Environmental ethics and aesthetics : the Laozi revisited

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Book chapter

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Environmental History in East Asia: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

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The relationship between man and nature is one of the most enduring issues in human life and thought. Envisioning a pre-civilisation “Golden Age” when “Trees had not yet/ Been cut and hollowed,” the Roaman poet Ovid (43 BC- AD17) noted that forests retreat as civilization extends. Indeed, since primitive days of settlement when land was cleared for farming and trees were cut for fuel and construction, man has been upsetting the balance and harmony of the environment at a pace far quicker than nature’s intrinsic capacity to heal itself and reestablish its footing. In the past two centuries, mankind’s dominion over nature has taken a sharply abusive turn. Industrial pollution, the over-extraction of natural resources, consumer waste, atomic warfare and scientific engineering of various kinds, have combined to ravage nature to the bone. Worse still, while the imperialist causes of science, industry, commerce and militarism came from the West, what was once Western has simply become “modern”. In a global drive for wealth and power, much of the postcolonial developing world is still aiming at ambitious targets of economic, political and military ascent initiated by the former colonial powers. Younger industrial nations like China and India did more environmental damage in the last century than they had ever done before, despite deep-rooted traditions of agrarian and spiritual reverence for nature. The environment shows symptoms of acute malaise, then takes involuntary revenge on human life through polluted air and poisoned food, mutated viruses and new diseases, global warming and climatic violence. From ozone holes to toxic water and barren land, the environmental crisis is deepening daily.

Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9780415717700



Recommended Citation

Kwong, Y. T. (2014). Environmental ethics and aesthetics: The Laozi revisited. In T. J. Liu (Ed.), Environmental history in East Asia: Interdisciplinary perspectives (pp. 40-63). New York: Routledge.

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