Henry David Thoreau and William Cronon were great philosophers and scholars and had different views to life. They were great writers too and in this essay we will discuss and agree or disagree on their views on the relationship between nature and civilization. Wiliam Cronon looked at civilization as helpful and also loved nature a lot,he supported both. Thoreau on the other hand never embraced any of the two wholly. He neither rejected civilization nor did he entirely embrace nature. He in my view therefore, sorts to integrate the two aspects. By looking at the two individually, he viewed nature in a humanly perspective. He argued that the human role in nature is as an actual inhabitant and part and parcel of nature. He goes ahead to describe and present nature in his own life experience whereby he used to walk into the forest near his property. Thoreau goes ahead to portray nature through building development whereby he sees it is a destruction of nature which is God given. He relates nature and his experiences in it to his personal life rather than the society as a whole. With all the above I wholly agree with him that nature is part of human beings and by relating it to his personal experience brings it out so clearly for everyone to see. Nature can therefore be portrayed through someone’s life experience.
David Thoreau in addition with regard to nature tends to sensitize readers. He tends to seem like a preacher at a huge church congregation where he mostly uses his own personal experience with nature and relating his experiences to God’s action and will to living things. He usually sends the message to his readers that nature can be valuable. He views nature as the best antidote to human beings. It is a refuge as we as human beings must recover if we hope to save the planet. David Thoreau once declared that, “In Wildness is the preservation of the World” (Thoreau, 2005: 87). I slightly disagree with this view since the more I look and know about the history of nature, the more I realize that nature isn’t quite what it seems. It is quite profound and can be a human creation and is far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity. In addition, I view it is the creation of some human cultures at specific moments in our human history.
In regard to civilization, Cronon says in a motto that the government is best which governs least. By this he meant that a government is best when it does govern and that when men are prepared for it and decide that that is the government they want. He meant every man should be left to speak out what kind of government he wants and would win his respect, and that will be a huge step toward obtaining it. On the other hand Thoreau was under the thought that when integrating civilization with nature, he sees civilization as a destruction of nature. This is through what is brought by civilization. Civilization to him leads to destruction of nature in order to give way to new infrastructure. For example, it can mean clearing a forest in order to build a major company or factory. The emergence of new buildings for companies leads to greater civilization of individuals but on the downside it can tend to hugely destroys nature. With regard to civilization both Thoreau and Cronon inspired so much in civil rights, rational religion, and environmental aspects. Through Thoreau’s description of civilization in this paragraph, I entirely agree with him that civilization has in one way or another affected and destroyed nature. When civilization came, nature was affected. I also on the other hand agree with Cronon that every man is entitled to chose his government
When integrating the two views of both philosophers together, the relationship between civilization and nature comes out clearly. Thoreau in the first place was a simple man and he greatly wanted to show that people could live simple lives and do without material needs. He was in the thought that with civilization material needs arise and living simple means living in natural habitat without interfering with the God created nature/wilderness. In a period where civilization was in the form of growth, both in an economical and territorial sense, civilization was seen by many as critical for the development of a premature country. However, David Thoreau always felt the opposite. Thoreau was a man who searched for growth within himself and was always not concerned with outward appearances and improvements in him or the society. In other words the civilization that was taking place around him. He hence preferred nature to civilization because to him civilization was of no meaning to him since he was a simple and who wanted to live a simple life. He felt there was a lot of obsession to with appearance that was brought about by material things where there was the perception that material needs brought about by the rapidly increasing civilization were a necessity. He was under the thought that they do not bring true happiness and hinder full enjoyment of life. I in my view disagree with Thoreau on this since despite been simple leads a comfortable life, civilization has hugely helped people all over the globe achieve a lot in improving their lives for the better. Education is also part of civilization and education is the best thing civilization brought in my views.
When shifting away from Thoreau, William Cronon was in the thought that with civilization emerges the contrast of living whereby there is urban life and country/ rural life settings. He says a good relationship between civilization and nature here comes about with land. Land is part of nature. The relationship arises whereby the people in urban areas are more than happy to have an un-worked on landscape and keep it s an asset instead of a potential food producer. They have restaurants and supermarkets whereby they can get their food. On the other hand, people in the country/ rural areas are very much unsatisfied with un-worked land. They like to work on their landscape since there is where they get and earn their living, food. They are highly active and don’t depend on the supermarkets for food. Cronon therefore, argued that people in the country create their own food through nature. Urban people have been dependent through the rapidly growing civilization for their source of living. The trouble with nature according to Cronnon is that it quietly produces and expresses the values the people who devote to it usually reject. Civilization on the other hand tends to be rapid growth that eases the burden of work that nature in form of land brings with it. I therefore, completely agree with Cronon on this since it is seen nowadays and it is true that country people get their source of livelihood and food from their lands unlike those people from urban areas who buy food. (Cronon, 1995)
The reality in all this is that we now all live in an urban industrial civilized society and that it had been of more priority to us than nature. Thoreau was a simplistic man and he argued that we all pretend to live in our real homes that are in God’s given nature to an extent that we give ourselves permission to avoid responsibilities in our lives which we lead. He continued by saying that we also tend to celebrate nature as the measure with which we judge civilization. This to him tends to set humanity and nature on entirely different directions. I agree with Thoreau on this since we should always preserve nature. Human beings usually inhabit civilization while holding out that nature is our home. While looking at a recent part of history, we see through Cronon that before agriculture was introduced to the Middle East humans used to live in the wilderness and wilderness is nature (Cronon, 1995). I agree since nature is and will always be helpful to us as human beings.
When looking at all this I come to a conclusion that Thoreau and Cronon had different views on nature and civilization. I entirely agree with Cronon and Thoreau on nature but slightly disagree with Thoreau when it comes to civilization. Nature has been there since time memorial, civilization came way later. Thoreau and Cronon have shown us the relationship between the two and they are seen to have integrated together through aspects of standards of living of human beings. The locality of individuals where there are rural and urban settings also highlights the relationship according to Cronon. I in this essay entirely agree with Cronon since nature in my views is God given and it should be preserved regardless of the great developments that have arisen through civilization. I however, beg to differ with Thoreau on civilization only. Thoreau showed this by his love of nature, which is a good thing and not letting material things crowd his mind and judgment but slightly ignored civilization which has helped life to be much simpler than he thought it would. He is still one of the greatest philosophers and his views on the nature and civilization has hugely helped young minds all over the globe learn on preservation and life satisfaction. Cronon is also a great philosopher and I entirely agree with him on his views.