Posted by: lovinguninhibited | September 4, 2011

The overlap of nature and culture

A few weeks ago I took a weekend trip to Miami with a few people for my friend, Liana’s 21st birthday. Being a pale-skinned red head, the beach is something I avoid at all costs, after all, I start becoming sun burnt after 20 minutes (or so it seems). As soon as we entered Miami on Friday, my friends wanted to go to the beach, so I went back to the hotel and waited around for them. My friend Gio told me later, when we were bonding over drinks, that South Beach was swarming with jelly fish. Additionally, he said, “I wasn’t supposed to tell you about that because Liana said if you found out about that there was absolutely no way you would go to the beach tomorrow either.” I felt angry that she would want to trick me like that, and it made me think back to a family trip to New Jersey beach when I was younger. My sister, my dad, and I were playing around in the ocean and my dad jumped suddenly in pain when we were in the water. He claimed that he stepped on a sharp seashell. Eventually, I found out that he actually got pinched by a crab, but he knew there was no way I’d get back in the water if I found out about the crab.
Now, as I sit here writing I realized how self-centered this all sounds. My perspective has changed after reading Under the Sea-Wind. At this point, I’m thinking about how we were in that crab’s territory and how it probably pinched my dad because he was about to step on it. Perhaps my dad was about to step on the crab’s babies. My dad didn’t considered anything like that at the time because was only concerned with having a fun vacation.
Then, there are jelly fish, which use their poisonous sting to hunt prey, but according to, humans generally end up being stung accidentally “from swimming or wading into a jellyfish or carelessly handling them.” ¹ Here again, my vacation buddies were more concerned with getting me out to the beach than how we are disrupting the home of the jelly fish.
Fact of the matter is, humans don’t belong in the ocean. We have to build ships and other contraptions in order to journey through the sea. We must stay near the shore in order to be comfortably safe, and have lifeguards watching over us in case the ocean overpowers us. When we go into the ocean we are trespassing into the sea creatures’ habitat, and we are being unbelievably careless with their homes.
Carson details the crab’s search for food (algae), “among the sand windrows left by the receding tide” (28), and I wonder, with all of the human-inhabited beaches, how long until we ruin things enough where crabs can’t find this food so easily?
It’s as Jean Arnold says about ecocriticism; “If, in the past, ecocriticism has appeared tangential to mainstream literary criticism, that view expresses the conceptual gap between nature and culture that inhabits our reasoning apparatus. We must recognize an element of artificiality in this perceived separation, for nature and culture often overlap as twinned processes.” ² In other words, humans need to acknowledge the major overlapping of nature with our culture, and take much better care of it as a whole. I, myself, consistently recognize nature’s effect on me when it comes to the sun’s ability to burn me exceptionally quickly. It is time for me to now start acknowledging my effect on nature.

1. Drobina, DO, Barbara J., and Cynde Lee, MS, MEd. “Jellyfish Stings Causes Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention on” Jellyfish Stings. EmedicineHealth. Web. 04 Sept. 2011. .
2. Arnold, Jean. “Letter.” ASLE ~ The Association for the Study of Literature & Environment. PMLA: Forum on Literatures of the Environment, Oct. 1999. Web. 04 Sept. 2011. .


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