Question on Hettinger’s “Age of Man Environmentalism and Respect for an Independent Nature”


1.         Identify and explain some of the main ideas behind what Hettinger identifies as “Age of Man Environmentalism.” Consider its views on preservation, restoration, rewilding and the value of naturalness. What does it say about humans managing the planet, about the relationship between humans and nature, about how to understand nature? Contrast those ideas with what Hettinger calls the views of “traditional environmentalism.”

2.         What is the “Anthropocene?” Describe some of the human impacts that have led people to talk about the dawn of a new geological epoch named after humans.

3.         Evaluate the idea that humans have created nature or have created the earth as it is today. What is to be said in favor of this idea? Against it? Does nature now depends on us?

4.         Do humans today have a responsibililty to manage earth? Consider these reasons for answering “yes:” “There is no pristine nature left; Humans have altered everything on earth,” “We are already managing earth and must lean to do it well,” “We have so disrupted nature that it can no longer survive on its own w/o our management,” and “Without human management of the planet, nature will not longer provide the benefits to humans we need to survive.”

5.         Should humans manage the earth’s climate? Should humans decide which plants and animals will survive in which places on earth? Do we have a choice?

6.         Explain how Hettinger defines “naturalness” and “nature.” On his account, does nature exist only when something is “pristine” and “untouched by man?” Does nature exist in urban parks? In the human person?

7.         Is “naturalness” value adding? That is, does something being (relatively) natural (uninfluenced by humans) frequently/typically make it more valuable than if it had been influenced by humans? Would the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone lose value if it was regulated by humans manipulation of its underground plumbing?

8.         Are humans natural? Are we just as natural as beavers or birds? Are humans part of nature? Are we (also?) separate from it and importantly different? What does Hettinger think about this issue? What do you think?

9.          Is the value of naturalness and nature’s autonomy more or less important in the Anthropocene? What does Hettinger think and why? What do you think?

10.       What is the “nature is pristine myth?” Do environmentalists’ goals of preserving and restoring ecosystems involve the “pristine myth,” that is, the belief that we should preserve untouched ecosystems and restore degraded ecosystems to a state they were in before humans influenced them? What is wrong with this goal?

11.       Does naturalness come in degrees? Can humanization wash out of ecosystems so that they become more natural? Can naturalness return even without nature returning to how it was before it was influenced by humans?

12.       What is rewilding? Is its aim to restore nature to classic pristine ecosystems and manage them so they remain as such (museum pieces)? How does it respect nature’s autonomy?