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Nature as a Concept

Cultural ecology:
the study of the relationship between a cultural group and its natural environment.

Society shapes people's understandings and uses of nature at the same time that nature shapes society.

Political ecology:
an approach to cultural geography that studies human-environment relations through the relationships of patterns of resource use to political and economic forces.

Globalization: the increasing interconnectedness of different parts of the world through common processes of economic, environmental, political, and cultural change.

The Colombian Exchange:Interaction between the Old World and the New World originating with the voyages of Columbus.

Two American field crops: "maize and potatoes had a fundamental advantage over the different sorts of grain that Old World farmers already knew . . .

With suitable growing conditions, they produced more calories per acre-sometimes very many more . . .

It is no exaggeration to say that the swift rise of industrial Germany was the greatest political monument to the impact of American food crops on Europe and on other continents as well." (Seeds of Change)

The reliance on one or two varieties of potato in Ireland also resulted in disaster.

Virgin soil epidemics:conditions in which the population at risk has no natural immunity . . .

"The image of earth as a living organism and nurturing mother had served as a cultural constraint restricting the actions of human beings" (Death of Nature p.3)

As a female, Pacha is addressed as Mama- Pacha Mama, Mother Earth. Pacha Mama is primarily benevolent, although she is also capricious and easily angered.


"One does not readily slay a mother, dig into her entrails for gold or mutilate her body, although commercial mining would soon require that." (Death of Nature p.3)

"We owe our lives to her," Basilia told me, gesturing out over the potato fields. "She nurses the potatoes lying on her breast, and the potatoes nourish us."(Allen 1987 p.45)

"New images of mastery and domination functioned as cultural sanctions for the denudation of nature. Society needed these new images as it continued the processes of commercialism and industrialization." (Death of Nature p.2)

"Our cosmos ceased to be viewed as an organism and became instead a machine" (Death of Nature p.1)

"Mechanical refers to inanimate machines that lacked spontaneity, volition, and thought; and the mechanical sciences."

"Organic: bodily organs, structures, and organization of living beings" (Death of Nature p.xx)

As long as earth was considered to be alive and sensitive, it could be considered a breach of human ethical behavior to carry out destructive acts against it." (Death of Nature p.3)


 "Miners offered propitiation to the deities of the soil and subterranean world, performed ceremonial sacrifices, and observed strict cleanliness and sexual abstinence, and fasting before violating the sacredness of the living earth by sinking a mine." (Death of Nature p.4)

Supay, the lord of the hills, sometimes referred to as Huari and as the Tio, was transmogrified by the Christians as the Devil.

"The miner must believe in the Pachamama and the Tio because of accidents that occur. Man is spiritually weak from the point of view of accidents or propensity to accidents. Without this belief he does not work in confidence. He is always uneasy."(June Nash 1979 pp. 122-125)

When an accident nearly happens, they offer more liquor and coca to the Tio with thanks for saving them . . . The Tio is an explanation for the inexplicable, a rationale for the irrational destiny which is forced on the miner.(June Nash 1979 pp. 162-164)

"Myth is the first attempt people make to explain the world and their place in it." (Nash 1977 p.116)



Energy sources through history

preindustrial - food, wood
1st wave - wind, water, wood
2nd wave - coal
3rd wave - oil

What is the ultimate source of energy for all of these? The sun.

People and animals did all the work before machines came along. They eat food for energy. The energy in food was originally captured by plants through photosynthesis.

Wind and rain in the mountains are both caused by the sun.

Many machines today consume fossil fuels such as coal and oil for energy. The energy in these fossil fuels was also originally captured by plants through photosynthesis millions of years ago.

The Carbon Cycle

Plants remove carbon from the atmosphere producing carbohydrates (fuel) during photosynthesis. When plant residues get buried in the earth's crust, they slowly generate fossil fuels over millions of years.

Use of Fossil Fuels releases carbon compounds into the atmosphere.

Global Warming

The Greenhouse Effect - greenhouse gasses trap heat.

Most manmade greenhouse gasses contain carbon.

CO2 = carbon dioxide - the most significant greenhouse gas.

Consequences of Global Warming:
melting icecaps and glaciers, sea level rise, change in precipitation patterns, spread of diseases such as malaria and West Nile virus.

Deep Ecology
Self realization: humans are part of the nonhuman worldbiospherical egalitarianism: all members of nature deserve the same respect

Allen, Catherine J. 1988 The Hold Life Has; Coca and Cultural Identity in an Andean Community Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press

Viola, Herman & Carolyn Margolis 1991 Seeds of Change Smithsonian Institution Press

Nash, June 1979 We Eat the Mines the Mines Eat Us Random House, New York