Rendering Nature: Animals, Bodies, Places, Politics

Rendering Nature: Animals, Bodies, Places, Politics

Rendering Nature: Animals, Bodies, Places, Politics

Rendering Nature: Animals, Bodies, Places, Politics

Synopsis

We exist at a moment during which the entangled challenges facing the human and natural worlds confront us at every turn, whether at the most basic level of survival--health, sustenance, shelter--or in relation to our comfort-driven desires. As demand for resources both necessary and unnecessary increases, understanding how nature and culture are interconnected matters more than ever.

Bridging the fields of environmental history and American studies, Rendering Nature examines the surprising interconnections between nature and culture in distinct places, times, and contexts over the course of American history. Divided into four themes--animals, bodies, places, and politics--the essays span a diverse array of locations and periods: from antebellum slave society to atomic testing sites, from gorillas in Central Africa to river runners in the Grand Canyon, from white sun-tanning enthusiasts to Japanese American incarcerees, from taxidermists at the 1893 World's Fair to tents on Wall Street in 2011. Together they offer new perspectives and conceptual tools that can help us better understand the historical realities and current paradoxes of our environmental predicament.

Excerpt

In 2000 the Nobel laureate and atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term “Anthropocene” to mark the emergence of a new geologic epoch in which humans have become the most “globally potent biogeophysical force” on the planet. As Crutzen and his fellow authors Will Steffen, a climate scientist, and John R. McNeill, an environmental historian, have explained it, “The term Anthropocene suggests that the Earth has now left its natural geological epoch, the present interglacial state called the Holocene. Human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of Nature and are pushing the Earth into planetary terra incognita.” Crutzen and his fellow authors argue that in the two centuries shaped by the Industrial Revolution, humans have transformed the environment on a global scale: altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere and the oceans, significantly modifying the terrestrial landscape, consuming substantial quantities of freshwater, and impacting species biodiversity at incomparable levels. These transformative changes in the cycles and systems that support all life on Earth, according to Steffen, Crutzen, and McNeill, demonstrate that “humans are not an outside force perturbing an otherwise natural system but rather an integral and interacting part of the Earth System itself.” Although the Anthropocene has yet to be officially sanctioned as a new era in Earth’s history, it signals a paradigm shift in the sciences that has widespread implications for a diverse array of scholars interested in nature and culture.

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