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THE WILD AND THE WICKED: On Nature and Human Nature by Benjamin Hale

THE WILD AND THE WICKED: On Nature and Human Nature by Benjamin Hale
08 May
2017
Many of us will be familiar with this run of emotions: the thrill of going to some faraway outcrop for the weekend, setting up camp, smug and self-sufficient, only then to spend two days inhaling mosquitoes or waiting out an unforeseen storm

The truth is, in Hale’s words, ‘nature is a bitch’ and the sooner we understand that, he believes, the sooner we can take more realistic and efficient moves to protect it.

He feels the idea of an all-wonderful nature is not persuasive anymore. It is his opinion that wildlife charities and the long canon of environmental literature have over-romanticised the outdoors to their downfall. ‘The irony here,’ he writes, ‘is that it is precisely this romantic picture of the natural world that turns many good and well-meaning people away from environmentalism. Its cloying sappiness has never been successful at masking the significant perils of nature.’

Though occasionally glib and prone to generalisations – especially in his bubbling scorn for ‘tree-huggers‘ – Hale does make a convincing case for making environmentalism a moral argument instead of an idealistic one: ‘We needn’t romance nature, nor lionise it, nor elevate it to the status of a goddess to understand that we have some pretty stringent obligations to conserve and preserve it.’

He argues that these obligations, instead of striving for environmental utopia, should appeal to our human nature – our morality. It is perhaps such thinking that could provide common ground for the entrenched and politicised issues of climate change and conservation.

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