Healing the Destructive Divide between People and the Environment
My book Invisible Nature presents a new explanation for why environmental crisis proliferates under our noses and against our will. See endorsements and more about the book below.
ISBN 978-1-61614-763-1 (pbk.) | ISBN 978-1-61614-764-8 (ebook)
Endorsements & Reviews
“A superbly written clarion call to reformat our lifestyles and embrace a deeper connection with the living world.”
—Booklist, August 1, 2013
“Indispensible … I’ve read few books that make such a thoroughgoing case for ecological awakening … told with such detail and eloquence … A necessary book.”
—Times Higher Education, November 14, 2013
“Ken Worthy offers a striking account of the deep divide between humans and the natural world. He shows that the profound psychological dissociation of people from nature is rooted in history, philosophy, and material life. The way forward is through understanding and reengaging with nature in every aspect of daily life and democratic lifestyles. Required reading for all who want a path to a new future.”
University of California, Berkeley
Author of The Death of Nature
“In Invisible Nature, Kenneth Worthy shows how fragmentation and disassociation are at the heart of the ecological crisis. He also reveals how association and connection can help heal the planet and transcend eco-apartheid—the separation of humans from nature—by making us aware of how our everyday life choices impact the fragile web of life and how we can take small steps to make big shifts.”
—Dr. Vandana Shiva
Navdanya/Research Foundation for Science,
Technology & Ecology
“A tour de force, Invisible Nature is the most sustained and multifaceted deconstruction of the deepest and most destructive flaw of the modern worldview in its many manifestations—atomism and mechanism, radical individualism and social atomism, mind-body and human-nature dualisms. What are invisible (to most of us) in nature are the internal relations that unite space-time and energy-matter into a vibrant cosmic continuum, people with one another into intricately complex and increasingly fragile social wholes, and mind and body into self-conscious living organisms; these internal relations also embed the human microbiome in the planetary macrobiome and the human economy in the economy of nature.”
—J. Baird Callicott
University Distinguished Research Professor
Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies
University of North Texas
“Finally, there is a book that connects the dots between environmental degradation and all the disconnectedness in modern lives. Invisible Nature offers a coherent way to understand how the breaking of our bonds with nature and each other leads to environmental ruin. This volume gives me hope that in its decoding of our precarious predicament, we will find a way to weave back together all the right pieces.”
—David Evan Harris
Research Director, Institute for the Future
Founder, Global Lives Project
“Invisible Nature is the broadest inquiry yet into the origins of our global environmental crisis. By turning his lens on how western ideas have resulted in the fragmentation of human experience and understanding, Kenneth Worthy reveals a world in which ethics have become unseated as people have trouble responding to their own environmental values. His examination of how dissociated lives lead to environmental destruction is innovative and eye opening. Invisible Nature is a must read for a fuller understanding of the human predicament and the future of life on earth.”
—Richard B. Norgaard
University of California, Berkeley
Author of Development Betrayed
More about Invisible Nature
What accounts for the strange contradiction between mainstream desires for healthy environments and modernity’s continuous path of environmental destruction? Why is there a global environmental crisis in the first place?
Many human societies through history have harmed their environments, but the range, scope, and rising trajectory of environmental degradation and crisis in the modern era are unprecedented and threaten the future of humanity. There’s much genuine concern about the environment, and most people would like nature to remain rich, wild, and healthy for the good of human society and perhaps for the good of other animals and the environment itself. Yet environmental crisis continues to proliferate, with major new problems and damages, like global climate change, outpacing every area of improvement, like cleaner rivers in North America. Modern economic systems and technologies seem to be on a juggernaut leaving environmental crisis in their wake: rising sea levels, toxic contamination of soils and waters, plummeting biodiversity. People become numb to the news they hear every week about these problems. Perhaps the most shocking thing about modern development is that so many of its outcomes, including environmental harms, are unintended and undesired. That, too, is new in human history.
Invisible Nature explains modern environmental crisis in a way that sheds light on these questions. It examines people’s daily experiences at work and home, how their choices contribute to environmental degradation, how the conditions of modernity make it more difficult to perceive and respond to environmental concerns, and what we can do to address these problems. It uses the concept of dissociation—different forms of separation or disconnection that run like a fault line through Western thinking and that organize the fragmented lives of modern people.
The modern fragmentation of experience means that today most people are dissociated from things that are crucial to their lives, that they depend on: nature; the production processes of food, clothing, housing, and so on that sustain them; and the places and people that they affect with their everyday consumption and other choices. These divisions are rapidly becoming more pronounced: current college freshman have less than a tenth of the childhood contact with nature of other recent generations.
But perhaps most important, all of the divisions in our lives—particularly between us and the consequences of our everyday actions—make it difficult for us to match our choices with our ethics. So in a sense, we can no longer truly be ethical beings.
The lifestyles and habits of thought of the ancient Greeks set the stage for our fragmented world. The Greeks lived in an extremely divisive society and introduced many dissociating ways of thinking: separation of mind from body; the rise of the fully independent individual, along with an intensely competitive prestige system; the disavowal of tradition; disregard for contexts when reasoning about causation; and so on. These ideas signal a radical divergence from most other human societies past and present. The dissociating thought of the Greeks was taken up and amplified by early modern European philosophers, whose ideas run through modern economics, ethics, and lifestyles.
To see how our dissociations play out in everyday life, Invisible Nature takes readers on a tour of the landscape contaminations and health problems arising from the production and disposal of high-tech electronics—computers, cell phones, navigation systems—in Silicon Valley and in small villages in east Asia. Invisible Nature documents the psychological pathways by which dissociations make us more destructive—and why they can lead to ill consequences for modern psyches: depression, despair, disempowerment, and inertia.
The final chapter shows how we can address these problems by re-configuring modern life, not painfully, to create more involvement in our own food production, more education about how goods are produced and waste is disposed, more direct and deliberative democracy, and greater contact with the nature that sustains us.
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