nature vs the man

Posted on Friday, September 2nd, 2005 at 7:48 am by Chelsea Green Publishing

With the end of summer closing in, gas and oil prices at an all-time high, and storms ravaging the country, things are looking pretty bleak for the man in the now-familiar man versus nature scenario. Fortunately, that scenario is a hoax.

Why is it that every time a natural disaster strikes, the mainstream media insists on positing it against mankind in some horrific gladiator duel? Why, in an age when science is beginning to understand a possible correlation between weather patterns and human ecological impact, do we still accept this ancient metaphor of nature as a remote and mysterious enemy force?

Watch the news today, and you’ll hear reporters assigning storm fronts absurd characteristics like wrath and fury—showing all the meteorological sophistication of an eighteenth century sailor. But this irresponsible use of a man versus nature metaphor is more than just a failure of good reporting. It also seems like a subtle way of keeping people from thinking about the possibility of human contribution to weather patterns. It seems like another way of discrediting climate change.

Ross Gelbspan hit the nail on the head on Wednesday, when he exposed Katrina’s real name: Global Warming. Not to suggest that the devestation isn’t horrible, or doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. It is, and it does. But why does taking a problem seriously these days primarily mean assigning it status as an enemy force, and framing (yes, framing) it as a demon? If it could, the Bush administration would add Katrina to a list of rogue nations or enemy combatants, ship it off to an island to be disappeared, and call it done. God forbid we address the problem as if we were responsible participants in our own environment.

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