Monday, November 12, 2001

Harre Readings p.91-118.

Environmental issue are cropping up faster than we have time to process, let alone find solutions for. As such, argues Harre, there is a woeful inadequacy of language to deal with these issue. It is true that every day seems to bring a new slew of environmental jargon like "greening" business, organically grown and environmentally friendly. What do these mean? Are they to be taken literally? This is where the power of the metaphor becomes obvious. I enjoy the idea of exploring environmental discourse through use of a metaphor and I believe Harre when he states that the conclusions drawn from these discussions have wider applicability than just to the environment. I also believe that the discourse among science, economics and philosophy can be fertile grounds for metaphors. Literal meanings in science, for example, can be metaphors in philosophy, with each influencing the other. I agree with Harre's classification of three kinds of metaphors that have permeated society with respect to nature since the Middle Ages. However, I feel that we can add another emerging metaphor to this list. That of nature as the garden. I think that many people are moving away from the idea that nature is a machine to be broken into pieces, although I am inclined to agree that science is still very much focused on this idea. I see many people, like the people in our class, viewing nature differently, as a mixture of the natural and artificial, the wild and the tame, home and a home-away-from-home. People are seeing the bigger picture like rainforest destruction equating to loss of biodiversity and air pollution equating to changes in global climate. I realize we have an extremely long path to go before our realization translates into anything remotely resembling solutions but I think it's a step. I am also pessimistic about our ability to change our approach to the environment soley through the language of the metaphor. Like Harre points out, problems and solutions are often transient, so then are the metaphors. A real approach to the environment would have a lingering, almost timeless effect. Metaphors have the power to alert the reader, highlight aspects of the environment, help us formulate better questions, change our way of thinking, examine our interdependence with nature and unite our concepts but they still will only be metaphors for the real thing. All talk and no action. I agree that metaphors can help us lay out a plan of action but I also think that metaphors cannot help us carry out that plan. Harre claims that metaphors can motivate actions. How? Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. Right now, we lack even the plan. Some, like Harre, argue that we even lack the language.

It was interesting to note that Harre contrasted the view of humans as rulers of the earth with the Gaia idea. Last weeks lecture was literally a discussion of metaphors in relation to the environment. The bringing of two dichotomous terms together in one place; the garden. Additionally, in our readings from Redeeming the Time, the metaphor was a huge part of the theological discourse of the environment. The ecofeminist point of view that sees nature and women as parallels, the cosmology approach that likens nature to the universe and the Gaia idea that nature is a powerful, self-managed mistress who can knock of its human parasites if we become to bothersome. I do think that the metaphor is a very good way to discuss the environment and a way to bring the metaphors of Greenspeak together. My question is, then, how does the united metaphor of Greenspeak translate? Like Harre says, metaphors depend on contextual factors. Will the world unite to engage in one view of the environement? Will metaphors created in one discipline in one country be understood in that same way in a different discipline in a different country? Lastly, will we ever agree on a single, powerful image? From our discussion last week and the readings before that, I am inclined to believe that no one metaphor will ever satisfy all views. I am also inclined to agree with Sally Chan who writes that the world is not only created from language. Language is an integral part of our culture but it has limitations and restrictions. The world is not this constrained, I think. It is also very very anthropocentric to think that the world revolves around language. Oher species do not use language but still communicate and form an important part of the world. Thought, then, can also be free of language, can it not?