Mother Nature, eh?–the 2013 Alberta floods

(c) 2013, Davd

I’m not sure if the Southern Alberta floods quite rank with the Richter 9 earthquake in Japan or Hurricane Katrina wrecking New Orleans, but that’s the impression i have from the radio news. If “Mother Nature” gets credit for them—isn’t that metaphor a good argument for default father custody? Flooding High River completely, drowning downtown Calgary, undermining bridges, filling thousands of homes with filth and pestilence—who in their right mind would put children in such care?

(Obviously, many human mothers are nowhere near as bad as that metaphor.)

I wrote “in general” about the falsity of the Mother Nature imagery, last March. The phrase represents an old folly, much older than i; and if there be anything valid about that folly, it should show up in the pattern of situations when people are most likely to use the phrase. The words “Mother Nature” are most likely to be spoken, i seem to have noticed, to refer to things that are beyond human control.

Sure enough, there have been remarks on the news broadcasts about the Alberta floods, saying things like “you can’t fight Mother Nature”.

Some,” i wrote in February, “would probably contend that the Goddess[es] whose religions are older than even Judaism … are “Mother Nature” as She should be worshipped.” (As a Christian, i’d rather hear “Mother Nature” used to fake-explain disasters, than “acts of God”: One wry friend commented that “those insurance companies can’t seem to tell God and the Devil, apart.”)

Let’s begin the process of restoring androcentric* thinking, right there. “Mother Nature” is an ancient gynocentric* folly, a personification of evolution and random chance whose motivation might be a generally gynocentric bias, or perhaps some false hope that a nonexistent “Mother Nature” will somehow direct the vagaries of geology, weather and wildlife for our well-being.

Calgary and High River should know better now—those who didn’t know already: Nature, to repeat, is not a mother—not even an abusive one. The “wisdom” in nature results from millions of years of evolution of species and ecosystems. Combined with that “wisdom”, which is more accurately described as organisms and processes which have evolved to be well refined and efficient, is a large random component which is often destructive and sometimes violently so. When it manifests as extreme geophysical or meteorological events, that random component can be frightening. As the will of “Mother Nature”, it’s mentally ill at best—otherwise (if you stay within the metaphor) it’s evil.

So while it’s false to say “Mother Nature is mentally-ill”; it is less false than saying Nature is motherly meaning nurturant—because to the extent Nature be treated as a personality, she’s not sane, but rather given to outbursts some of which, like those Alberta floods, are very destructive. By my standards anyway, saying Mother Nature is mentally-ill is not appropriate “out-of-the-blue”; but is fair comment in response to an invalid metaphor, especially if that metaphor be used to imply that females, or Nature in all “her” randomness, know best.

The alternative (within the metaphor) is to say “Mother Nature is evil”—not a Goddess but a devil. I don’t see a need to go that far, because i don’t see a mother in the first place; i see a large random component in geophysical and meteorological events. That’s androcentric thinking: Facts, logic, cause and effect, before feelings and personification. It’s how the team-hunting men who are our distant ancestors, brought home elephants—and many other animals much larger than any man—for food. Those men had feelings, but they also had co-operative discipline and restraint—they needed them to survive and prosper.

(As for Feminism, one might wonder why Feminists would claim “Mother Nature” for their own? Is there perhaps an element of evil in Feminism that resonates to the damage “nature” does?—it’s not for me to judge, but perhaps worth keeping among the possibilities.)

Let’s carry on the process of restoring androcentric thinking, whenever an opportunity arises. The opportunities will be many.



* Gynocentrism is Latin for “taking the female [experience, perceptions, thought-processes, etc.] as central. Androcentrism takes the male [experience, perceptions, thought-processes, etc.] as central. It seems obviously appropriate, does it not, that women (and Feminism) be mainly gynocentric? .. while men and our social and philosophical expressions, are androcentric.


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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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