Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Joy Williams

from Joy Willians, Literature Unnatured

We use language to conceal, distort, and subvert the reality of many things, a great many things, and flattened terms like environment and biodiversity are words thrust in an ever reductive context of cant. They're words that have lost their juice, their power. Once Nature became Environment she became semantically much diminished, as befitted her humbled station. The grandeur was gone. It became just a matter of politics. The environment became society, was society. It could be friendly or controlled, hostile or unstable, but it was primarily anthropocentric and generously relative in its applicability. Like our state forests, those lands of many uses, many not so ecologically benign - Environment, as a concept, is utilitarian. There's the home environment, of course, the workplace, the school. There's the environment of Wall Street and the CIA. Natural becomes one prefix among many. An environment that's "natural" has already sidled away from Nature some. It has come to mean, sort of, not the same thing. It's something to locate between the tennis courts and the condos. Something that hasn't been drilled or mined or dammed yet, but exists, rather, in the wondrous state of pre-becoming - drilled or mined or dammed. It's already in the state of pre-becoming - drilled or mined or dammed. It's already on the grid, the graph, but isn't being used ... for now.

When exactly did Nature become Environment? It's a matter of style, of course, as well as diminished expectation. 

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