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Nature as seen from Kitkitdizze is no social construction.

I must confess I'm getting a bit grumpy about the dumb arguments being put forth by high-paid intellectual types in which they are trying to knock Nature, knock the people who value Nature, and still come out smelling smart and progressive.

The idea of Nature as being a "social construction"—a shared cultural projection seen and shaped in the light of social values and priorities—if carried out to the full bright light of philosophy, would look like a subset of the world view best developed in Mahayana Buddhism or Advaita Vedanta, which declares (as just one part of its strategy) the universe to be maya, or illusion. In doing so the Asian philosophers are not saying that the universe is ontologically without some kind of reality. They are arguing that, across the board, our seeing of the world is a biological (based on the particular qualities of our species' body-mind), psychological (reflecting subjective projections), and cultural construction. And they go on to suggest how to examine one's own seeing so as to see the one who sees, and thus make seeing more accurate.

The current use of the "social construction" terminology, however, cannot go deeper, because it is based on the logic of European science and the "enlightenment." This thought-pod, in pursuing some new kind of meta-narrative, has failed to cop to its own story—which is the same old occidental view of Nature as a realm of resources that has been handed over to humanity for its own use. As a spiritually (politically) fallen realm, this socially constructed nature finally has no reality other than the quantification provided by economists and resource managers. This is indeed the ultimate commodification of Nature, done by supposedly advanced theorists, who prove to be simply the high end of the "wise use" movement. Deconstruction, done with a compassionate heart and the intention of gaining wisdom, becomes the Mahayana Buddhist logical and philosophical exercise which plumbs to the bottom of deconstructing and comes back with compassion for all beings. Deconstruction without compassion is self-aggrandizement.

So we understand the point about wilderness being in one sense a cultural construct, and what isn't? What's more to the point, and what I fail to find in the writings of the anti-wilderness crowd, is the awareness that we are not into saving relatively uninhabited wild landscapes for the purpose of recreation or spirituality even, but to preserve home-space for non-human beings. And that this preservation of diversity is essential to planetary ecological, spiritual, and evolutionary health for all.

Some of these writers set up, and then attack, the notion of "pristine wilderness," and this again is beating a dead horse. It's well known that humans and proto-humans have lived virtually everywhere for hundreds of millennia. "Pristine" is only a relative term. But humanly-used as the landscape may have been, up until about ninety years ago the planet still had huge territories of wild terrain, which now are woefully shrunken. Much of the wild land was also the territory of indigenous cultures that fit well into what were inhabited wildernesses.

The attacks on Nature and wilderness from the ivory towers come at the right time to bolster the global developers, the resurgent timber companies (here in California, the Charles Hurwitz suits at Pacific Lumber), and those who would trash the Endangered Species Act. It looks like an unholy alliance of Capitalist Materialists and Marxist Idealists in an attack on the rural world that Marx reputedly found idiotic and boring. Yikes!

Heraclitus, the Stoics, the Buddhists, scientists, and your average alert older person all know that everything in this world is ephemeral and unpredictable. Even the earlier ecologists who worked with Clementsian succession theory knew this! Yet now a generation of resource biologists, inspired by the thin milk of Daniel Botkin's theorizing, are promoting what they think is a new paradigm that relegates the concept of climax to the dustheap of ideas. Surely none of the earlier scientific ecologists ever doubted that disturbances come and go. It looks like this particular bit of bullying also comes just in time to support the corporate clear-cutters and land developers. (Granted blow-downs, bugs, fires, and landslides, communities like the vast northern hemisphere trans-Pacific Sequoia Forests prior to the ice age lasted in essence for several million years.)

It's a real pity that the humanities and social sciences are finding it so difficult to handle the rise of "nature" as an intellectually serious territory. For all the talk of "the other" in everybody's theory these days, when confronted with a genuine Other, the non-human realm, the response of the come-lately anti-Nature intellectuals is to circle the wagons and declare that Nature is really part of Culture. Which may be just a strategy to keep the budget within their specialties.

A lot of this rhetoric, if translated into human politics, would be like saying "Black people are the social construction of whites." And then they might as well say that South Central Los Angeles is a problematic realm that has been exaggerated by some white liberals, a realm whose apparent moral issues are also illusory, and that the real exercise in regard to African Americans is a better understanding of how white writers and readers made them up. Of course, liberal critical theorists don't talk this way when it comes to fellow human being because they know what kind of heat they'd get. In the case of Nature, because they are still under the illusion that it isn't seriously there, they indulge themselves in this moral and political shallowness.

Conservationists and environmentalists have brought some of this on themselves. We still have not communicated well on the question of "Why value biodiversity?" Many if not most citizens are genuinely confused over why such importance appears to be placed on hitherto unheard-of owls or fish. Scientists have been heard from, but the writers and philosophers among us (me too) should speak our deep feelings for the value of the non-human with greater clarity. We need to be more creative, stay fresh, write clean prose, eschew obscurity, and not intentionally exaggerate. And we need to comprehend the pain and distress of displaced working people everywhere.

A wilderness is always a specific place, basically there for the local critters that live in it. In some cases a few humans will be living in it too. Such places are scarce and must be rigorously defended. Wild is the process that surrounds us all, self-organizing Nature: creating plant zones, humans and their societies, all of it ultimately resilient beyond our wildest imagination. Human societies create a variety of dreams, notions, and images as to the nature of Nature. But it's not impossible to get a pretty accurate picture of Nature with a little first-hand application—no big deal. I'd say take these dubious professors out for a walk, show them a bit of the passing ecosystem show, and maybe get them to help clean up a creek.