Thursday, December 10, 2015

Objectifying Nature in Gardens

Objectifying nature, say with plants, limits our ability to respond ethically to environmental issues. When we choose a plant for our gardens just because its pretty or visually interesting, we are minimizing the role of nature to heal and adapt... we are minimizing our understanding of life, eroding ability for empathy, and privileging want over need, self over ecosystem. A garden ethic would imply we take into consideration something in addition to aesthetics -- beauty of purpose, fit, and function among other lives and concerns. Carbon sequestering, water filtering, soil building, pollinator feeding, habitat-giving beauty will make gardens gorgeous deep down to the roots; and it just might help us transcend our petty selves in landscapes otherwise made to alienate nature and make us feel superior to what we fear, and to what we don't understand. Can we be humble in our gardens, and understand or feel how uplifting, how empowering that is?


Saurs said...

More tone-deaf, inexpert appropriation of sociological terminology and the language of humanism, like weeping over "refugee" plants in a political climate in which thousands of people must uproot their lives and families in order to survive terrorism and civil war. Selecting plants for "purpose, fit, and function" IS objectification.

Brian T said...

Objectification in this context is an interesting idea.

Sometimes I wonder about the motivations of some gardeners. Do they treat plants more like icons than living things? Do they desire certain plants simply because they're popular? Is subjugation of nature central to the enterprise? Are plants just pawns in a game called gardening?

The ethic that you describe makes the gardener more of a steward. It places the plants, the ecosystem, in the dominant position. The reward is that something has been created that is more than just a sum of the parts; something unpredictable and alive; something far more interesting.