Freshman Seminar: Writing Ecology

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Muir and Milton

Filed under: Uncategorized February 12, 2008 @ 9:22 am

Kay Milton makes a long and confusing argument about how humans perceive the environment. She focuses more on how people perceive nature rather than nature itself. Milton believes that people first have anticipations from nature, which they then perceive and modify through our thoughts. She argues against the constructionist model of nature that says humans cannot understand our environment without social experience amongst other people. Although she admittedly believes that some of our perception of nature comes from social interactions with other humans, but she further believes our perception of personhood in the environment isn’t solely based on these interactions with other people, but on our experience with the total environment.

            Milton focuses a lot on personification of nature. She believes that for us to care about nature we must personify it in our minds. She uses an example of people wanting to protect whales because in their minds the whale has human characteristics and thus should be cared for. The environment too can have personified traits since we see so much of it and interact with it so often. Everyone’s perception of nature is unique so the personification of nature can only be found through ones own experiences.

            Muir’s view of nature is similar to Cronan’s in that he sees nature with a grand spiritual glow, however differs in that he is not frightened by it. Muir has a very appreciative outlook on nature. Like Cooper, Muir too was writing in a diary, although I believe he was writing for his own pleasure rather than trying to convey a larger message to the public. Muir’s view of nature proves Milton’s point about personifying nature and that that is important to us. He goes on about the talkative rock. How he loves them and they are lovable with “warm blood gushing through their granite flesh.”


  1. kchristianfsem:

    I think the main difference between Muir and Cronon is that Cronon believes that the wilderness (like Muir’s Yosemite Valley as a National Park) is created by humans, and he is opposed to humans putting all of their environmental efforts into creating parks. But both agree on the fact that in the wildnerness, people can have experiences with the sublime or other kinds of stimulation.

    I agree with your points about Milton, however.

  2. Joshua:

    I completely agree with your take on Muir. His journal entries seemed to be all about his feelings and I did not receive a message from it. However, he did seem to be doing documentation of the land he was surveying because he mentions sketching. Maybe he had a vacation and wrote about it, or maybe he has some real subtle points.

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