Save the Appearances! Toward an Arendtian Environmental Politics

Save the Appearances! Toward an Arendtian Environmental Politics

By Laura Ephraim, Williams College

Drawing critical resources from Hannah Arendt, this article argues for a revaluation of the appearances of nature in environmental political theory and practice. At a time when pervasive anthropogenic contamination threatens the very survival of vulnerable communities and species, it would be wrong to revive the timeworn mythos of nature as an untrammeled beauty. Instead, with Arendt’s help, I advocate an environmental politics rooted in an alternative aesthetic of nature, one that respects and seeks to protect earth’s diverse lifeforms for the sake of their strange, disquieting appearances of otherness. Earth’s living displays of alterity are valuable, I argue, for their propensity to upset the destructive logic of mass production and consumption and spur political action. In an Arendtian frame, we can better recognize interdependence between biological and political life and appreciate the role of nonhuman lifeforms in constituting spaces of appearance where human freedom and plurality may flourish.

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