“The Death of Nature” by Carolyn Merchant


Carolyn Merchant describes the death of nature as a result of scientific inquiry. Nature was initially an unknowable, cosmic entity, that behaved similarly to a living person, and then, as it was dissected to atoms, it lost its soul. When something is viewed as dead, lacking any sort of agency, and indifferent, it is easy to justify its exploitation and further dissection. The environmental crises come as a result of this intellectual arrogance, the manipulation of the dead being that is not, in fact, dead. When people try to harness what they think they understand but actually do not, disaster occurs.

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Merchant describes the pre-scientific view of nature that humans have held for a long time. They considered Earth to be a nurturing mother, giving gifts of her womb to the humans that it also birthed. That way of thinking ensured that destruction, desecration, and exploitation of nature were sacrilegious and morally unjust. “One does not readily slay a mother, dig into her entrails for gold or mutilate her body, although commercial mining would soon require that,” Merchant wrote. After technological progress demystified nature, it became morally permissible to do just that. Merchant evokes imagery of rape, as the scientific and economic forces probed what was once a nurturing female figure, and became something to tame, enslave, and exploit. She viewed the way scientists and businesses treated nature similar to how they treated women and likens it to the way they used to torture witches. Similar to how the subjugation of nature was akin to the subjugation of women, the liberation of both was also related.


Feminism and environmentalism essentially pursue the same goal: creating a more just and equal society. Nature, the nurturing mother, received the same advocacy as regular human women.

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