The Nature of ‘Nature’


“The Nature of Nature” series focuses on the shifting, blurred and contested lines between what is natural and what is not. On the one hand, we worry about invasive species and genetically modified food and so on. On the other hand, we are increasingly aware of living in what some call the Anthropocene: there is no land, place or living organism that is unaffected by human beings. From climate change to DNA, the effects of human life are obvious.

What, then, is nature? Can we justify the normative force that the idea of the natural still has for us? Should we be any more concerned about our “natural” environment than our built one – about our natural parks than our shopping malls? Does our concern about invasive species reflect as much – or more – concern about our national, cultural and political borders as it does about our environmental ones? What sort of line, if any, can we still draw between the natural and the artificial? Is even death unnatural now?

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