Ultimately the environment of any object is all of
its surrounding universe(s). Its environment is that which is not the
object. At the same time any object is part of the environment of any
other object and each affects the existence of the other. The environment
symbol involves paradox, for it divides even as it integrates.
It is interesting to note the use of the symbol c
1600 as the “state of being environed”. It was in this period that
Descartes generated the notion on which much of Western culture is now
based: “I think, therefore I am.” This notion profoundly affects our
notions of existence in general and of science in particular. Thought is
seen as central to existence, rather than as a trace element of our
By the early 1800s the environment symbol
was being used in the sense of “nature, conditions in which a person
or thing lives”. Originally
the nature symbol was associated with the universal force. Now it
was becoming more associated with the biomass systems of our planet,
coinciding with the development of the notion that human beings with
their power of thought are separate from nature and have dominion over
nature. Dominion came to mean that we (Anglo-Americans) can
exploit “nature” at will.
By the middle of last century the environment
symbol was increasingly associated with ecology and a whole new industry
has emerged with this limited use of the symbol. We now have the global Environmental
Movement, consisting of environmental
activists/journalists/parties/etc, while some speak of this being
the environmentally aware age. We even have Environment
Ministers, Departments for the Environment and Parliamentary
Commissioners for the Environment.
These uses of the environment symbol are
manifestations of the deep denial of stewardship/change in
Anglo-American culture. Wiki states: “ an environmentalist is a
person who may speak out about our natural environment”, thereby
destroying most of the potential of the symbol with dissonance.
Similarly the following statement is very common: “Humans and their
environment”, whereby humans are symbolised as divorced from all.
Nearly all the examples on the website of our prime
symbols used in denial of stewardship/change are sourced from the
Environmental Movement and its members play pivotal roles in propagating
these uses in our communities, especially our schools.
Conserve the paradox inherent in the environment
symbol. For instance, the paradoxical statements “Humans are their
environment.” and "We are our environment." remind us that
one is all and all is one. It reminds us of the truer notion: “I act,
therefore I am.” with all its associations with vitality and
Conserve the potential of the symbol by using it in
inclusive and careful ways so our children embrace civics, with its
inherent sense of stewardship for all.
Etymology environment environs
c.1600, "state of being environed" (see environs); sense of
"nature, conditions in which a person or thing lives" first
recorded 1827 (used by Carlyle to render Ger. Umgebung);
specialized ecology sense first recorded 1956.
1660s, from Fr. environs, pl. of O.Fr. environ
"compass, circuit," from environ
(adv.) "around," from en-
"in" + viron "circle,
circuit," from virer "to
turn." Related: Environed.
the rewards of being a conservator of the potential of our greatest
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