Monday, April 30, 2012

Nature and Human Nature

Alright, last blog and a serious one. Environmental aesthetics has many concepts to it but overall is it more about the nature of the human nature towards nature? Let me explain, when i say nature in the first context i mean the the aspects of the environmental scene. Take this picture for instance.

Now to discuss the various aspects of nature in this picture would be to discuss the sharp contrast between the two elements in the picture: land and sea. There is an expansive plain dotted with some vegetation. But then, the plain suddenly,violently drops off in a huge, almost unnatural looking cliff. The cliff is met by the sea crashing against it. Besides the waves, the flatness of the ocean is comparable to that of the plain. This picture is taken from a helicopter that you can see in the top right corner. And one can almost make out the curvature of the earth.

There was discussion of specific scenes toward the beginning of the semester. But that quickly gave way to the discussion of human reaction of nature. What is the proper way to appreciate this scene? Should we appreciate this? And if so how much? Can we value it over other scenes? Instead of looking at the scene itself we think about how we think about it. This meta-thinking dominates environmental aesthetics as it does in all fields of philosophy.

Some meta thoughts about this scene could include how sublime it is because the landscape overwhelms us with utter vastness. Another aspect of vastness in this photo is the sheer drop-off in to the sea. It's crazy how the cliff is almost mathematically perpendicular to the two planes of land and sea. The curvature of the earth in this landscape could strike us as odd because we rarely notice it creating an otherworldly experience, or some could see it as a point for just how high the helicopter is. The Natural Environmental Model says to appreciate it, we need an understanding of erosion and landscape formation. Bugbee might note that the proper way to experience it would be to be there and smell ocean, feel the wind, smell the sea water, drive a few hundred feet along the cliff side and note how the land reminds you of an infinity pool in that you don't sense there is an edge or that your even near the ocean.

Musings of the scene could be argued as both an aspect of nature and an aspect of Human Nature. Is the sublimity an inherient aspect of the landscape just like its cliffs? Or is it a reaction to the landscape instead? There is a large, fuzzy grey line between the two concepts. But is one more important than the other? Which one is more prevalent in the field of Environmental Aesthetics?

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