Nowadays such environmental issues as climate change, water, soil, and air pollution, deforestation, depletion of natural resources, and decrease in flora and fauna, determine the paradigm of correlations between civilization and nature. Besides, under the circumstances of market economy and rapid technological development, less attention is paid to the problems of environment. Obviously, these factors have led to human separation from nature. Moreover, the need of establishing environmentally-friendly society asserts itself increasingly frequently for people nowadays are fundamentally alienated from nature. Overcoming alienation is possible only by means of reformation of society and its transition from consumerism to environmental consciousness.
The role of the state in regulating environmental policies is one of the determining factors in dealing with the issue of human separation from nature. Moreover, environmental policies, implemented at the state level, influence public awareness to a great extent. Considering the issue of governmental policies of the United States in the area of environmental protection, Mark I. Wallace states that there are two parties that exist within the American Radical Green movement, namely anti-toxics groups and conservation activists. Anti-toxics party deals mostly with the environmental hazards that evolve in urban, sub-urban, and rural areas where economy is in a critical condition. The essence of conservation activism and research consists in restoration and preservation of species and creating conditions close to their natural habitats. Thus, biodiversity activists and scientists deal with the wildlife.
The situation with environmental protection is especially critical in the economically distressed areas. Disproportional allocation and depletion of natural resources is the key to understanding of the causes of decay of infrastructure and economy in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The state of economy and infrastructure is closely linked to the issue of quality of life. In this regard, under the circumstances of the disproportional allocation and depletion of natural resource, another burning issue evolves, namely environmental racism. Implementing environmental justice policy, in turn, can be regarded as one of the most effective actions against the environmental racism which builds a common ground for the conciliation between anti-toxics groups and biodiversity movement. Effective waste management and restoration of control over the waste industry are possible ways of dealing with the problems that constitute the anti-toxics specialist’s area of expertise. Introducing sustainable spirituality may reconcile the proponents of supporters of anti-toxics position with those advocating the conservation and biodiversity approach. Therefore, it is possible to assume that mankind and nature are inseparably connected. Nature should be regarded as a divine element. Analyzing anti-toxics and conservationists positions towards the issue of environmental protection, Mark I. Wallace assumes that the number of people competent about the problem is very limited. Considering the environmental protection legislation in the United States, the researcher comes to conclusion that flaws in the environmental policies are one of the root causes of human separation from nature.
In the twentieth century cases when people gave up their habitual activities seeking for peace and harmony and made decisions to experience wildlife (sojourn out in the wild) have become more and more widespread. This has led to reconsideration of the concept of wilderness. Clearly, instances when people reunite with nature in such journeys slightly contradict the idea that mankind is totally and fundamentally alienated from nature. Admitting the fact that people become more and more alienated from nature, William Cronon provides the following argumentation. First of all, the concept of wilderness in Cronon’s research is considered from the point of art. Art, in its turn, shapes human understanding of wilderness to a great extent. At the same time, travelling to remote places, according to Cronon, is nowadays more common than it used to be in the age of Romanticism, specifically in the late 18th and in the first half of the 19th century. Thus, the sublime and the frontier have evolved as terms denoting two approaches towards understanding of wilderness. The sublime, according to Cronon, is a “cultural construct” representing the modern understanding of Romanticist aesthetics and philosophy. The frontier is a purely American notion, a term coined from Europeans. In this regard, William Cronon claims that “in the theories of Edmund Burke, Immanuel Kant, William Gilpin, and others, sublime landscapes were those rare places on earth where one had more chance than elsewhere to glimpse the face of God.” The concept of frontier embodies all the entities that engrossed the minds of thinkers: solitude and search of identity, destiny and purpose of human existence, a human being and the rest of the world.
Considering the issue of human separation form nature, it is important to admit that people should not forget what has become a history. Nature is a human habitat as well, even though people have to destroy lots of things to build a home. Technology is mostly aimed at saving people’s time, providing high standards of comfort, and improving the quality of life. However, nowadays there is a need to reconsider what high quality of life truly means. At the same time, William Cronon states that mankind can reconsider its link with nature and its attitude towards the environment by means of art.
Apparently, church as a social institution influences human perception of the elements of nature and understanding of nature itself. Traditional religious beliefs define the laws of coexistence between all living beings. At the same time, their vision of soul within non-anthropomorphic beings is rather vague. Making a reference to theological-philosophical interpretation of the problem of correlation between nature and the world of people and, thus, exploring spiritual and religious aspects of the issue, Anna Peterson claims that Christianity admits the uniqueness of human being as such. Additionally, the conception of soul is regarded as one of the key aspects of Christianity. Soul is a distinctive feature of humans which differentiates them from other living beings.
Catholic tradition claims that “no part of creation can be termed evil”. At the same time, it is important to understand the intent purpose and function of each living being and animated object. Thus, it is possible to assume that Anna Peterson advocates the position, that even though the elements of nature may not be regarded as sacred according to the religious laws, it is a man’s duty to treat them and all living beings wisely. Therefore, religion can be regarded as one of the possible causes of human alienation from nature.
Making a reference to and reflecting on the issue of symbiosis as one of the most amicable and mutually profitable forms of the coexistence of species, Lynn White claims that scientific and technological aspects of the civilization’s impact exerted on nature become more and more noticeable nowadays. At the same time, an alternative Christian view of nature has evolved. Specifically, the researcher is making a reference to the history of St. Francis who made a stand for the uniqueness of elements of nature and each living being. Lynn White is also making a reference to Aldous Huxley, the author of the acknowledged masterpiece Brave New World. Huxley’s position regarding the issue of the relationships between civilization and nature was as follows: mankind had been treating nature ‘unnaturally’ for a very long period of time, and this, apparently, caused a significant damage to environment. Mankind itself and each individual specifically should be regarded as the dynamic elements within the framework of their setting, the latter being represented by the concept of environment.
Lynn White admits that “…the present increasing disruption of the global environment is the product of a dynamic technology and science which were originating in the Western medieval world against which St. Francis was rebelling in so original a way.” “Distinctive attitude towards nature,” according to White, is mostly grounded on Christian dogma. Thus, it is possible to assume that Lynn White’s statements prove that people tend to alienate from nature. One of the possible reasons for this is the increasing role of anthropocentricity which is supported by doctrinal beliefs.
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To understand the main causes of human separation from nature, it is important to analyze the most important aspects that regulate human life. In this regard, people’s beliefs, philosophy, and habitual activities should be among the defining ones. Allan Carlson claims that there are lots of obstacles within the US community on the way to introducing agrarianism and, thus, establishing environmentally-conscious and environmentally-friendly society. The obstacles, according to Carlson, are as follows: variety of mentalities, the need for the reformation of legislation, adaptation of the market and economy to the new conditions of household management. Analyzing the current economic situation, Allan Carlson claims: “Contemporary agrarian writers underscore the weaknesses of industrialized farming. Foremost of these is the mounting inability of factory farms even to compete in a free market.” The fact is that social, economic, and environmental consciousness of the American people has evolved, and there is a possibility of implementing new agricultural strategies. At the same time, the researcher claims that support from religious groups is highly desirable.
Allan Carlson believes that currently society of the United States of America has a chance to implement new strategies of farming and household management. Thus, the researcher expresses strong confidence in the evolvement of social, economic, and environmental consciousness of people of the United Sates. Thus, basing on the analysis of Allan Carlson’s statements, it can be assumed that it is still possible to reverse a trend of mankind’s alienation from nature.
Exploring the religious aspects of human alienation from nature, Joel Garreau claims that the processes of rejection of the traditional beliefs take place nowadays with higher occurrence. At the same time, Garreau makes a statement that “nowadays there is no shortage of options on the menu of belief.” The author of the research also explores the essence of the following notions: ecology, environmentalism, and ecotheology. Environmentalism has nowadays become one of the world’s most powerful religions. The term “ecology” has been introduced by Ernst Haeckel, who claimed that it is a study of correlation between the species. The author of the research also makes reference to Lynn White and his work “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” Therefore, Joel Garreau emphasizes the ideas of anthropocentricity and dualism articulated by Lynn White in his research.
The issue of the impact of science and religion on people’s environmental consciousness has generated an intense discussion among the specialists. Clearly, environmental problems cause growing public concern while more and more people are willing to be competent in the issue. In this regard, there is a need to make a compromise between science and religion, reason and ungrounded pathos.
Bron Taylor in his two-partied study titled “Earth and Nature Based Spirituality: From Deep Ecology to Radical Environmentalism” expands upon the key notions and aspects of the problem of environmental ethics and religion. First of all, the author of the research explains the meaning of terms ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality.’ Religion, above all, is a social institution. Spirituality, on the other hand, is a more abstract notion that “can be viewed as a quest to deepen, renew, or tap into the most profound insights of traditional religions”. Spirituality “consecrates otherwise secular endeavors such as psychotherapy, political activism, and one’s vocational choices and the corresponding work”. Earth- or nature-based spirituality is a term denoting the subset of religious beliefs that “perceive nature itself to be sacred”. The author of the research is making reference to Howie Wolke and Dave Foreman as the two most active proponents of radical environmentalism. “Despite personal ambivalence about much of the earth-based spirituality…, Foreman, and the movement he helped organize [Earth First!], expressed and retained an earth-based spirituality with both pantheistic and animistic characteristics that can best be understood as pagan”.
In the second part of his research, Bron Taylor explores the development of earth-based spiritualities. The researcher pays particular attention to the phenomenon of romanticizing wilderness in art. In this regard, Bron Taylor claims: “What unites these diverse road show performers is their belief that the arts—especially music, poetry and photography—can transport persons imaginatively into the wilderness…” This mental journey may evoke “deep, intuitive and mystical knowledge of the sacredness of earth and of all life”. At the same time, humanistic psychology and ecopsychology are regarded as perspective areas dealing with the “assumed human estrangement from nature”. Finally, the author concludes: “Those engaged in the most naturalistic forms of nature-based spirituality tend to take the earth and its biological processes as the axis of their worldview of nature”.
Considering the statements made by Bron Taylor in terms of research under analysis, it is possible to assume the following. Even though the issue of human alienation from nature requires reconsideration, mostly, due to the fact that environmental issues assert themselves more and more often, the majorities do not approve of the radical environmentalism movements. Radical environmentalism movements are closely linked to pagan tradition. At the same time, many attempts are made to conciliate religion and science on the matter of environmental protection.
To conclude, it is important to admit that human separation from nature is a noticeable fact which is mostly caused by the dominance of information and technology. Other causes of human alienation from nature, according to the researches analyzed within the paper, are imperfect environmental legislation, influence of religion, and the lack of competence in environmental issues and protection.
Apparently, human beings are a part of nature and they ought to act in such a way so that peaceful coexistence between the species (including Homo sapiens themselves) could be made possible. Many researches prove that science gives better understanding of the laws of nature and nature itself. Religion has no specific comments concerning humans’ treatment for wildlife and coexistence between the world of men and the realm of animals. Spirituality, however, advocates the caring and sympathetic treatment for nature.
Apart from illustrating and explaining the processes of the human alienation from nature, it is possible to infer from each research presented within the paper that there are some possible ways to overcome separation between civilization and environment. Thus, civilization can reconnect with nature by means of implementing new agricultural policies and involving people in taking actions to protect wildlife. At the same time, reconsidering the main ecological issues (climate change, water, soil, and air pollution, deforestation, depletion of natural resources, and reduction of flora and fauna), as well as the place of human being in the ecological system, is quite important. Human treatment for environment and nature should base on the principles of care, sympathy, and thought for the tomorrow.