We inherited a conception of nature and our relationship to it from Humboldt that places us outside nature. This creates a set of binaries that govern our discourse: the natural and the unnatural, the natural and the man-made, the natural and the synthetic, and so on. As we confront what to do about climate change, this discourse affects actions that we take to be acceptable (e.g. planting trees) and unacceptable (e.g. geoengineering). But, I will argue, we cannot adequately address the challenges of climate change without addressing these binaries. To do so, we have to understand their “constructed” nature and understand our role as part of nature, shaping its contours over the last 10,000 years.
Martin Bunzl taught Philosophy at Rutgers University for 40 years before retiring. His recent work lies at the intersection of philosophy and the environment, with a special interest in climate change. He is interested in both questions of risk and questions of responsibility. He blogs about these, and other issues of pressing concern, at www.mbunzl.com which also provides information about other areas of his research. His just published book, Thinking while Walking: Reflections on the Pacific Crest Trail (2021), is an invitation for the reader to think about everything from the mundane (what makes litter litter) to the profound (how to make sense of our duty to nature).