A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature

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9780805091489: A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature
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"A fast-paced and highly rewarding account of the struggle to realize a deeper consciousness of the human relationship with nature―before it is too late."―James Gustave Speth

For more than two centuries, as Western cultures became ever more industrialized, the natural world was increasingly regarded as little more than a collection of useful raw resources. The folklore of powerful forest spirits was displaced by the practicalities of logging; the traditional rituals of hunting ceremonies gave way to indiscriminate butchering of animals for meat markets. In the famous lament of Max Weber, our surroundings became "disenchanted," with nature's magic swept away by secularization and rationalization.

But as acclaimed sociologist James William Gibson reveals in this insightful study, the culture of enchantment is making an astonishing comeback. From Greenpeace eco-warriors to evangelical Christians preaching "creation care" and geneticists who speak of human-animal kinship, Gibson finds a remarkably broad yearning for a spiritual reconnection to nature. As we grapple with increasingly dire environmental disasters, Gibson points to this cultural shift as the last utopian dream, the final hope for protecting the world that all of us must live in.

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About the Author:

James William Gibson is the author of Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America and The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam. A frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times and winner of multiple awards, including a Guggenheim, Gibson is a professor of sociology at California State University, Long Beach. He lives in Los Angeles.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

Call of the Wild

Like Special Forces commandos, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputies and Firefighters came at 2:00 am, when they knew their enemy would be asleep. Earlier that day, a force of two hundred had secured a perimeter around the camp, cutting off all sources of outside resupply, while a small reconnaissance team managed to steal most of the man’s food and water. After a seventy-one-day siege, the lone warrior knew the end was coming and chained himself into place for one last stand.

The assault came off with military precision. A fire truck with a hydraulic-powered ladder moved in. Firefighters with metal cutters scrambled up and quickly cut the man’s chains; sheriff’s deputies read the charges against him and escorted him down the ladder to the ground. The public watched, mesmerized. The Los Angeles Times was there, its reporters putting out a metro section lead story, one of a dozen the paper had run during the long standoff. A local TV station canceled normal programming and spent two and a half hours providing live coverage, an action normally reserved for wars, assassinations, and extraordinary political scandals.

In fact, the drama was the arrest of a tree-sitter, who was charged with trespassing. For just over two months, forty-two-year-old John Quigley had lived amid the boughs of a four-hundred-year-old oak tree, trying to save it from a developer’s bulldozer. The oak stood at the entrance to a new subdivision in the Santa Clarita Valley, north of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had ruled that the tree had to go because it blocked the planned expansion of a two-lane road into a four-lane thoroughfare. A developer was constructing several hundred homes nearby.

Locals had protested, contending that the road could be curved around the tree. The county officials said no. Their best offer was to move the oak, an act several arborists said would lead to its death. So on November 1, 2002, Quigley, a well-known environmentalist-about-town, climbed into the tree and refused to leave. Early on in the sit, he and his support crew took a lesson from an earlier tree-sitter, Julia Buttery Hill, who had lived atop a giant northern California redwood for twenty-one months. Hill claimed that her tree, dubbed Luna by the Earth First! activists who organized the tree-sit, communicated with her, teaching her how to climb and helping her endure winter storms. Hill routinely called the tree by name in her many interviews with the news media. By the time she successfully negotiated an agreement to save the redwood from logging, even conservative newspapers and her opponents in the lumber industry were referring to Luna as if the tree were a sentient being. Although Quigley never claimed his oak spoke to him, he and his closest advisers began calling it Old Glory. (The name apparently was the invention of two local boys who told Quigley, “We call her Old Glory because she stands in all her glory for all the oaks that have been cut down.”)1

The name stuck, successfully turning the oak into a patriotic emblem of America for the post-September 11 era. The media loved the story, showing pictures of Old Glory with updates about the confrontation almost daily. The publicity created a strange carnival under the old oak tree. Parents brought their children to bear witness. Native American groups drummed and danced in solidarity. As posters, poems, and tributes collected at its base, Old Glory started to resemble a monument or memorial. Everyone—except maybe the recalcitrant supervisors—could see that to millions living in the suburban sprawl of Southern California, the oak had become far more than a tree. Just as Quigley and the boys who named it hoped, it had become a symbol of all the other trees, animal life, and open spaces lost to development.

Except in its particulars, this story was by no means unique. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, a new and striking kind of yearning was evident in the ways ordinary people felt and talked about nature. People were touched by stories of bears who befriended humans, enthralled by the fluid grace of whales, moved to the depths of their souls by majestic trees, dark mountains, and .owing rivers, newly alive to the sense of mystery, of a world larger than themselves. Some suburban residents came to feel deeply connected to the few remaining open spaces—slivers of forest, wetland, meadow— around them, dedicating years, even de cades to trying to save them from development. Others restored degraded places such as polluted wetlands and rivers. Naturalist Freeman House describes the effort to revitalize the Mattole River in northern California (which suffered from denuded stream banks and muddy runoff) as providing a kind of time travel, a journey back to a lost stage of human history. “Working together, with our feet in the water, moving large rocks and logs to armor raw and bleeding stream banks, or on the dry slopes above, planting trees, seemed to carry from our muscles to our minds a buried memory of human communities deeply integrated with the wild processes surrounding.”2 House thought that through their work, the activists were “becoming indigenous,“ rooted in the land.3

Reported experiences of communing with animals were equally extraordinary. Scuba divers talked openly about the love they felt for the sea lions, octopuses, and manta rays they met face-to-face in the water. More adventurous souls even set out to re establish what they saw as lost intimacy. In Russia, for example, Angelo d’Arrigo, a two-time world-champion hang glider, decided that it was his mission to lead the world’s last remaining western Siberian cranes to safety by taking them on a 3,400-mile journey from the Oka River in Russia to a wildlife refuge in Iran near the Caspian Sea. The birds had become threatened with extinction from habitat loss, hunting, and a perilous migratory route that exposed them to fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan when they made their annual trip from Siberia to India.

With the assistance of the U.S.-based International Crane Foundation, d’Arrigo raised ten cranes in captivity. The chicks nested under d’Arrigo’s hang glider, were fed by him, and grew to consider him their mother. D’Arrigo dressed to resemble a crane; his glider was equipped with a small motor for help in taking off but had cranelike wings. At a press conference, he described the mission as part of his Metamorphosis project, a five-year program to become as close to being a bird as humanly possible. “I think inside any person, there remains one part of birds,“ he explained. “Maybe it is possible to find in my mind this little part.”4

In 2002, Jacques Mayol, a pioneer in deep-sea “free diving,“ described his breath-holding efforts in similar terms. “I don’t dive to conquer the elements,“ Mayol explained. “I melt into the ocean.”5 His goal was to become Homo Delphinus, to reawaken “the dormant dolphin within man” and rediscover humanity’s lost spiritual connection to the sea.6 D’Arrigo and Mayol and their fellow adventurers were part of a new avant-garde, artist-athletes who reimagined and dramatized relationships to nature through radical performance art.

Across the country, the prospect of seeing wolves return to their native lands filled yet another set of people with a transforming passion so great that it changed their lives. After thirty-four gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995-96, the Druid Peak pack, led by an alpha male named 21 and a female alpha called 42, became the favorites of scientists, documentary .lmmakers, and a band of extraordinarily committed amateur naturalists. Forty-two was eventually nicknamed Cinderella, because her older sister, a female alpha, had attacked her and killed her pups. One year Cinderella fought back, killing her sister and becoming the dominant female. So intense was the wolf family drama that people began traveling each year to watch and photograph it. One couple even moved from Denver to be closer to the pack, saying, “The Druids have almost become family members.” Then one day Cinderella disappeared. Twenty-one “howled his guts out,“ said one observer, and Cinderella’s human friends launched an intensive search. When a wildlife technician found her body—she’d been killed by another pack—radiation therapist Carol Yates, one of the amateur naturalists, wept. “I guess we’re glad we were here when it happened,“ said her husband, Richard. “It’s the way of the wolf.” The story, in effect an obituary for a wolf, ran on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.7

Even more strikingly, people began speaking up for the dignity of ordinary domestic animals such as cows and pigs. Eric Schlosser’s bestselling Fast Food Nation (2001) went far beyond Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1905), describing the suffering not only of the humans who worked in the fast-food and meat-packing industries, but also of the animals they butchered. The image of cattle spending their last days and flood-lit nights in feedlots, being stimulated around the clock to eat hormone-and antibiotic-laced grain while standing knee-deep in their own manure, was not easily forgotten. Equally important, Schlosser showed that the industry’s manipulation of consumers, abuse of workers, and contempt for animals were all parts of the same process.8

A year later, a conservative speechwriter who sometimes worked for President George W. Bush further heightened public awareness of animal suffering. Matthew Scully’s Dominion rejected the traditional Biblical interpretation that God gave humans the moral right to dominate all creatures. Humans are but part of God’s creation, Scully argued, their sovereignty limited. And those limits, he claimed, were now routinely broken on factory farm...

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Book Description Picador. Paperback. Condition: New. 320 pages. Dimensions: 7.8in. x 5.2in. x 1.0in.A fast-paced and highly rewarding account of the struggle to realize a deeper consciousness of the human relationship with naturebefore it is too late. James Gustave SpethFor more than two centuries, as Western cultures became ever more industrialized, the natural world was increasingly regarded as little more than a collection of useful raw resources. The folklore of powerful forest spirits was displaced by the practicalities of logging; the traditional rituals of hunting ceremonies gave way to indiscriminate butchering of animals for meat markets. In the famous lament of Max Weber, our surroundings became disenchanted, with natures magic swept away by secularization and rationalization. But as acclaimed sociologist James William Gibson reveals in this insightful study, the culture of enchantment is making an astonishing comeback. From Greenpeace eco-warriors to evangelical Christians preaching creation care and geneticists who speak of human-animal kinship, Gibson finds a remarkably broad yearning for a spiritual reconnection to nature. As we grapple with increasingly dire environmental disasters, Gibson points to this cultural shift as the last utopian dream, the final hope for protecting the world that all of us must live in. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780805091489

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