Purdy, Jedediah. After Nature, A Politics for the Anthropocene. Harvard University Press:
Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England, 2015. ISBN 978-0-674-36822-4 $29.95 (alk.
After Nature, A Politics for the Anthropocene, from Jedediah Purdy, of Duke University Law
School, North Carolina, seeks to explore our relationship with Nature at a time where we have
had to reevaluate it’s meaning again. Climate Change, it has been argued, has changed our
relationship with “Nature” and caused it’s “End” We can affect nature and we are no longer continually at it’s mercy. Some might debate this; we cannot predict Nature with any real degree of certitude, and the disaster weather we have been experiencing all over the globe can be the results of an angry “Mother Nature," a Nature lashing out having been damaged. Some hold hope, but the causes of global warming are less localized and predictable than habitat destruction.
Purdy (1974....) evaluation seeks to be a heady one where he not only writes about history, but
also law and politics. We now live in an age of mankind, a change for the globe and natural
world. What Nature means is debatable. Some argue that it means everything, others
argue it is something apart from human technological culture, others argue it is our inside spirits. The use of the word has been contentious, but perhaps we can learn to understand its different usages.
One understanding of the Anthropocene might be that we have evolved beyond the wild and have created laws, philosophy, politics and art in the process. One here will find historic environmental actors that they might not necessarily know a lot about. Those waiting for Marsh, Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, Carson, and some others, are going to be disappointed when they show up in this treatment. Purdy chooses to criticize them, even calling some of them “strange”. He even finds fault with the Environmental Movement having absorbed some of the few internal debates. His word choice is revealing and sometimes even insulting. The book is dedicated to those he likes to walk with, but sadly he does not pay homage to those who have made those walks in parks and Nature still possible. To do so has been hard and inspirational work.
Environmentalism is not above criticism or evaluation, but one finds that some have not
acknowledged the accomplishments of the past. Critical discourse has resulted in personal
grandstanding where in some cases it was just meant for dialogue and discussion. There is
also misinformation and misunderstandings in this one. For example, efforts to use the
Endangered Species Act to protect Polar Bears does help us mobilize to fight Climate Change,
but the intention of saving Endangered Species more directly protects the habitat of these
creatures and all the others related in their ecological requirements.
How to live in our “new” changing home on the planet is an interesting question. Times
have changed and there are new citizens with different ideas and some misconceptions.
Sadly, this book does not remind of the gains we have made politically, historically, legally....
There are better places to walk in the west and the northeast because of action taken to
preserve the wild and a Nature which people learned to cherish. They exist in perpetuity
because of the foresight of the past. Purdy, like some of the internal agitators who are used for
“green baiting”, do not fully understand or appreciate that Nature was given to them.
choice of words
rather he didn’t