Thinking Like a Mall
Posted: 22 Feb 2011
Arguments for the protection of nonliving elements of the natural environment (lakes, mountains, etc.) often argue that such entities deserve respect for their own sake, often appealing to notions of otherness and autonomy; an object's very existence as independent of humans, they assert, provides a prima facie reason to protect it. But independence and otherness are ambiguous terms. The paper will ask about the status of items in the built environment - using the recently razed City Center Mall in Columbus, Ohio as an example - and argue that the same arguments apply to them too. Although human intention is needed for a shopping mall to come into existence, once it has done so the mall continues to exist independently of humans. Otherness-based arguments, I claim, cannot ground a distinction between natural items and artifacts. This is not meant as a reductio of such arguments, but rather to suggest that an environmental politics that ignores the built environment makes no sense.
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