Here’s the first essay assignment from my environmental lit/ethics/politics class:
In order to relate the idea of nature to the questions of ethics and politics that will occupy us for the rest of the semester, you need to clarify your own idea of nature and set it against the background of the traditional ideas we have been studying. Therefore, for your first essay, I would like you to work through the question
What is the best way to think about nature today?
In this form, the question asks you to consider what is best, but in the context of your own life, your community, and the contemporary environment. You are not required to make a timeless definition of “nature,” but you should try to make a timely one.
- To articulate your own picture of nature. This may include reflections on personal history, scientific theories, and sense experience, among other things. Don’t be afraid to tell illustrative stories, to appeal to systems of thought we haven’t studied, or to appeal to your daily encounters with the environment. You may also quibble with the terms of the assignment itself; perhaps you don’t believe in “nature,” but, if so, you must appeal to some other account of the universe, rather than merely negating the ideas of others.
- To put your own world picture in conversation with the readings we have discussed so far, especially the material you encountered in your oral presentations.
- To use your first and second blog entries as raw material for this work; to demonstrate a sense of recycling in your own writing.