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On the Notions of Mother Nature and the Balance of Nature and Their Implications for Conservation

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Human Ecology

Abstract

The evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould (1996, p. 57) wrote, “The most erroneous stories are the ones we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question.” This essay addresses two intertwining narratives that demand close scrutiny - Mother Nature and the Balance of Nature. Both are common in environmental discourse and generally accepted without question. For example, consider how often western popular culture refers to the workings of “Mother Nature” in affecting the “balance of nature.” Wood (1999) suggested in an article entitled “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” that with respect to genetically modified foods, “Consumer concerns about tampering with the balance of nature are legitimate….” Similarly, an organic gardening newsletter instructs “By mimicking Mother Nature and taking cues from her natural cycle, organic gardeners… enhance the balance of nature” (Anonymous, VillageOrganics.com). This essay has three objectives: first, to examine Mother Nature and the evolution of the metaphor from deity through the dualistic human-nature paradigm; second, to trace the development of Balance of Nature as a cultural and scientific concept, and third, to weave together the notions of Mother Nature and Balance of Nature insofar as they hold implications for environmental conservation.

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Correspondence to Dennis E. Jelinski .

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Jelinski, D.E. (2010). On the Notions of Mother Nature and the Balance of Nature and Their Implications for Conservation. In: Bates, D., Tucker, J. (eds) Human Ecology. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-5701-6_3

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