Presenter/Author Information

Rebecca C. Potter, University of DaytonFollow

Start Date

11-8-2017 3:30 PM

Abstract

In a well-known passage from his book I and Thou, Martin Buber relates his encounter with a tree: “I contemplate a tree,” he writes, and then lists the various ways he could perceive the tree, as an artist or biologist, as someone interested in the trees parts and construction or interested in its function as a living system. But in all cases, Buber observes, “the tree remains my object and has its place and its time span, its kind and condition.”

Yet sometimes, “if will and grace are conjoined,” Buber describes being drawn into a relation with the tree wherein the tree “ceases to be an It.” The relation is reciprocal—one that demands Buber not to view the tree through the lens of his own understanding, but rather to acknowledge the tree’s material autonomy; it is a moment of communal exchange.

This paper teases out two key aspects of Buber’s encounter with a tree, aspects that characterize other famous encounters in environmental ethics, such as Aldo Leopold’s encounter with a wolf in “Thinking Like a Mountain” or Val Plumwood’s encounter with an alligator in “Being Prey.” First, these encounters all express that moment of “relation” as an erasure of subject/object dichotomies within the moment of this communal exchange. Second, the encounter demands a kind of awareness that is in itself active, leading to further social action.

By then considering narratives of climate change, either direct or mediated through dramatizations, I ask the question, what encounters will be the most effective in generating an active response that extends beyond awareness? In other words, when does encountering climate change lead to social action? I conclude by considering how such encounters do indeed foster the social practice of human rights.

 
Nov 8th, 3:30 PM

Encounters with Climate Change: How SDG 13 Can Move from Awareness to Action

In a well-known passage from his book I and Thou, Martin Buber relates his encounter with a tree: “I contemplate a tree,” he writes, and then lists the various ways he could perceive the tree, as an artist or biologist, as someone interested in the trees parts and construction or interested in its function as a living system. But in all cases, Buber observes, “the tree remains my object and has its place and its time span, its kind and condition.”

Yet sometimes, “if will and grace are conjoined,” Buber describes being drawn into a relation with the tree wherein the tree “ceases to be an It.” The relation is reciprocal—one that demands Buber not to view the tree through the lens of his own understanding, but rather to acknowledge the tree’s material autonomy; it is a moment of communal exchange.

This paper teases out two key aspects of Buber’s encounter with a tree, aspects that characterize other famous encounters in environmental ethics, such as Aldo Leopold’s encounter with a wolf in “Thinking Like a Mountain” or Val Plumwood’s encounter with an alligator in “Being Prey.” First, these encounters all express that moment of “relation” as an erasure of subject/object dichotomies within the moment of this communal exchange. Second, the encounter demands a kind of awareness that is in itself active, leading to further social action.

By then considering narratives of climate change, either direct or mediated through dramatizations, I ask the question, what encounters will be the most effective in generating an active response that extends beyond awareness? In other words, when does encountering climate change lead to social action? I conclude by considering how such encounters do indeed foster the social practice of human rights.