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Material And Ideational Relations Between Humanity And Its Environment

1257 words - 5 pages

The concept of a continuum of material and ideational relations between humanity and its environment requires a nuanced approach which avoids generalizations. I theorize that one cannot argue the greater importance of either the material of ideational aspect without making dangerous assumptions. While some scholars may theorize that it is mankind's religious and ethical worldviews which shape the environment, there is also strong evidence supporting the idea of humanity's technologies and surroundings affecting religious and ethical systems. It is necessary, therefore, to acknowledge the fact of each extreme effecting the other. The material world affects the ideational and the ideational affects the material. Before concluding this paper I aim to survey the discourse from either side of the issue and pinpoint the problems with assigning either the ideational or material aspects sole causal responsibility.
Those who believe that humankind's religious and ethical worldviews impact their environment have a variety of evidence and reasons behind their claims. One scholar who focused literally on the change in worldviews was William Harvey. He theorized that the perspectivist attitudes taken by cartographers and influential persons as the world was explored made humanity view “land” as something “capable of domination through human action.” [Harvey, 254] Harvey believed that the way in which humankind viewed the world (through the changing appearance of maps) also changed the way they treated the world. In Lynn White Jr.'s foundational article, The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, he theorized that the ideologies of Christianity had a similar effect on how humans treated their environment. White argued that Christianity's ideas of human superiority over their environment, Christian superiority over traditional pagan religions, and the concept of humanity being created in God's image all contributed to a sense of entitlement and willingness to dominate the earth. Calvin DeWitt argues for a contemporary restructuring of these views. As a Christian zoologist, DeWitt encourages Christians to think of the environment from the Creator's standpoint. By accepting the viewpoint of a loving creator God, the way that Christians acted upon the world would then be shifted to a more benevolent and caring appreciation. Another key figure who believes in the power of ideas is William Cronon. He theorized that the concept of “wilderness” was a social construct and that society treated this untouched nature with more care than the nature in their own environment. The establishment of wildlife preserves and state parks serve as excellent examples of humans attitudes and worldviews shaping the environment they occupy.
On the other side of the material/ideational continuum lies the idea that the environment and human technology shapes humanity's ideologies and cosmologies. One of the best examples of this concept in action is revealed in...

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