the end of environmentalism?

By James Miller

In October I was invited to participate in a symposium on International Perspectives on Nature and Culture organized by the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. I was on a panel responding to a paper by the French philosopher Augustin Berque. His most recent book is called La pensée paysagère (Paris: Archibooks 2008), and it articulates a fundamental distinction between “thinking of the countryside” or “la pensée du paysage” and “country thinking” or “la pensée paysagère.” In modernity, he claims, we have ideas about “nature” or “the environment,” but we do not have ideas that are grounded in nature as a biophysical reality or which express themselves in the flourishing of nature. We have too much “pensée du paysage” and not enough “pensée paysagère.” The contradiction of modernity is that the theorization, symbolization and fetishization of nature as a concept proceeds apace and at the very same time as the annihilation of nature as a biophysical reality. (More…)