Emerging Perspectives: Student Chapters

The Gardener’s Ethic: Countering Alienation from Nature

Chloe Donovan

In my first reading of Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan challenged the environmental ethic that I have unconsciously held for as long as I can remember.

His chapter, “Nature Abhors a Garden,” particularly sparked this evaluation. In this chapter, Pollan states that, “gardening quickly teaches you to distrust…absolutes, to frame the question a little differently”(p. 49). To me, the broader absolute Pollan challenges is that many Americans have grown up with a ‘wilderness ethic’ but do not know exactly how they came to hold it, or the implications that come along with it…

…In place of the wilderness ethic, Pollan (1991) recommends the gardener’s ethic, an integrated approach which accepts changing the environment as a part of human nature. The gardener’s ethic is anthropocentric, which includes accepting that we have choices, morality, and values. This ethic accepts the struggle between nature and culture (Pollan, 1991, p. 193). It also includes the idea of local answers, or proposing “different solutions in different places and times.” There is an emphasis placed on accepting that there are distinctions between varying degrees of human intervention in nature. The combination of these principles culminates with Pollan’s main thought about the gardener’s ethic. The garden (nature) provides the materials to find solutions to the problems you may face…


Find the rest of this chapter in Emerging Perspectives on Religion and Environmental Values in America HERE.


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Religion and Environmental Values in America Copyright © 2019 by Chloe Donovan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.