their translations. It is snippets, not an in-depth survey.

The influences on the word

“Asking the question: Are humans part of Nature or apart from Nature? … seems to be an invalid question. There is no Nature. If ‘Nature’ is limited to living things … it’s redundant, an alternative to Life. If it is Life, The Universe  and Everything, … it isn’t needed as there is nothing left to be not-Nature”.1

This seems right to me, but I know it is only one way to approach a difficult word. This is not a situation unique to ‘Nature’. Many words (the ideas they stand for) are given meanings that depend on a flotilla of influences: the cultural tradition we belong to, any religion we were raised in; the language(s) we speak, what we have read, who taught us and what they taught…. This is not the same as the situation with say art: “Art is what you or I say is art”, but there are similarities! That is the basic reason why I am persuaded to see how far I or we can go without using the word ‘nature’. The problem is a longstanding one. It is said to be one of the most complicated words in English. It is not an easy word and concept to translate into several languages. So I don’t know how common or unusual our notions of ‘nature’ are.

An evolving word

Is nature what you say nature is? It can seem so; at least, I often hear or see it presented in terms that I am myself reluctant to use, or that I find difficult to work out the meaning of. And even in English, the word-richest of languages, there often doesn’t seem to be a simple way to say what we mean. We are getting used to using ‘Gaia’ as a shorthand (I don’t imply we should believe it) for Earth-as-living-organism, but we are a long way from adopting, say, Navajo shimá for Earth-as-mother; and we haven’t crystalized an idea such as Nature-out-of-balance in a single word that translates koyaaniqatsi, as the Hopi might say. This would seem to be keeping us too bound into our history.

It would perhaps be wise to retire cautiously at this point, but instead I have assembled a variety of voices, many of which have “made me think”, not necessarily towards a ‘conclusion’ (I suspect there isn’t one). However, I’ll pass on some advice from my wife: don’t get hung up on the meaning of words as though they never change. We know language is far from perfect; that’s why it keeps changing.

This is a raw diet, with the ingredients mixed up. It passes by much of the world without a nod of recognition. Background to fill some of these omissions can be gleaned from various books and websites – although many are less than clear or unbiased.2

Neil Bennett

A vulgar notion

Robert Boyle, a leader of the scientific revolution, in 1686 published A free enquiry into the vulgarly received notion of nature.3 He wanted to show that the world worked like a vast, impersonal, machine, and that nature is not a benevolent, wise, and purposeful, being. He listed eight meanings of ‘nature’:

  1. a creator

  2. the essence of something

  3. the state one is born into

  4. an “internal principle of motion”

  5. 5. the “established course of things”

  6. the “aggregate of powers” a body has

  7. the universe

  8. most commonly, “a semi-deity or other strange kind of being as this [book] examines the notion of”.

There is little wonder ‘Nature’ is considered one of the trickiest words in our lexicon. It led John Passmore, author of Man’s responsibility for nature (a telling title…) to admit in a footnote: “I wish I could wholly avoid the word ‘nature’. But if it is one of the most ambiguous it is also one of the most indispensable words in the English language”.4 It can look quite simple, for example, the Oxford dictionary of environment and conservation defines ‘nature’ as:

the natural physical world including plants, animals, and landscapes, particularly those parts that remain in a primitive state, unchanged by humans.

It defines ‘environment’ as:

  1. all of the external abiotic and biotic factors, conditions and influences that affect the life, development and survival of an organism or community

  2. the natural world in which we live.5

Of course, this is how we tend to use these words, which is fine for colloquial English, but which, at least for some of us, is bewildering for more precise usage. Kate Soper writes:

[The] Western configurations of nature – notably its association with the ‘primitive’, the ‘bestial’, the ‘corporeal’, and the ‘feminine’ – reflect a history of ideas about membership of the human community and ideals of human nature…. 6

And Clarence Glacken begins his rather neglected Traces on the Rhodian shore with:

What is most striking in conceptions of nature, even mythological ones, is the yearning for purpose and order; perhaps these notions of order are, basically, analogies derived from the orderliness and purposiveness in many outward manifestations of human activity…7

More recently, and perhaps more simply, Gerald Marten notes in Human Ecology:

People make sense of the complexity that surrounds them by carrying hundreds of images and ‘stories’ in their minds about themselves,  their society and their biophysical environment. … [T]ogether, the images and stories form a person’s worldview, his [sic] perception of himself and the world around him. Shared images and stories form a society’s worldview.8

[There are] five common perceptions of nature. The first two – ‘everything is connected’ and ‘benign / perverse’ – are major concepts in human ecology… The last three perceptions of nature – ‘fragile’, ‘durable’ and ‘capricious’ – are special cases of the ‘benign / perverse’ perspective.8

Kestrel hovering above the cliffs of Cardigan Bay, Wales. Photo: Nicholas Horne

Western attitudes

In the West (to generalise) there is a multiplicity of meanings of ‘Nature’.  In most cases humans are kept distinct from other living things; e.g. Kate Soper writes:

The natural is both distinguished from the human and the cultural, but also the concept through which we pose questions about the more or less natural or artificial quality of our own behaviours and cultural formations; about the existence and quality of human nature; and about the respective roles of nature and culture in the formation of individuals and their social milieu.6

I think one can see this two-fold split in the old nature : nurture debate. A different split is represented by K.M. Meyer-Abich , who wants to distinguish between nature as a whole and the connatural world as the non-human part of the whole.9

Splitting ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ 10 into two categories, (1) humans and human things, and (2) the rest – which for some people is (all) other living things (that humans have not (significantly) affected); for others, however, all material things, energies, processes and actions, not significantly made, modified, or influenced by humans, is the usual categorisation. In Judeo-Christian terms, (1) was / is seen as a Special Creation; (2) is nature. If you were or are born into the Judeo-Christian context, you were or are automatically put in the not-natural box.

It depends, I guess, what one means by the kind of action, but George Perkins Marsh (1801-82), who is often considered the father of the conservation movement, held that:

It has been maintained by authorities as high as any known to modern science that the action of man upon nature, though great in degree, does not differ in kind from that of wild animals.11

If one can find no difference in the act – and Marsh’s view is still probably a minority one – there may be little point putting the actors in different boxes. Many people, though, do see a significant difference between ‘human’ and ‘other’ – even when they don’t recognise such things as special creations.

For Charles Eisenstein,

At the crux of the human/nature distinction is technology, the product of the human hand.…[N]o other species has our capacity to… transcend nature’s limitations. In the mental and spiritual realm, the counterpart of technology is culture, which modifies and even supersedes human nature… 12

Complicating things, S.H. Nasr writes:

The totally quantitative conception of nature which thanks to technology has begun to dominate all of life is gradually displaying cracks in its wall. Some are joyous about this event and believe it is the reassertion of the spiritual view of things. But… most often the cracks are filled by the most negative ‘psychic residues’ and the practices of the ‘occult sciences… [They] are much more dangerous than materialism.13

Is this an indication that Robert Boyle’s work is not yet finished, or a misunderstanding of attempts to rebalance our conception(s) of Nature? Eisenstein jumps the gun with a clear assumption, but I suspect is right in the conclusion:

Since human beings are themselves natural, then isn’t everything we make and do natural too? To be natural isn’t a matter of who designed something or what materials it is made from. The products of the human hand are only unnatural to the extent they pretend to a linearity that defies the cyclical laws of nature. [If we change technology, for instance so that there is no waste], I am saying more than “technology will be in harmony with nature”. Technology will be natural.12

Cyber-space and all

Concerned most with ‘social ecology’, a number of writers, for example Karl W. Kapp, suggest that

Discussions of, and attempts at, environmental protection and control lie within a fairly wide spectrum ranging more or less from verbal ‘solutions’ to far-reaching controls and prohibition of damaging factors of production, reconstruction of technology, control of siting and spacing of industrial complexes. There are both ‘minimalists’ and ‘maximalists’. The former attempt to answer the problem by general suggestions and indirect controls while the latter claim that it is already impossible to save the situation by an effective environmental policy. All attempts to protect the environment within the framework of a market economy [are] in the first category. To these we may also [add] all attempts to pass off the ecocrisis as falling within the province of public relations departments.14

Some see other solutions. Musing through Mein kampf, I was rather surprised to see that der Führer himself wrote that “Eternal Nature inexorably avenges the infringement of her commands”. However, surprise wasn’t necessary:

While concerns about problems posed by humankind’s increasing mastery over nature have increasingly been shared by ever larger groups […] embracing a plethora of ideologies, the most consistent ‘pro-natural order’ response found political embodiment on the radical right. [15]

A change in understanding

George Marsh seems somewhat pessimistic when he says:

The life of man is a perpetual struggle with eternal Nature. Her [sic] spontaneous and unelaborated products yield him neither sufficient nor appropriate food, nor clothing, nor shelter …11

This does seem to be admitting something like an eternal gulf between Us and The Rest. But suppose Eisenbach’s assertion that human activities and productions are Natural,  as much, say, as bioluminescence, or the scent of a wild rose: does anything then prevent us saying that the diminished scent of an ‘improved’, enlarged, more flamboyant, rose cultivar is natural – or the glowing snout of a transgenic pig?

Such a question is new, and not only because lit-up pigs have not long been with us. From the outset, Richard Jones, in The medieval natural world, makes it clear that

what might now be labelled the ‘natural world’ had no currency for Classical or medieval scholars. The phrase is never encountered […]. Modern western society has no problem with the idea because it has found a philosophical rationale for separating it from us, nature from culture, but this division, false or otherwise, has a relatively short historical pedigree and enjoyed little or no validity before the seventeenth century.16

Our middle ages, he makes clear, “had no natural world to explain”. In its place was a:

“more encompassing concept of nature” that included what has been nicely called “all things that are and all things that are not”.

And now, a huge proportion of humanity sees an updated version of Boyle’s world, including that uncomfortable fence which separates (they say) Us from The Rest. Of course, if you believe in a biological evolution that includes Hom. Sap. there is no fence, and it seems to follow that you accept your naturalness. As Patrick Murphy wrote somewhere: “Only by denying evolution and the genetic material of human conception can we imagine that we are not part of nature”.

Morality free?

I know that this is going too far (and fast) for many, and you may not be able to travel with me, (“The qualification needs adjusting.”)… but I would say that in our modern world what I or you do as a part of what a normal human being does, perhaps with the qualification that it is spontaneous, not accidental, and without remorse, is then, surely, natural. Maybe. Perhaps we have ethics to strengthen feelings of remorse, and of happiness and spirituality. And it may be that some other species do, too. At least we call dolphins and lions and monkeys natural, yet don’t male dolphins sometimes appear to commit rape, don’t some lions and albatrosses form male-male relationships, and don’t some simians – etc. – lie? No: I don’t like the thought, either.

Our understanding seems to be changing again, and our perception of the world and our relationship to it are shifting, too. Not least are they changing so far as (some) animals are concerned. We are used to anthropomorphising them, but now a more respectful view of them is – just – beginning. A few recent headlines and titles may indicate the movement: ‘Dolphins should be recognised as non-human persons’, ‘Do animals have emotions?’, ‘Parrots join apes and Aristotle in the club of reason’, ‘How chimps mourn their dead’, ‘Homosexual selection’, ‘Virtuous nature’. This view is indeed only a beginning. It is vituperatively confronted by Creationist flak, and humorously flacked by dismissive commentators.

Understandings, of course, can, and sometimes do, go both ways – between the West and the Rest, and from an environmentalist to a not-environmentalist outlook – if only an acceptance that a ‘modern’, ‘western, way of life is an irresistible magnet. For me, a favourite comment on this is by Maori Chief Sir Tipene O’Regan:

I shudder to think what my own tupuna [ancestors] would have done had they bulldozers.17

Mandarin duck in a WWT sanctuary in Northern Ireland. Photo: Nicholas Horne

Some Eastern attitudes

 ‘Nature / nurture’, or Nature / human culture is commonly seen as the critical divide. It seems, though, that something is being forgotten here.

In [culture’s] original, classical sense nature and culture were not polar opposites; quite the contrary. Culture was, if anything, the worship of nature. 18

We might put that a different way. Spiritual aspects of our culture are sustained by what is known as Nature. Spirituality, whatever we mean by that word, intensifies an emotional response towards a particular way of being.19

I quite like the way the Dalai Lama thinks of spirituality and of religion:

[T]here is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with faith in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another, an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of metaphysical or supernatural reality… Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit [!] – such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony – which bring happiness to self and others).20

Contemplating that seems a gentle way of leaving ‘Western’ thinking about the world, and picking up a few unpolished fragments from ‘Eastern’ ways.21 And thinking about my would-be friend the old Oak, I remember being startled by a question from Jiddu Krishnamurti:

Have you ever been in communion with a tree? Do you know what it means to look at a tree, to have no thought, no memory interfering with your observation, with your feeling, with your sensibility, with your nervous state of attention, so that there is only the tree, not you who are looking at that tree?22

Frankly, I don’t think I do; but I can treat the question as a sort of koan.

I happen to have been given a copy of Images of nature, an Anglo-Japanese Review album, which is helpfully succinct about several points from a culture I want to look at briefly. In it, Isamu Kurita advises:

Defining ‘Nature’ is a difficult task. The problem for modern Japanese people is the term ‘Nature’, which has for them a dual meaning. The first is the European concept, which emerged in the wake of modern industrial society; the second… is that which prevailed in Japan through the [seventeenth to nineteenth centuries]. This traditional Japanese conception of Nature represented by the word zoka, is… roughly equivalent to the English word ‘creation’ The Japanese word shizen,23 which is now commonly used to mean Nature, was imported into  the lexicon during the [later nineteenth century].

The modern European or Western, sense of Nature is primarily a material one. The traditional Japanese meaning of Nature implies a power that cannot be seen with the eyes. Nature as such is perceived  as an invisible, giant, living thing. Nature in the Western sense is static, objective, and principally defined by its materialistic features. The traditional Japanese notion of Nature, in polar opposition to that of the West, is based on the invisible living forces which manifest themselves in such things as the wind and the rain. Nature in this sense is not raw material; rather, it is the nucleus of living energy from which all things are born. It represents a type of order and harmony through which people can perceive beauty and receive aesthetic inspiration.24

This is intriguingly close to what Robert Boyle was criticising. In the same volume, Terumichi  Kawai writes:

[The Japanese] notion of ‘nature’… contains no scientific connotations or definitions, but is of a rather pantheistic character and is supplied with a certain metaphysical element originating in the East. […] The people traditionally never used the term ‘nature’, but were only habituated to point out each natural phenomena [sic] like cherry blossom, rain, breeze, snow and the like.

In contrast to the Japanese way of appreciating nature, European Man sees himself as essentially apart and distinct from his surroundings. The natural world is not his world except when he enjoys the surrounding countryside or takes a walk in the park.… [To] the Japanese, everything is permeated through and through with divinity and exists as an organic living whole essentially good.25

Ancient & modern

In the wide-ranging Comparative history of ideas, Hajime Nakamura notes a major shift in the conception of ‘nature’:

Certain attitudes toward nature and natural law, as exhibited in various periods East and West, are more or less the transition stage from medieval to modern thought… [The Indian Vedantic period, 1,500 – 500 BCE] generally conceived of nature as directed from without. This way of thinking is also consistent with that of the medieval West. Among mystics, more or less worldwide, a similar explanation but from an internal point of view, [held] that everything is perfectly directed by God who is the self-nature of everything.

Differing from the above…, the modern view seems to play down the role of an added  constant director of nature either internal or external. …Nature conforms to its own laws…, and interest in these laws led to scientific thinking… in the West. In the East such thinking while present, remained largely pre-modern… 26

According to environmentalist Hiroyuki Ishi, distinct western and eastern attitudes developed out of two different patterns of agriculture, summed up as ‘wheat and meat’ in the West, and ‘rice and fish’ in the East.27

However, the differences might not lie so much in different forms of food production, as in different understandings of what ‘nature’ means, and hence what our responsibilities towards ‘nature’ are.27

Our western attitudes, which have not quite destroyed earlier ones, derive from the Judaism-Christianity-Islam traditions, in which non-humans do not have souls, ‘nature’ is for our use ( but we should manage it well), and “a responsible attitude here implies one which puts the interests of all human beings in the world first.” The recent development of an ‘environmental consciousness’ is to be seen as “a new, quasi-religious doctrine of the Western type, in which we anticipate either “a ‘saved’ world, or the hell of environmental armageddon.”

The Japanese world view was formed from the meeting of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism with Japan’s own Shinto. From this developed a complex but coherent tradition. This has several characteristics: it is local, not universal; humans can live happily in the world, which can be a comfortable, beautiful and enjoyable place; the world includes different kinds of beings – humans should not think of rights over other beings: reciprocity rather than stewardship; the end of the world – a cataclysm – is not expected; religious beliefs are private; social harmony and well-being of the group rather than individual rights are central to morality.

In this context, contemporary Western attitudes to nature derive from ‘universal’ values, which are really values applying to the group of all human beings in the world. In order to safeguard the interests of the group of human beings, ‘nature’… must be properly managed.… Japanese attitudes… define ‘nature’ in a different way to mean ‘the world enjoyably inhabited by our social group’. Within this world there are natural [non-human], human and supernatural elements, [which] get out of balance when proper reciprocity is not observed.

Isamu Kurita  concludes:

Human beings are one again faced with a choice between materialism and spirituality, between new and extremely old values.24

But, he makes it clear that he isn’t suggesting that either the traditional or the new is superior. Rather: I believe it is essential for the continued survival of humanity that we understand and utilise both of these concepts of Nature.24

A lamb living in the Welsh Countryside. Photo: Nicholas Horne

By the Way

Finally in the East, a moment with the Daoist (Taoist) tradition of China: many Western environmentalists believe that followers of dao – the way – have, with Buddhists28, much to offer them. I am convinced they are right, though not so straightforwardly as is usually implied. David Cooper points out that Daoists will be noticeably few amongst factory-farm employees, but also amongst eco-warriors. They will be found feeding birds in winter, and – especially – they will be cultivating their gardens. They have, he says, aptly been described as the gardeners of the world. His closing words may disappoint:

Daoism’s contribution to environmental ethics is not a new principle for governing humankind’s treatment of the environment, nor a new plan to rescue the planet. It is, instead, a portrait of how an individual person, in making consonance with the source of things – with dao – may live well in relation to nature.29

Whereas Daoists are not uncomfortable with wilderness, nor is the ‘wilderness experience’ privileged by Daoists over engagement with human landscapes, with cultivated environments.29

Humans may be ‘natural’ as much in the garden as in untrammelled, ‘wild’ places. Wild, after all, can be found anywhere there is life: on a mountaintop, in an ocean trench, in a human gut. It is wilderness that is difficult to pin down.

Here and now

I do wonder how much of all this – any of it? – is in our thinking when we discuss, explain, or try to sell ‘nature conservation’, environmentalism, ‘(re)wilding’, ‘wilderness’, and so on, here in Britain. How much has thinking about it influenced what has been written in ECOS, and how it has been written?

I don’t know. (There could be an interesting and useful piece of research here.) What I do know, is that my own take on all this is fairly stable but rather delicate, but that I am generally not happy with the so-called Western attitude – and understand not a lot about that which characterises some from the East – let alone from elsewhere in the world. I am quite aware – remembering my wife’s good advice – that I can’t interrupt every conversation about ‘nature’ (which for me is ‘Nature’, but which doesn’t really exist) with pleas of “What do you mean by X?”, but that unless grounded in this way I can’t be sure that I understand what you are saying. As with so many things in our lives, we are probably speaking and writing past each-other, not to each-other.

And can we say what Nature is?

If we must continue to use the word – then:

‘Nature’ is what we see –
The Hill – the Afternoon –
Squirrel – Eclipse – the Bumble bee –
Nay – Nature is Heaven –
Nature is what we hear –
The Boblink – the Sea –
Thunder –Nay –
Nature is Harmony –
Nature is what we know –
You have no art to say –
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.                Emily Dickinson

Notes & references

 1.         Martin Spray (2016) Lessons from an old Oak, ECOS 37(3-4) 44-48.

2          Books I have found valuable include Jean Holm with John Bowker, ed., (1994), Attitudes to nature, Pinter, and J. Baird Callicott (1994), Earth’s insights. A multicultural survey of ecological ethics from the Mediterranean Basin to the Australian Outback, University of California Press. Inter Press Service [ed. Pablo Piacentini] (1992), Story Earth. Native voices on the environment, Mercury House, CA., and Sara Dunn & Alan Scholefield (eds) (1991), Beneath the wide, wide heaven. Poetry of the environment from antiquity to the present, Virago, are examples of alternative inspirations. Also Richard Jones (2013), The medieval natural world, Pearson; R.G. Collingwood (1945), The idea of nature, Oxford University Press. William Cronon (1995), Uncommon ground. Rethinking the human place in nature, is useful background; and there is a fresh approach to some issues in Morris Berman (1981), The reenchantment of the world Cornell University Press. There must be many others.

3          Robert Boyle ed. Edward B. Davis & Michael Hunter (1996), A free enquiry…, Cambridge University Press. I have left out about half the words of this paragraph.

4          John Passmore (1974), Man’s responsibility for nature, Duckworth. There is a telling comment by Peter Taylor, in Beyond conservation, Earthscan, 2005: “[It is perhaps unfortunate] that English has chosen the Latin Natura to represent the concept of ‘nature’. […] for the Latin simply means ‘to give birth’.[…] How different things might have been had we called the natural world about us Birther!” Wild ‘nature’ might then have felt less ‘other’ and our connection to its processes more fundamental and reverent.”

5          Chris Park (2007), Oxford dictionary of environment and conservation,  OUP.

6          Kate Soper (1995), What is nature?, Blackwell. Collingwood [see ref. 2] and Noel Castree (2005), Nature, Routledge, deal formally with aspects.

7          Clarence Glacken (1967), Traces on the Rhodian shore, University of California Press.

8          Gerald Marten (2001), Human ecology, Earthscan.

9          K.M. Meyer-Abich ((1990 1993), Revolution for nature [trans.], White Horse Press.

10        An appropriate phrase borrowed from Douglas Adams (1982), Life, the Universe and Everything, Pan.

11        George Perkins Marsh ed. Stephen Trombulak (2001), So great a vision. The conservation writings of George Perkins Marsh, University Press of New England.

12        Charles Eisenstein (2007),The ascent of humanity. Civilization and the human sense of self, Evolver Editions, CA.

13        Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1968), Man and nature, Allen & Unwin.

14        Karl W.Kapp in Ken Coates, ed.(1972), Socialism and the environment, Spokesman.

15        Robert Pois (1986), National Socialism and the religion of nature, Croom Helm.

16        Richard Jones (2013), The medieval natural world. Pearson.

17        Quoted in Roy W. Perrett (1998), ‘Indigenous rights and environmental justice’,  Environmental ethics 20(4) 377-91.

18        Kenneth Olwig, Landscape, nature and the body politic, quoted in Jay Griffiths (2006), Wild. An elemental journey. Tarcher (Penguin).

19        N. Luhrmann in Kay Milton, ed.  (1993), Environmentalism. The view from anthropology, Routledge.

20        Tenzin Gyatso [the Dalai Lama] (1999), Ancient wisdom, modern world, Abacus.

21        Hajime Nakamura (1964), Ways of thinking of eastern peoples, Kegan Paul International, is thorough; see also Callicott & Ames, ref. 24, and parts of Jean Holm with John Bowker ed., (1994) Attitudes to nature, Pinter.

22        Jiddu Krishnamurti (1992), On nature and the environment, Gollancz.

23        Shi-zen was a Chinese term which the Japanese took over about 1,500 years ago to mean something like ‘spontaneous’. From the late 18th.  century it has also had the meaning of ‘nature’. Shizen is discussed by Hubertus Tellenbach & Bin Kimura (1989) The Japanese concept of ‘Nature’, in J. Baird Callicott & Roger T. Ames (eds) Nature in Asian traditions of thought: Essays in environmental philosophy, Sri Satguru Publications, Delhi. (Sri Garib Dass Oriental Series 116.).

24        Isamu Kurita (1992) The Japanese view of Nature, in An Anglo-Japanese Review, Images of Nature, Pilkington Foundation Publications.

25        Terumichi Kawai (1992) Nature – Differing philosophical backgrounds, in An Anglo-Japanese Review, Images of Nature, Pilkington Foundation Publications.

26        Hajime Nakamura (2nd. ed.1986), A comparative history of ideas, Kegan Paul International.

27        In Brian Bocking (1994), ‘Japanese religions’ in Jean Holm with John Bowker, ed., Attitudes to nature, Pinter.

28         See, e.g, Stephanie Kaza & Kenneth Kraft, eds. Dharma rain. Sources of Buddhist environmentalism, Shambhala, Boston MA. There is a huge literature; much apparently is of the rose-tinted variety.

29        David E. Cooper (2012), Convergence with nature. A  Daoist perspective, Green Books. Reviewed in ECOS 33(3-4) 2012.

Martin Spray

A former ECOS editor and judge of the forthcoming ECOS student article competition. 

Contact the author

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Spray, Martin “ECOS 38 (2): The Nature question” ECOS vol. 38(2), 2017, British Association of Nature Conservationists,

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