Old World Ideas
Western tradition:
In the Bible, wilderness=desert
St. Simon on his column
icon showing the creation of the animals
What other impact did Christianity have that is relevant to environmental history

Dominion over nature:

Other ways Christianity affected ideas about nature:
Christianity was more favorable (historically) to the ideas of control/exploitation of nature than other religions
Christianity also encouraged the development of technology
St. Catherines monastery in the Sinai
St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai desert

Even in the Renaissance, Christian views were mixed about nature
Taking joy in nature was suspect--one should focus on heavenly rather than earthly things
The renaissance writer Petrach climbed a mountain with his brother and stood dazed at the beautiful view.   He opened a book he carried with him (St. Augustine's Confessions) and read that men should not take joy in scenery but instead focus on heavenly things and he felt ashamed of admiring the beauty of nature.  

Christian idea--pay attention to heavenly things instead of earthly things
in the middle ages this was often interpreted as that the whole physical world was evil
There was a tendency in Christianity (coming from Greek thought) to see the spiritual as good and the physical as evil, even though scripture says God created the physical world and said it was good

but people keep slipping back into the idea that the earthly world takes us away from God
dualism: spirit=good, material=evil is strong in ancient Greek thought

When the pilgrims arrived in Plymouth they described what they saw as a "hideous and desolate wilderness" (William Bradford)

conquest of wilderness was the goal
pioneer farm

This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
last updated 2/15/10
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