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Environmental Ethics

Volume 18, Issue 1, Spring 1996

Rebecca Raglon, Marian Scholtmeijer
Pages 19-38

Shifting Ground
Metanarratives, Epistemology, and the Stories of Nature

Recent discussions concerned with the problematical human relationship with nature have justifiably focused on the important role that language plays in both defining and limiting knowledge of the natural world. Much concern about language among environmental thinkers has been focused at the semantic level—proposing and analyzing definitions of certain key terms, such as anthropocentric, biocentric, wilderness, ecology, or holistic. Work at the semantic level, however, has had very little effect in challenging the scientific metanarrative of nature which is based on the primacy of objective knowledge. Using examples from three postmodern stories, we suggest that the only real challenge to the way humans presently construct and understand their relationship to nature can be found at the narrative level. In our discussion of these stories, we show that nature ceases to be a passive, designified object of the human eye. The result of these narrative shifts is a conception of nature composed of other subjects and other realities rather than a nature rendered meaningless by objectivity.