The End of Nature by Bill McKibben

The End of Nature is a personal dialogue from Bill McKibben on his distaste with the growing population of people on the planet and the impact they have on the world outside human societies. Perhaps more importantly, in his mind, the impact it has on his own mental welfare on how he believes nature should be. His belief is that mankind is different and separate from nature, and therefore any influence they have perverts it and makes it tainted. He extrapolates this view of a tainted nature to the whole of the globe, the view that the entire planet is perverted by our existence and influence. He even laments his own humanity (perhaps inevitably), and engages in a guilt ridden trek through the woods in a futile attempt to gain absolution for driving his car, for burning a dilapidated barn, and other activities. Bill McKibben’s point of view seems to be that mankind can do no good (as our very presence is an unpleasant experience for him).

“Nature”, in the way I believe the author is defining it can indeed be seen as a world apart. Since we live most of our modern lives “away from the wild” so to speak in any significant capacity. Any time we divorce ourselves from the daily routine will seem alien regardless of what that new situation may be. It doesn’t have to be nature itself for us to feel this, though for the author, he may only get this effect from walking in the woods. He seems to view mankind in general as something negative, as we do not ebb and flow with the blind hand of evolution and the environment but instead seek to master it and put it to use. His usage of the term “Nature” is ambiguous as well: sometimes he refers to it as the physical locations outside of human society, and other times he refers to it as a philosophical ideal of being untouched and/or unknown to us. I believe he makes an error in conflating his feeling and ideals with physical locations that do not necessarily elicit the same feeling and ideals to others.


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