Over the weekend I had the opportunity to watch Nate Parkers new film, “The Birth of a Nation”. The controversial film’s recall of the life of Nat Turner helped me to understand the spectrum of environmental ideologies. While in class last week, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the three/fifths rule, mandated by the Louisiana Purchase, with every mention of the phrase “non-human”. While watching a film set during the 19th Century, I was constantly confronted with the anthropocentric ideologies of our country during this time.
The Louisiana Purchase also substantiated the commonly accepted Unrestrained Instrumentalism of this time period with Manifest Destiny. The settlers’ desires to expand the country generated an association between Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic traits, Americanism, and the human race. According to the American Historical Review (1982), “This justification for Indian removal, Black bondage, Nativism, and the appropriation of Mexican lands was rooted in scientific thought”. The rise of Darwinism and Eugenics offered scientific legitimacy to the idea that mankind would benefit from the eleviation and exploitation of “lesser races” a.k.a. “Non-humans” a.k.a. “Resources”. Resources divinely ordained to be used for the unlimited and unrestrained desires of humans. The paradoxical union between science and religion within this ideology continues to reign in society today. Although the message is no longer God says Eugenics is an appropriate measure for Anglo-Saxans to obtain land because some beings are more or less human than others, the unwavering idea is a permanent fixture in the structure of this country and is relevant to pop culture today.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with introducing a transformative ideology to the country when he signed the Emancipation Proclaimation. Though the country had accepted Preservationism de jure, many citizens continued subscribe to the greatest use of “natural resources” for the greatest number of people, believing that nonhuman entities are only valuable in their potential as resources for human use. Conservationism is still the dominant ideology of the mainstream environmental movement. Most americans have adjusted their definition of “human”, yet Eugenics continues to be used as a tool to maintain life for mankind.
Population control has been named as a possible solution to our planet’s current environmental crisis. China’s Two Child Policy, and the negative connotation around big families in the U.S. attest to this ideology. However, the question is: where is the line between personal choice and public health? Time Magizine (2013) featured an article about the practice of legal forced sterilization in prisons in the United States. They argue that “social undesirables” are still human beings, while never acknowledging the positive impact less humans will have on our planet socially, economically, and environmentally. In addition to this a mind-opening documentary titled, “13th”, discuss the 13th Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution and its relevance to social and environmental issues today. I recognize the large gray area where population control is concerned, but I think the next generation of leaders would be more successful if they increase levels of intrinsic motivation to include the environment in the family planning process, rather than encourage our current system of justice.
Moriah Israel- Blog 5