Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm glad we read the Cronon article before "The Ecological Indian;" the phrase from Cronon that really stuck with me, and seemed pertinent to the idea of the Ecological Indian, was "If we allow ourselves to believe that nature, to be true, must also be wild, then our very presence in nature represents its fall... by definition wilderness leaves no place for human beings" (pg. 80). The corollary is that humans, or progress, leaves no room for nature; they are mutually exclusive. Native Americans, however, seem to have escaped the idea that every human act destroys nature. Europeans embody all the destructive tendencies of humans, but Native Americans uphold those aspects of humanity that can exist in balance and harmony with the earth; at least, this is the popular conception of them. In a way this is insulting to Native Americans, because it insinuates that they are less advanced than Europeans: if progress destroys nature and Native Americans don't destroy nature, then Native Americans don't make progress. The message is also that any form of progress is bad for the earth.
I think the take-home message from both readings (as well as from "Pan's Travail," incidentally) is that people WILL have an effect on their environment, whether now or thousands of years ago, European or Native American. Krech gives plenty of examples to support this. It's naive and harmful to think that there's any way for us to avoid affecting the environment, and by holding up ideas like "wilderness" or the "Ecological Indian," we are denying the necessary reality of our human impact. Rather than polarizing certain groups as ecological (Native Americans) or destructive (Europeans), wouldn't it be better to acknowledge our impact and find real ways to manage it, rather than romanticizing unrealistic ideals?

No comments: