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Invisible Nature: Healing the Destructive Divide Between People and the Environmentby Kenneth Worthy
Synopses & Reviews
A revolutionary new understanding of the precarious modern human-nature relationship and a path leading to a healthier, more sustainable world.
Polls show that most Americans care about environmental quality, yet they often behave as if they do not. Empty houses heated to tropical warmth in the dead of winter and huge car dealerships ablaze with security lighting at midnight are just two examples of conspicuous waste. Environmental scholar Kenneth Worthy attributes these strange contradictions to a problem that runs deeper than just thoughtless choices. Our modern lifestyle is disconnected from nature in almost every aspect. Though we depend on nature to sustain our lives, most of us experience it only remotely and in processed forms. We are so deeply dissociated from the sources of the products we consume that we have difficulty realizing the consequences of our actions.
Worthy traces the broken pathways between consumers and clean-room worker illnesses, superfund sites in Silicon Valley, and massively contaminated landscapes in rural Asian villages where electronics recycling is done. The unintended harms caused by consumption result from a lifestyle in which most people live and work in artificial surroundings and are removed from any sensuous engagement with nature. He discusses the ways in which we can reconfigure modern life to create more involvement in our own food production, more education about how goods are produced and waste is disposed, more direct and deliberative democracy, and greater contact with the nature that sustains us.
"This dense, solution-oriented study by U.C. Santa Cruz lecturer Worthy suggests that an empathetic reconnection to nature, both physical and social, is possible if people can grasp the outcomes of their actions. By having no proximity to our impact on the environment, and only abstract ideas of its consequences, ecological destruction becomes a banal, daily activity. Worthy explores how our approach to nature has changed, from the ancient Greek concept of the self as a separate entity to the modern concept of a passive 'machine world.' The author argues that the obfuscation of our relation to the natural world is the route to emotional crisis, anxiety, and stress. Worthy attempts to understand the gulf between our desire to stop destroying the environment and our ability to do so, rather than simply condemning Americans as 'cogs in the machine.' He offers realistic suggestions to bridge the gap, like adopting animals from shelters, community gardening, and providing schoolchildren with much-needed contact with natural landscapes. Worthy acknowledges that even though trying to change the routine of destruction may feel futile and the important transitions need to happen on a grand scale, individuals can still make a difference. Agent: Kimberly Cameron, Kimberly Cameron & Associates." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Required reading for all who want a path to a new future." Carolyn Merchant, author of The Death of Nature
"When pressed on the issue, most will readily proclaim they are pro-environment and antipollution, although lately only scant gains have been made in counteracting rapidly escalating climate change and damage to ocean habitats. In this incisive analysis of modern society's detrimental impact on global ecology, University of California environmental studies professor Worthy attributes this inconsistency between good intentions and dismal results to civilization's built-in dissociation from nature. When the food we eat and clothes we wear are produced in remote farms and factories, our connection with the natural world from which they spring becomes just as remote and inevitably neglected. In eight sweeping chapters filled with sobering examples, Worthy traces the origins of this environmental disconnect to the industrial world's idea of nature as a collection of separate parts requiring careful supervision. He then offers a variety of prescriptions, including growing food locally, for reestablishing awareness of the interconnectedness of nature and our utter dependence on it. Worthy's book is a superbly written clarion call to reformat our lifestyles and embrace a deeper connection with the living world." Booklist
"Finally there is a book that connects the dots between environmental degradation and all the disconnectedness in modern lives. Invisible Nature offers a coherent way to understand how the breaking of our bonds with nature and each other leads to environmental ruin. This volume gives me hope that in its decoding of our precarious predicament, we will find a way to weave back together all the right pieces." David Evan Harris, research director at the Institute for the Future, and founder of the Global Lives Project
"The broadest inquiry yet into the origins of our global environmental crisis. By turning his lens on how Western ideas have resulted in the fragmentation of human experience and understanding, Kenneth Worthy reveals a world in which ethics have become unseated as people have trouble responding to their own environmental values. His examination of how dissociated lives lead to environmental destruction is innovative and eye-opening. Invisible Nature is a must-read for a fuller understanding of the human predicament and the future of life on earth." Richard B. Norgaard, University of California, Berkeley, author of Development Betrayed
"Worthy shows how fragmentation and disassociation are at the heart of the ecological crisis. He also reveals how association and connection can help heal the planet and transcend eco-apartheid — the separation of humans from nature — by making us aware of how our everyday life choices impact the fragile web of life and how we can take small steps to make big shifts." Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya/Research Foundation for Science, Technology & Ecology
"A tour de force, Invisible Nature is the most sustained and multifaceted deconstruction of the deepest and most destructive flaw of the modern worldview." J. Baird Callicott, University Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies, University of North Texas
About the Author
Kenneth Worthy (Berkeley, CA) is a lecturer and research associate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a lecturer at St. Mary's College of California. He received his PhD in environmental humanities at the University of California, Berkeley.
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