‘Is it natural or man-made?’
This is the question the voiceover asks at the start of BBC Four’s ‘Unnatural Histories: Amazon‘, first broadcast in June 2011 and repeated last week. The narrator (the writer isn’t credited, so who knows who wrote the script) then says that the future of the Amazon landscape depends on the answer. Well, perhaps it might if we think in dualistic either-or terms, or if we assume that only completely ‘natural’ landscapes are worth protecting. And indeed Survival International has accused some conservationists of excluding all people from designated habitats, as if all human involvement in the land must be harmful, even though they say indigenous people may know how to live there sustainably – so this muddled thinking can still cause harm and suffering.
But the question is meaningless. The answer to ‘Is this landscape natural or man-made?’ is ‘Neither – because it’s both’. And landscapes are made by women as well as men. If the human species were made entirely of males we would have become extinct as soon as we appeared.