Here is a great clip pretending to be a nature show following the “life” cycle of the plastic bag from strip malls in California to the great garbage island in the Pacific. Narrated by Jeremy Irons, it is really great.
What I love about the clip is how it not only shows the tragedy of our consumer society, but almost more deeply it shows the joke of nature shows and in turn the way most people regard nature. Meant to get us closer to nature, nature shows allow us to stay at a safe distance and watch nature conveniently in an “improved” version, with slow motion, close ups and with the days, weeks, even months where nothing much happens edited out.
Only in this case it is a plastic bag we are watching as it “majestically migrates” thousands of miles in under four minutes thanks to the film maker’s skillful editing.
I’m reading Timothy Morton‘s book Ecology Without Nature and he talks about this romaticization and distancing of nature, a tradition deeply rooted in our culture thanks to the Romantic movement and even earlier… coinciding exactly with when we started really reeving up our destruction of the planet…a coincidence? Not at all.
Definitely worth looking into further, if anything worth looking into your own perception of and interaction with nature. Does your romanticization and abstraction of “nature” effect how you interact (or lack of) with “real” nature in your life?
This separation is very dangerous on many levels. There is a general belief that because we hold nature on a pedestal we are doing it a service, even helping to save it….but any feminist will tell you that the pedestal is the first sign of dis equality, because if there is the pedestal then the dualistic law of the universe requires there also be a stool – the pendulum must never stop swinging.
So as we elevate nature above (and away from) us in reverence one day, we inevitably will lower it below us is contempt another day. In both cases nature is “the other” something not connected to us.
You see this so often in dominant culture’s views towards minorities. Take the Spanish Gyspy, “so beautiful” in their flamenco dress, so “soulful”, so “full of life” in their singing and dancing. What is inferred but not said is that they are all these things UNLIKE the non-gypsy Spaniards, again the distancing by putting this exotic animal called Gypsy on a pedestal apart from the rest of the population.
And what happens next? You guessed it. The pendulum swings and this exotic animal that is so not like the rest of us becomes dangerous, dirty, thieving, drug dealing, the worst of society….
And all the while the “real” gypsy stands by scratching their head, dis-empowered, unseen, unheard and misunderstood. This is why it is so important to them to be called Roma. It is an attempt to define their own identity instead of the mainstream imposing a completely random one onto them.
Unfortunately the real animals in this world can’t tell us their real names. They stand there as we impose our definitions onto them through literature, movies, and yes documentaries.
The first step is to stop judging. Nature is not good, not bad. It is. Until is isn’t. And hopefully our mind’s ability to objectify will be overtaken by our equally powerful ability to understand through compassion before all of nature isn’t…and this has to happen NOW because things are really getting catastrophic.
Here is the video.