Blog #1: Landscape 4 comments

Do you think identifying nature as a resource separates us from it? Is there another way to frame our role in nature that might be possible?

It is a difficult thing to separate a thing from it’s use and it’s value — when one doesn’t use something to it’s full capabilities, they are accused of being wasteful, but when one uses something without regard for the value, they are supposedly “heartless.” This separation of item as resource and item as aesthetic is an ongoing debate in the state of Alaska. One fairly current debate is ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), where there is discussion about whether to leave the refuge alone or tap into the possibility of a rich old field.



In one of our readings, the excerpt titled “Uncle Charley” from My Way Was North, by Frank Dufresne, this debate was presented without much argument between both sides. Instead, each side was personified and placed next to the other in contrast, with Uncle Charley being entirely consumed with gold in Nome, while the narrator couldn’t even focus on the prospect of gold due to the rich scenery with flora and fauna (112). In the case of Uncle Charley, his obsession with extracting the natural resource from the land made it so that he seemed to miss a lot of the wonders that were observable. The narrator, on the other hand, while seemingly unaware of gold as a resource, saw the beauty and abundant fishing as it’s own resource.

The narrator’s view on the subject is one way to approach the chasm that separates the two ideas of value vs exploitation. He appreciates the land for what it is, and takes the natural, livable gifts that are presented as usable resources (which also so happen to be resources that are renewable if respected). Gold and oil, on the other hand, while not necessarily finite, take so long to repopulate that they can be regarded as finite. Approaching nature with the goal of exploitation, especially exploitation that seeks to use up a resource, is not a realistic approach. One must have respect for the bounty and understand the process of renewal, whether it be a few years for salmon to mature or thousands of years for oil to be created, to be in proper harmony with nature.

Source: shpilenok via

Source: shpilenok via



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4 thoughts on “Blog #1: Landscape

  • karen randlev

    It depends on the founding ethic for connecting to the natural resource is a western or native american one. Westerners, esp. in 20th century, often see say the fish as a resource to mollify hunger bc man is on a higher plane (and thus more important in the scheme of things than fish) versus native american which will thank the fish for offering itself to man, viewing the relationship as a personal and permanent connection which is co-existing and continuous.

    • pmullin1

      I think another issue here is that westerners look for profiting by taking natural resources- for instance the buffalo hunters, the beaver trappers, etc, etc. It is not only how we were brought up differently, but how we were taught- whether to respect the land or not. I know many farmers who saw the land was something they were to keep to pass on to future generations and tried to take care of it and preserve it’s usefulness.

  • pmullin1

    ANWR has been such an ongoing debate because everyone knows even with promises and check guards, that the land can be damaged and it would take years to recover. Life there, as we know it now, could be lost forever. The caribou is such a big part of our heritage and its migrating through our land is precious and should be safe guarded. Same with our streams and river for our fish. But how do we balance that against natural resources we could be using. So many of our natural resources have vanished over the years or at least diminished that it is a real concern.

  • Madara

    “It is a difficult thing to separate a thing from it’s use and it’s value” That’s a great point. I think even the word “resource” creates (or reflects) a relationship that is one of consumer and consumed. Maybe if we reframe the language we use to talk about our local ecosystems, we can begin to change our understanding of the relationship.