Natural Enemy: Exploring enmity in the more-than-human world | World Congress of Environmental

Dates August 19-23, 2024
Location Oulu, Finland
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Short Abstract:

As we live in a rapidly changing world, enmity informs our relationship with the nonhuman world as much as co-existence. Invading species, monstrous pollution and grisly natural disasters show how our planetary past, present and future may be known in antagonistic terms.

Long Abstract:

‘You Can't Beat Mother Nature’ – Dorion Sagan titled his 1997 New York Times review on two books about how technology learns from evolution. Enemisation and alienation often imbue our relationship with the natural world, even in the case of aspiration. For natural disasters or ecological crisis, bellicose narrative is commonplace not only in media but also scholarly writings, and can also be seen in forms of curated spectacles like memorials or exhibitions.

Enmity impacts how ecological concepts and models are constructed, and hence how governments and concern groups are advised to take action for certain conservation goals, or against environmental threats. Enmity in nature can also be ambivalent. The role of friend or foe varies upon on one's manageability. If controllable, the same ‘nature’ that would otherwise be virulent, aggressive and malicious could become a valuable natural resource.

Another side of enmity poses the human as the enemy of virtuous nature – as a plague, an ‘invasive species’, or a destructive geological force that brings upon its own demise. The Environmental Malthusian ideology, for example, proposes reducing human populations to make the world a better place to live.

Enmity describes an entangled relationship, often overshadowed by the empathetic call for harmony and co-existence. A focus on enmity in and towards the more-than-human world unveils a key aspect of the nuanced human-nonhuman relationship, much needed to be problematised. It invites interdisciplinary perspectives from natural science, humanities to philosophy to reconsider the questions of planetary future in a rapidly transforming world.

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