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GEOG 100 Chapter Notes -Lynn Townsend White Jr., Genius Loci, Earth Religion

Course Code
GEOG 100
John Irwin

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a system of beliefs regarding conduct in accordance with teachers found in scared writings or
declared by authoritative teachers
often involving rituals, a code of ethics, and a philosophy of life
Religion and Environment
~ Geographers study religion along 2 primary lines:
religious patterns across the earth
religion in terms of expression on the landscape
~ Religion can contribute in a deeper way to humans shaping the earth
> what people do depends on what they think. Their actions depend on their attitudes. Religion
has a very strong role in shaping these attitude.
Pinjrapoles – animal shelters
Ahimsa is the greatest of religions: prohibits killing or harming animals
Jivat khan – insect rooms
16th century France
Trials against rats, charged with wilful barley crop destruction
Rats even had a lawyer who had to give reasons for them not turning up for trial
1659 Northern Italy
Caterpillars were charged with leaving the forests and trespassing o the crops
A law was past that caterpillars could do anything but not interfere with human activities
Medieval Europe 17th century
Animals could be prosecuted, excommunicated from the church, tortured or sentenced to
> Attracts 4-5 million people
> Was a reaction against India's cast system
> Perfect your soul to the state of Moksha: absolute perfection
> central to this conduct is ahimsa (i.e. No killing of animals)
> Is Jainism typical of the east? No. But ahimsa is present throughout India to some degree:
vegetarianism, scared cows. There are also small Hindu groups which go to enormous pains to prevent
harm to nature.
~ Common ground
All human groups satisfy their survival needs by taking from nature
~ Religion can play a significant role in this as it influences how humans view: nature and humans' link
to nature
View of nature
Animisn: Sacred immanent within nature. Nature is imbued (filled) with the sacred.
Elements of nature constitute spirits or gods: storms, streams, forests...
Monotheism: Nature is not directly sacres, The sacred is transcendent beyond nature.

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One god created nature and everyhting else
View of Links to nature
Animism: Humans see themselves as intimately part of nature
Monotheism: Humans see themselves as different, apart form nature: dualism
Roots of Dualism
Lynn White, The historical Roots of our ecological crisis
root cause of environkenmtl problems today went back to Christianity
White asks the question: 'what did hristianity tel pepople about their relations withthe
envirionmnet?' He argue that Christianity portrays human beings as God's supreme creation,
that everything is there for us to tke or use
Humans are a culmination of God's creation;
Humans are made to resemble God, completely different form everything else;
Humans are the dominators of the world;
Humans as the 'namer' of nature;
Nature us under humankind's command
But is the question 'what did hristianity tel pepople about their relations withthe envirionmnet?'
The problem with this question, is a problem of intentionality
Is the answer valid?
There is a problem of representativeness
Short summary of White's article:
All creatures modify their environment
But none more so than humans
The catalyst was the marriage of science and technology
Science is the theoretical uunderstanding of nature, traditionally by the upper classes.
Technology is the practical manipulation of nature/
Naither is recent in thheir origins, skills in both have been accumulating for a long time.
White places the 'marriage' in 1850, when science began to promote the power of
technology over nature.
White thinks there was a basic change in outlook towards nature.
He talks of an exploitive attitude. Why?
Because society changes, becuase Christinanity replaced old religions.
While animists did not want to 'divert a stream', Christians had no problem with it.
Transforming nature was not a sensitive issue for Christians.
Science gained ground and eventually took over.
Science suggested that if yo could make sense of creation, that would make you closer
to the creator
In time, Science began to research the processes of creation. For example, Isaac Newton
was just trying to 'get close to God'.
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