Nature's Keeper

Nature's Keeper

Peter S. Wenz
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt14bswvq
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  • Book Info
    Nature's Keeper
    Book Description:

    In the West, humans tend to separate themselves from nature, valuing nature only as a means of meeting their own needs and happiness. This domination of nature often fosters human oppression instead of freedom and progress, as those who ignore abuses of nature tend to disregard human injustice as well. Peter S. Wenz argues that this oppression involves such destructive forces as sexism, ethnic strife, and political repression, including repression of the nuclear power industry's victims. Catastrophes like the Holocaust and the Gulf War are the result.

    In contrast to the destructive "separate from nature" attitude, Wenz looks to various indigenous peoples as an example of societies where human beings revere nature for itself--societies where human beings flourish as individuals, in families, and in communities. Unlike societies dependent on commerce and industry, many indigenous peoples consider themselves part of a circle of life, reaping benefits far greater than the technological advances of the West. Wenz considers how to adopt the perspective of some indigenous cultures and how to make it work in our fast-food world. Additionally, he uses a trip to the World Uranium Hearings in Salzburg as a vehicle for understanding complex philosophical issues from consumerism to anthropocentrism.

    In the seriesEthics and Action, edited by Tom Regan.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0462-6
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    I always worry that I won’t return alive when I travel by plane. At 37,000 feet it was a little late to consider alternatives. Patricia seemed comfortable one row back, except for intermittent shallow coughs.

    We were returning from two weeks in Europe, one in Bavaria and the other in Salzburg, where we attended the World Uranium Hearing. At the hearing indigenous people from around the world explained how commercial-industrial cultures ruin native societies. Powerful images of native life being destroyed challenged assumptions of progress that permeated my education. I came to see the Holocaust, the deliberate killing of six...

  5. Chapter 1 Our Christian Heritage
    (pp. 14-26)

    Patricia and I began our European adventure with a week’s vacation in the Bavarian Alps before the hearing started. I never guessed this first week would profoundly affect my understanding of hearing lectures and testimony.

    Our first stop in the Alps was Oberammergau, the town famous for its passion play that is performed there all summer every ten years, in the first year of every decade. The play depicts the last days of the life of Jesus, from the Last Supper through the Crucifixion to the Resurrection. Because it was 1992 the play was not being performed while we were...

  6. Chapter 2 Commercialism
    (pp. 27-42)

    After visiting Oberammergau Patricia and I went to Mittenwald, whichFodor’sdescribes as possibly “the most beautiful town in the Bavarian Alps.” It is on a north-south trading route dating from Roman times, but its wealth dates from the late Middle Ages when it became a link in the commercial connection of Verona to Munich.

    Trade is an ancient activity. Before the Romans, trade was carried on by Egyptians, Chinese, and Persians, to name but a few. The Middle Ages, however, were a time of reduced trade in Europe. Current patterns of commercial activity can be traced to the resurgence...

  7. Chapter 3 Industrialism
    (pp. 43-63)

    We departed Mittenwald for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, whichFodor’sconsiders the Alpine capital of Bavaria. The 1936 Winter Olympics were held there.

    The center of Garmisch shows an American influence-McDonald’s, the paradigm of industrial standardization. Their products are standardized throughout the world; their production methods are industrial in a field, food preparation, that is otherwise largely private and individualized; they are a large corporation with significant capital investment; and they are centrally organized and controlled. Of these traits, standardization clashes most with my vacation ideal of unique experiences in a foreign country.

    I cannot be entirely negative about standardization. Without it, manufacture...

  8. Chapter 4 Nationalism, Bureaucracy, and the Holocaust
    (pp. 64-81)

    Our stay in Bavaria was most enjoyable. After visiting Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we spent some time near Füssen, an attractive market and tourist town. In and near the town are castles built by nobles of different centuries. The most famous is the most recent, Neuschwanstein, built under the direction of King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 1870s and 1880s. Although incomplete at the time of Ludwig’s death in 1886, its exterior was used by Walt Disney as the model for the castles inSleeping Beautyand at the Disney theme parks.

    Two-hour waits are common in the summer for those wanting...

  9. Chapter 5 Nuclear Power and Radiation Exposure
    (pp. 82-101)

    Our train arrived in Salzburg on Sunday about 5:30 p.m. I was concerned that we would not reach our room before 6:00 p.m., and was unsure if that jeopardized our reservation.

    I had written ahead to the organizers of the World Uranium Hearing to request a decent bed and breakfast that was close to the hearing. They replied with the name, address, and telephone number of Peter Jecel (pronounced “Yetzel” I later learned). I telephoned Mr. Jecel to say that we would arrive after 6 p.m.

    I reached an answering machine and was stating my message when Mr. Jecel came...

  10. Chapter 6 Nuclear Power and Human Oppression
    (pp. 102-117)

    After hearing so many people testify at the World Uranium Hearing against the use of nuclear power, I was having difficulty understanding what its proponents could say in its favor. I have since found that industry advocates varied their arguments over the years. In the 1960s, nuclear power was supposed to be extremely inexpensive. When the price of nuclear power started to rise, it was seen in the 1970s as a way of getting along with less petroleum. When oil prices collapsed in the 1980s, nuclear energy was promoted as better than fossil fuels for addressing environmental problems, such as...

  11. Chapter 7 Indigenous Peace and Prosperity
    (pp. 118-134)

    The World Uranium Hearing was designed largely to publicize problems that many indigenous people face as a result of our culture’s use of uranium technologies. But the testimony of these people, and of scientific experts, displayed a larger pattern. Our culture tends to oppress people in the process of subduing nature in the supposed human interest.

    This implies that much of what I was taught to view positively as progress must be reevaluated and reclassified in light of our culture’s commitment to human rights. Few commercial, scientific, or industrial developments can be considered progress any longer because they increase human...

  12. Chapter 8 Indigenous World Views
    (pp. 135-148)

    Expressions of indigenous cultures were frequent at the World Uranium Hearing. Besides dress and language, indigenous people used song and prayer to convey their cultures’ riches. The Monday afternoon session began, for example, with a prayer sung in the Hopi language. The present chapter discusses world views typical of tribal people and exposes some fundamental differences between their cultures and ours. It shows that indigenous societies where people are less oppressed than in ours have cultures in which nature is valued for itself.

    A world view is a general account of what exists in the world, how the world’s constituents...

  13. Chapter 9 Implications
    (pp. 149-162)

    Friday evening, after a week of testimony, the hearing ended with a tree-planting ceremony high on a hill near Salzburg. The tree’s growth would represent growth in awareness and earth-centered values.

    I wondered if awareness and values would grow as needed. If I am correct, people need to change from exploiting nature to valuing it for itself, from increasing human power over nature to reducing it, and from seeking a growing economy and more consumer goods to preferring a reduced volume of commercial exchange. Can ideas that fly in the face of what most people consider universal common sense be...

  14. Chapter 10 Practical Suggestions
    (pp. 163-179)

    The two most influential political parties in the United States agree that human welfare is paramount and that economic growth helps humanity. They propose to stimulate economic growth with international trade, while fighting crime with more prisons, terrorism with reduced civil liberties, poverty with welfare reform, and declining family values with sermons and tax breaks. Gore Vidal notes that this country has only one political party and it has two right wings.

    If I am correct, current approaches will not help because they fail to address the fundamental problem—the incompatibility of a growing economy with many of our other...

  15. The Flight Home
    (pp. 180-188)

    When the World Uranium Hearing was over, Christa and Peter Jecel took Patricia and me for a sightseeing tour of neighboring Austrian towns. Then it was on to Munich and our flight home.

    As I sat in the plane, fearful as usual when flying, I began putting together the themes of this book. While making notes furiously, I suddenly noticed an unwelcome smell—smoke. Before I could alert the flight attendant I realized it was just cigarette smoke, and Patricia was coughing because her asthma makes her sensitive.

    Because we were many rows away from any smoking section it seemed...

  16. Sources
    (pp. 189-198)
  17. Index
    (pp. 199-207)