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Ecocriticism Concepts: Interaction Between Man and the Natural Habitat Critical Essay

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Updated: Aug 6th, 2019


Debates on the interaction between man and the natural habitat imply that there are different philosophical arguments by different researchers concerning culture/binary. The natural environment is central to the sustainability of life and the well-being of man. In this sense, man is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the natural environment is well catered for.

This, in turn, assures man of a better life in the environment. Most people attribute the worsened conditions in the natural environment to the human culture that has been cultivated over a long period. This paper, therefore, explores the volatile subject of ecocriticism.

Based on Boyes (2012) and Murray (1997) works, the essay focuses on the philosophical concepts that expound how man perceives and interacts with the natural environment.

Overview of Boyes and Murrays’ views about the natural environment

In his work, Boyes (2012) raises concerns about the need to conserve the earth now for the sake of the future generations. However, the question that is raised is: To what extent should people conserve the natural environment for the future generation, considering the fact that the future does not hold any meaning to the present generation that might not be there in the future?

This is a resounding ethical question for people who argue for and against sustainable development. Arguing from an ecocentric point of view, Boyes (2012) indicates that both the human and nonhuman creatures depend on the natural ecosystems for their survival. The modern man inherited the earth from his ancestors and he has a responsibility to conserve it for people who will come after him.

The simple reasoning here is that if the traditional man had destroyed the natural environment, then the modern man could not have survived. If this argument is projected, then it means that the ability of the earth to sustain the future man depends on the practices that are conducted in the natural environment by the current man.

Murray (1997) uses a figurative language where he likens a cow to the natural environment that provides human beings with most of their needs. He brings out the contradiction between the importance of nature on man and the way man treats the very nature that is important to him. The cow gives man milk. However, man has to do a number of things, like feeding the cow and ensuring the cow is well taken care of.

These tasks are hefty, yet they must be done as long as the man expects the cow to keep providing him with the milk. The natural environment has most of the things that man needs to live. The environment loses the power to sustain man if man does not take care of it.

Expanding the argument

According to Boyes (2012), the wilderness (natural environment) can be a source of threat to the survival of man. Examples are the tsetse fly and the mosquitoes in the tropics of Africa. These organisms harm other animals and man. Therefore, chemicals are used to kill the tsetse flies so that man can inhabit the tropics comfortably.

This brings the human-wildlife conflicts into picture, where in most cases wild creatures are victims of human hunting and destruction. One of the most promising solutions to the embrace of coexistence between human beings and the wild creatures is the commercialization of the natural habitats through the creation of game reserves and parks where the wild creatures are contained.

Whether this commercialization is ethically and ecologically acceptable is an issue that is subject to debate. Environmental optimists support the commercialization of the natural habitat by arguing that it is the best way to promote the peaceful coexistence of wild creatures and man.

On the other hand, environmental pessimists argue that the commercialization of the wild habitats is an indicator of exploitative tendencies of man (Khare 2005).

Estok (2009) indicates that several environmental philosophers continue to question the possibility of setting apart human culture from nature. The dynamics in politics, economics, ethics, technology, social aspects of the society, and the management of the environment have a historical background.

Also coming into picture is the third-wave ecocriticism, which expounds on the ethnic and relational patterns in dealing with culture/nature binary (Slovic, 2011). This implies that they are cultural in nature. One way through which a balance can be restored in the interaction between man and the environment is the rationalization of the balance that should be attained between the environment and technological ethics.

However, balancing between technology and environmental ethics poses a challenge because most of the technologies in the world today pose a danger to the sustainability of the natural environment (Cohen 2005).

As most environmental pessimists point out, technology and industrialization is the main cause of the present and the impending threats to the sustainability of natural habitats.

The environmental pessimists further object the possibility of attaining duality between the natural environment and the human interests that are depicted in the practices that are enhanced in the different realms of the society. Most times, the interaction between human beings and natural ecologies is dominated by human interests (Boyes, 2012).

These interests come out in the nature of the practices that man engages in when interacting with the environment. There is a greater opposition force between human civilization and the ability of human beings to embrace stewardship. Human civilization encourages exploitation to better the contemporary comfort of human beings.

This means that human beings lose the sense of shepherding the natural ecologies as they seek to embrace practices that give them higher levels of utility. This also points to the materialist and consumerism culture in the contemporary society, instead of the embrace of a conservatism culture that can help protect the environment (Ferrer-Medina, 2007).

According to Legendre (2004), all human beings use the natural environment, thus they all have the moral duty to ensure that the natural environment is well taken care of so that it can continue serving them. This can be likened to the way a cow has to be treated so as to promote a symbiotic relationship (Murray, 1997).

However, there are a number of aspects of the cow poem that point the aspect of parasitism in the relationship between man and the environment. Murray points out that the cow is milked and sucked till the teats go dry, yet the cow is expected to keep yielding milk for humans (Murray, 1997). This is a perfect analogy that points out how human beings relate to the natural environment.

Legendre (2004) observes that the development of a science oriented culture is the reason why human beings continue to value technology. Science seems to offer solutions to most of the challenges and needs facing human beings. In a negative sense, the same science seems to offer less to the needs of nature.

The same science, which is a culture in itself, can be important when it comes to the development of practices that can aid in sustaining natural habitats. The forces of nature are lost as man continues to embrace science. Science is resulting in inventions and innovations that artificialize the natural environment.

Here, a critique comes from Boyes (2012) who argues that conservation intentions have worsened the natural ecosystems through practices that absolve the world of the natural aspect. Human beings continuously modify their natural environment through science and technology. Some of the most renowned examples are climate change and global warming.

However, the conservation of the world heritage is also a worthy cause when it comes to the protection of the natural environment from human encroachment. This is according to the study that was conducted at Okavango Delta (Boyes, 2012).

Global warming is a danger that is becoming reality due to the long term encroachment of the natural environment by human beings and the invention of technologies that strain the ability of the nature to maintain desirable levels of sustaining life.

As a number of ecologists and environmental activists argue, the world is slowly but surely becoming plastic. Such a world will be unnatural and will pose great challenges to the safe existence of life.

According to the advocates of the environment, humanists need to be at the center of the parties that are seeking solutions to the environmental dilemma. Environmentalists stress their argument by pointing to the fact that the continued press for the satisfaction of human needs is the reason why human beings have degraded the natural environment.

A substantial number of renowned theorists on the subject of ecology point to the fact that the issue of balancing between culture and the environment should not be approached from a subjective or an objective point of view, but from a rational point of view.

An example of the theorists is Bruno Latour, who argues that the technical challenges of sustaining the natural environment have to be brought to the table and weighed against the measures that are taken through science, or through individual actions that are being taken to ensure that the world ecologies are sustainable.

The question that needs to be answered here concerns the extent to which human beings can forego the comfort that is created out of the material culture and a culture that embraces the conservation of the environment. Most people are not ready to forego the material and consumerism culture even with the widespread knowledge about the dangers of environmental degradation (Ferrer-Medina 2007).

According to Ferrer-Medina (2007), the non-human co-residents of the earth are exposed to the dangers of environmental degradation that are caused by human beings. Therefore, questioning the moral and ethical stance of human beings is justifiable in the way man treats himself, as well as well as the way he treats other non human creatures.

One of the ways of averting the activities that have catastrophic effects on the environment is checking the patterns of development. Each country is struggling to free itself from the chains of poverty. This denotes competition for resources and, in most cases, the poor utilization of the natural resources to attain economic security (Morton 2007).

In his poem, Alizadeh (2011) observes that there is a lot of suspicion in the world. The suspicion comes from the variation in interests and practices between different countries, regions, religions, and ethnicities. The variation in interests creates a situation where people lack trust in one another. The end of it all is the destruction and imprisonment of each other. This results in the destruction of nature.

Boyes (2012) argues that by its existence, the natural environment sustains itself. He gives the examples of the existence of creatures like tsetse flies, buffaloes, and lions in African forests, which scared away human beings from destroying the forests.

Human beings end up taking actions that encourage the destruction of other human beings by way of trusting in certain practices and beliefs and the urge to continue embracing these practices (Hess, 2010).

Estok (2009) argues that ecocentricism faces a lot of opposition from the poststructuralists. However, the depth with which the environmentalists present issues regarding the historical interaction between man and the natural environment seems to be enough to point to the prevailing poor relationship between man and the environment.

Therefore, Curry (2008) points to the need for objective and constructive thinking in terms of what needs to be done to conserve the natural environment. He points to the dominance of ecological debates by ecopluralist thoughts, where conclusions about the relationship between man and the natural environment will come out of objective arguments from different stakeholders.

Boyes (2012) reiterates the need for all human beings to gain the sense of responsibility by reflecting on the changes that are taking place in the natural environment, like oceans, poles, and forests. The changes pose a threat to humans and other creatures.

According to Slovic (2010), all facets of human life, including ethnicity have to be reassessed in order to promote the alignment of human beings to the goals of embracing the well-being of nature.


Ecocriticsm presents different opposing views on how man needs to interact with the natural environment. From the discussion presented above, it is worthwhile to conclude that the debate about man and the natural environment is bound to become more volatile as the impacts of the trends of destruction of nature become real.

Reference List

Alizadeh, A 2011, Ashes in the air, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane.

Boyes, S 2012, ‘What is ‘wilderness’? Why protect it? A mission for the future …’, Explorers Journal: Stories from the Field. Web.

Cohen, BR 2005, ‘Escaping the false binary of nature and culture through connection Richard White’s the organic machine: the remaking of the Columbia River’, Organization Environment, vol. 18 no. 4, pp. 445-457.

Curry, P 2008, ‘Nature post-nature’, New Formations, vol. 26 no. 64, pp. 51-64.

Estok, SC 2009, ‘Theorizing in a space of ambivalent openness: Ecocriticism and ecophobia’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 16 no. 2, pp. 203-225.

Ferrer-Medina, P 2007, ‘Wild humans: the culture/nature duality in Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, The Comparatist, vol. 31 no. 1, pp. 67-87.

Hess, S 2010, ‘Imagining an everyday nature’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 85-112.

Khare, A 2005, Emerging dimensions of environmental sustainability: a Canadian perspective of innovative practices, Fachbuch Verlag Winkler, Berlin.

Legendre, L 2004, Scientific research and discovery: Process, consequences and practice, International Ecology Institute, Hamburg.

Morton, T 2007, Ecology without nature: Rethinking environmental aesthetics, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Murray, L 1997, ‘The cows on killing day’, In Murray L, Subhuman Redneck poems, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC, New York, NY.

Slovic, S 2010, ‘The third wave of ecocriticism: north American reflections on the current phase of the discipline’, [email protected]: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment, vol. 1 no. 1, pp. 4-10.

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