Thursday, September 22, 2005

And speaking of Mother Earth...

In my previous post about the gender politics of hurricanes, I mentioned some feminist professors' suggestion that "feminist" thinking on natural disasters involves reverence for "mother earth."

That brings me to an intriguing question.

Natural disasters (and unnatural ones as well, such as the September 11 terrorist attacks) are often followed by a lot of religious soul-searching, with people wondering how a good, merciful, all-powerful God could allow such terrible things to happen. (Not so much post-Katrina, perhaps because everyone was too busy pointing fingers at human culprits to blame God.)

The question is: how come the radical environmentalists -- the ones for whom environementalism is not merely a commitment to securing a livable environment for human beings, but a nature religion -- never ask these kinds of questions? Why doesn't the "nature good, humans bad" crowd ever wonder how a good, benevolent, harmonious Nature can allow tens of thousands of her children to die horrible deaths? Think about it: if Mother Earth were really a mother, she'd have to be hauled in for child abuse.

Of course, some on the left root for destruction. As Vanity Fair's James Wolcott opined in a now-infamous post about a year ago:

I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong--Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own. ... So there's something disappointing when a hurricane doesn't make landfall, or peters out into a puny Category One.

(This post, by the way, is now prefaced by Wolcott's snarky invitation to "right-wing bloggers" -- which presumably includes everyone who doesn't subscribe to his own brand of bien-pensant leftism -- to go ahead and use this post as his "gift to them." Thanks, Mr. Wolcott.)

The lady on the Women's Studies List who thinks that the feminine principle is sadly out of balance in our world isn't quite as eloquent as Mr. Wolcott, but she does think that "perhaps in its own way nature is trying to balance itself through the hurricane." Sweet.

Tell me how this brand of hateful religious zealotry is different from the right-wing kind which holds that hurricanes are God's punishment for assorted human sins?


Anonymous said...

A bit of trivia:

Hurricane Bob, the first hurricane with a male name, hit the Virgin Islands in 1991.

Anonymous said...

Not that I agree, but I'd imagine that environmentalists would say that we brought it on ourselves.

Cathy Young said...

Good to see you here, Dean!

Anonymous said...

It takes a rigid anthropocentric to come up with a statement like "nature is trying to balance itself" by producing hurricanes, as if nature were as neurotic as she is. Reminds me of a similar one from before Sept. 11, when a PETA spokesman said a shark who bit off a kid's arm was motivated by "revenge" (at lost habitat or something).

Still, I get the impression that to the extent you worship nature, you don't tend to raise the question of the Earth's "will" as you would for a personal godhead. It seems that while the Earth is an object of great devotion, you don't go praying to it for intercession in times of crisis, like when someone is shooting at you in a foxhole.

Oddly, I find that people who claim to revere nature in all its glory often have a very static view of it, which in a sense is another form of anthropocentrism. The idea that there's any state of natural "balance" tells me this woman hasn't been thinking hard enough about what the Earth has been up to in the last few million years. And the idea that we are disturbing that balance strikes me as correspondingly arrogant.

Anonymous said...

Tell me how this brand of hateful religious zealotry is different from the right-wing kind which holds that hurricanes are God's punishment for assorted human sins?

An excellent point. :) Like I always say, you go far enough to the left, and you meet the same loonies coming around from the right.

Great blog.

Wil Forbis said...

Not to toot my own horn, but I did ask such questions here.

"Humans persist in spreading the myth that living close to the earth is somehow desirable and pure. Here's what it really is: cold, dirty, smelly, disease ridden and dangerous. The more sensible denizens of mankind have rightly spent all their waking hours working to free themselves from the spindly claws of Mother Nature's grip. The misguided terra worshippers who oppose this are just as backwards as fundamentalist Christians - they've just replaced "God" with "Mother Earth."

Cathy Young said...

Thanks very much, wil! I'll make sure to check out your blog.

M. Simon said...

Well hurricanes are natures way of trying to balance itself.

What we have in fact is an energy balance. Energy tends to move from places of high concentration to places with low concentration. These re-balancings tend to go in cycles. Chaos theory tends to explain why patters persist. For a few decades a pattern of fewer hurricanes persisted. Now we are in a pattern of more hurricanes. The patterns tend to persist for decades. We tend to get fooled by such long term patterns.

BTW I blame global warming. Which seems to be a problem not just on earth, but Mars as well.

Which would tend to implicate solar activity. Now I don't know how humans can be implicated in this, but perhaps some proponent of the Gaia theory could expound on how humans have affected the energy balance on the sun.

Brian Dunbar said...

Would it be fair to say that James Wolcott hates black people?

No? Oh, sorry. I so lack nuance.

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to your posts.

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