What is a city?
There are many answers you can give to this question, most of them equally right. Cities are large collections of people, they are hubs of commerce and industry, they form the nodes of national and international transportation networks. Each of these points of view adds something to our understanding of our great urban areas.
What I want to do in this book is suggest another point of viewanother way to look at citiesthat can add another dimension to this understanding. This other point of view is that of the natural scientist, who sees the various parts of cities as examples of the laws of nature in operation, and the whole as a system that can be described in much the same way as other systems in nature.
Id. at 34.
The conception of the earth as an orderly harmonious whole, fashioned either for man himself or, less anthropocentrically, for the sake of all life, must be a very ancient one; probably we must seek its ultimate origin in earlier beliefs in the direct personal intervention of the gods in human affairs or in the personification of natural processes in the naming of gods of the crops, and in the old myth of the earth-mother so widespread in the ancient Mediterranean world. There are hints that this conception was established long before the Greeks.
Glacken, supra note 14, at 36. It is important, however, to note the sense of separation and domination contained in both the philosophical and religious traditions due to their particularly strong role in the development of Western culture.
[I]n the late eighteenth century the surplus capital accumulated from years of trade with the Orient and the New World financed the development of a new mode of production: the factory system. The organizing skills perfected over two centuries by English merchants, and the rational use of capital to stimulate as well as satisfy demand, were extended with sudden vigor to revolutionize the apparatus of manufacturing. In 1765 James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny. During the 1770s Richard Arkwright introduced the water frame for spinning thread. Then in 1785 Edmund Cartwrights power loom completed the transformation of the textile industry to machine production. Along with James Watts new steam engine, these innovations signaled the end of one long era of human history and the beginning of another. And the driving motive behind the technological development was the pure and simple desire to increase productivity and wealth.
Donald Worster, Natures Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas 12 (2d ed. 1994).
Galileo led the way into the scientific age in part through his use of the telescope. . . . Although he did not invent the telescope, he was the first to employ it in scientific inquiry. . . . Through the telescope Galileo confirmed the Copernican hypothesis. What he lost was the sweeping field of view of naked eye astronomy, the relation of the Milky Way to the starry sky, and the movement of wandering stars across the ecliptic plane. And perhaps, in his intense concentration, he lost also the sounds and smells of the night and the awareness of himself as a conscious man beholding a grand and mysterious stellar spectacle. Galileo was standing no longer within nature, but outside it. He became a scientific observer apart from nature, for it had been replaced with a theoretical object of inquiry. . . . [Galileos] world of nature is explicitly not a world of concrete experience. . . . [C]haracteristics capable of mensuration and quantification, and thus arithmetical manipulation, are primary and thus real qualities; felt qualitative experiences are secondary and subjective.
The value of any commodity . . . to the person who possesses it, and who means not to use or consume it himself, but to exchange it for other commodities, is equal to the quantity of labour which it enables him to purchase or command. Labour, therefore, is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities.
Ancient poetry and mythology suggest, at least, that husbandry was once a sacred art; but it is pursued with irreverent haste and heedlessness by us, our object being to have large farms and large crops merely. We have no festival, nor procession, nor ceremony, not excepting our Cattle-shows and so-called Thanksgiving, by which the farmer expresses a sense of the sacredness of his calling. . . . By avarice and selfishness, and a groveling habit from which none of us is free, of regarding the soil as property, or the means of acquiring property chiefly, the landscape is deformed, husbandry is degraded with us, and the farmer leads the meanest of lives. He knows Nature but as a robber.
Id. Thoreau also recognized the role of science in the process of devaluing nature:
The true man of science will know nature better by his finer organization; he will smell, taste, see, hear, feel, better than other men. His will be a deeper and finer experience. We do not learn by inference and deduction and the application of mathematics to philosophy but by direct intercourse and sympathy. It is with science as with ethicswe cannot know truth by contrivance and method; the Baconian is as false as any other.
Henry David Thoreau, The Natural History of Massachusetts, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau 131, 131 (Houghton Mifflin 1906).
It appears, therefore, that Hetch Hetchy Valley, far from being a plain, common, rock-bound meadow, as many who have not seen it seem to suppose, is a grand landscape garden, one of natures rarest and most precious mountain temples. As in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with life, whether leaning back in repose or standing erect in thoughtful attitudes, giving welcome to storms and calms alike, their brows in the sky, their feet set in the groves and gay flowery meadows. . . . Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. . . . Nevertheless, like anything else worthwhile, from the very beginning, however well guarded, they have always been subject to attack by despoiling gainseekers and mischief-makers of every degree from Satan to Senators, eagerly trying to make everything immediately and selfishly commercial.
John Muir, The Yosemite 25560 (1912).
Friends of my heart, lovers of natures works,
Let me transport you to those wild, blue mountains
That rear their summits near the Hudsons wave.
Though not the loftiest that begirt the land,
They yet sublimely rise, and on their heights
Your souls may have the sweet foretaste of heaven,
And traverse wide the boundless . . . .
Louis Legrand Noble, The Life and Works of Thomas Cole 39 (Harvard Univ. Press 1964) (1853).
Perhaps I most fully realized that this was primeval, untamed, and forever untameable Nature, or whatever else men call it, while coming down. . . . And yet we have not seen pure Nature, unless we have seen her thus vast and drear and inhuman. . . . Nature was here something savage and awful, though beautiful. . . . This was that Earth of which we have heard, made out of Chaos and Old Nights. Here was no mans garden, but the unhandselled globe. It was not lawn, nor pasture, nor mead, nor woodland, nor lea, nor arable, nor waste-land. It was the fresh and natural surface of the planet Earth, as it was made for ever and ever. . . . It was Matter, vast, terrificnot his Mother Earth that we have heard of, not for him to tread on, or be buried in.
Henry David Thoreau, Maine Woods 9395 (Harper & Row 1987) (1864).
The attitude we think it appropriate to take toward living things depends on how we conceive of them and of our relationship to them. What moral significance the natural world has for us depends on the way we look at the whole system of nature and our role in it. With regard to the attitude of respect for nature, the belief-system that renders it intelligible and on which it depends for its justifiability is the biocentric outlook.