The Love of Nature and the End of the World
The Unspoken Dimensions of Environmental Concern
- CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book for 2002
226 pp., 7 x 9 in,
- Published: December 21, 2001
- Published: February 28, 2003
A psychological exploration of how the love of nature can coexist in our psyches with apathy toward environmental destruction.
Virtually everyone values some aspect of the natural world. Yet many people are surprisingly unconcerned about environmental issues, treating them as the province of special interest groups. Seeking to understand how our appreciation for the beauty of nature and our indifference to its destruction can coexist in us, Shierry Weber Nicholsen explores dimensions of our emotional experience with the natural world that are so deep and painful that they often remain unspoken.
The Love of Nature and the End of the World is a gathering of meditations and collages. Its evocations of our emotional attachment to the natural world and the emotional impact of environmental deterioration are meant to encourage individual and collective reflection on a difficult dilemma. Nicholsen draws on work in environmental philosophy and ecopsychology; the writings of psychoanalytic thinkers such as Wilfred Bion, Donald Meltzer, and D. W. Winnicott; and ideas from Buddhist and Sufi traditions. She shows how our emotional responses to the vulnerabilities of the natural world range from intense caring and compassion, through grief and outrage, to diffuse depression. Individual chapters focus on silence and the process whereby we move from the unspoken to the spoken, the love of nature, the "perceptual reciprocity" with the natural world to which we might mature, beauty in the human and natural realms, the psychological impact of the destruction of the natural world, and reflections on the future.
Nicholsen gives us an honest and creative account of the challenges we face as members of an ecologically dysfunctinonal society and the opportunities to heal ourselves and the world. Especially useful for instructors who've learned that ecological realism too often disempowers students instead of building capacities for personal and societal transformation.
Max Oelschlaeger, McAllister Chair of Community, Culture, and Environment, Northern Arizona University, author of The Idea of Wilderness
An inspired and beautiful meditation on our present predicament.
...heartfelt and well-informed.
Shierry Nicholsen has fashioned a warm meditation on our chilling capacity for oblivion.
David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous
This book pulls together literatures from art and psychology with a persuasive argument that they need to be considered together in order to answer questions that will be asked by more and more people: What are the roots of the persistent denial and destructiveness that characterize so much of human behavior in relation to the natural environment? What paths of affirmation can lead us out of this impasse? The book forms an eloquent plea for people to break through barriers of defensiveness in order to give loving attention and responsible care to the natural world... and in doing so, to their own full human potential.
Louise Chawla, Whitney Young College, Kentucky State University
With a close reading of a century of important psychological sources, Shierry Nicholsen brings the human mind back to ecology, thereby deepening the reach of environmental concern. A lucid, heartfelt, and inspiring book.
David Rothenberg, Professor of Philosophy, New Jersey Institute of Technology, author of Hand's End and Sudden Music
In a time of catastrophe it is rare and important to open a book that speaks so profoundly to the problem of human destructiveness without losing sight of the equally human capacity for reparation. The Love of Nature and the End of the World is such a book. Remarkably lucid but never facile, it opens our minds to the overwhelming question of the fate of the earth while offering an intense awareness of what it means be overwhelmed and to suffer trauma. Nicholsen's writing, at once erudite and simple, weaves so effortlessly between psychoanalysis and social thought that we can hardly believe they were ever separate and often inaccessible modes of thinking.
Jessica Benjamin, psychoanalyst, author of The Bonds of Love and Shadow of the Other