Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

How Nature and Culture are Entwined

Christina Fredengren explains how nature and culture are entwined.
We are here at the old fishing cabin of Charles XI. In this place, an oak has actually eaten itself into the building- -as it has grown taller and taller. I thought this was a way to symbolize the entanglement between nature and culture. I want to bring us back to the thoughts of Descartes. Descartes made some innovation in separating nature from culture. According to Descartes, it was only humans that were thinking- -and nature was separated out as mindless matter. These thoughts of course have roots going back to at least Aristotle- -but also has bearings on the development of the Enlightenment. So what difference does it make that we separate nature from culture?
Well, such a dualism opens up for several practices of hierarchization- -where culture and human needs are put ahead of what is presumed as nature’s needs. Where colonialism and resource exploitation might come to the floor. In this, what is naturalized may come to us as not being fully alive- -where the only really alive entities are humans.
Descartes has a famous dictum: “I think, therefore I am”- -and seemingly as it is only humans that can think, all the others are left out of this definition.
I think we might want to reframe it as: “I don’t think, therefore I am”- -“I relate, therefore I am”, and this makes a difference because is possibly to reimagine- -the human as being in a dependency relationship with nature. And nature as an active and alive agent that one needs to form alliances with.

At the old fishing cabin of Charles XI in Stockholm, an oak tree has grown entangled with the building itself. In this video, archaeologist, Christina Fredengren uses its entanglement to symbolize how nature and culture are entwined. She explains how a separation between nature and culture can be derived from the writings of Descartes. She discusses the risks of such a separation, and concludes that by rewording Descartes famous dictum: I think therefore I am to I relate therefore, I am humans might reimagine their dependency relationship with nature.

This article is from the free online

Taking on the Climate Crisis with Social Change

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now