PREFACE
Does it make sense to think that nature ‘‘speaks’’ to us humans? Meta-
phors—and nature’s speech certainly is one—are not literally true or
false; rather, they are either fruitful and productive or misleading and
counterproductive. The essays included in this collection address and
assess various aspects of ‘‘nature’s speech.’’
Allocating textual capacities to nature goes back to ancient times,
usually with specific ideas about who among humans are able to under-
stand and interpret nature’s texts. In our era, the metaphor of nature’s
speech is located in a new framework, defined by ecological problems.
Ecological problems in their contemporary guise surfaced into public
consciousness quite abruptly in the 1960s. The problems are often
understood against an assumed contradiction between human culture
and the rest of nature. ‘‘Nature,’’ posed as a polar opposite to ‘‘culture,’’
is assumed to speak to those among the humans who get sensitized to
the contradiction. This, however, is deeply problematic, as has often
been noticed. Humans are products of nature and live in, by, and
through nature, being dependent on natural materials and processes.
So, how could an essentialist contradiction arise between humans and
the rest of nature? Where could the border zone of such a contradiction
be located? This will not do; more serious work is needed for under-
standing the human ecological condition.
On the other hand, a mere list of specific problems, however com-
prehensive, cannot do the job. ‘‘Environmental science’’ cannot o√er a
definitive answer either. Environmental science deals with the specifici-
ties of particular environmental problems. Understood literally, en-
vironmental science is an oxymoron: the environment includes every-
thing, but science about everything is impossible. There is no end to
ways in which this everything can be made the object of some science
or other.
We have to step back from the specificities of environmental prob-
lems but avoid falling into the abyss of the humanity-nature dualism.
For this purpose, metaphoric work is needed. This book is about search-
ing for fruitful metaphors that shed light on the human ecological
condition. Good metaphors invite people to fly with them.
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