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Environmental Values

Nature is Already Sacred

Kay Milton

Environmental Values 8(1999): 437-449. doi: 10.3197/096327199129341905

Environmentalists often argue that, in order to address fundamentally the harmful impact of their activities on the environment, western industrial societies need to change their attitude to nature. Specifically, they need to see nature as sacred, and to acknowledge that humanity is a part of nature rather than separate from it. In this paper, I seek to show that these two ideas are incompatible in the context of western culture. Drawing particularly on ideas expressed by western conservationists, I argue that nature is already seen as sacred, and that its sacredness depends on it being seen as separate from humanity, an idea which effectively contradicts the scientific knowledge on which many conservationists base their actions. Goodin's green theory of value is used as a source of ideas about why non-human nature is experienced as sacred, and can be extended to suggest that other values, such as 'development' and 'progress', are also seen as sacred.

KEYWORDS: environment, nature, sacredness, conservation, non-human nature, western culture

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles:

In Search of Value Literacy: Suggestions for the Elicitation of Environmental Values Theresa Satterfield

Nature Connoisseurship. Allan Greenbaum

Does the Idea of Wilderness Need a Defence?. Paul M. Keeling

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