In Walden, Thoreau portrays his ideals and view on the social and economic life of the world. He claims that at each stage of societal development, in any period of the history of a society, there arise certain principal conflicts over specific environmental issues. By distinguishing principal political and economic conflicts, one can effectively differentiate stages of societal development and periods of history. Thesis Landscapes and different geographical places have a great impact on cultural identity and uniqueness of people.
Question 1 The Main Theme of the Book
The main ideas of the book are that place and setting have a great impact on individual identity and individuality formation. Thoreau claims that traditional identity envisions an “organic” society characterized by numerous distinctions of a moral, habitual, and authoritative variety. Identity relies on a setting that continually divides the society on the basis of a single indicator of certain characteristics. What begins socially as the promise of a common vision of identity becomes a recipe for a failure of governance as divisions are exacerbated. The traditionalist identity is one that implicitly favors one society, and very nearly one race, over others. Thoreau underlines that the individualist identity avoids the problems of race, gender, and class by resolving all issues into a matter of identity striving. Taken by itself, neither deals with the world as critics know it: a global society in which race, gender, religion, nationality, class, and culture are very real indeed, and in which the ethical superiority of one over another cannot be easily demonstrated. Identity analysis is consistent with the view that social knowledge takes place not through the exposure of divine truth, or of an absolute morality, but through the working out of dealings between individual promptings and social interactions
Environmental and social conflicts may or may not occur at any stage of development and can be regarded as situational. Any portrayal of capitalist society, then, must include an analysis of the conflicts inherent in the private ownership of the principal means of production. To the extent that contemporary society continues to be capitalist, it retains conflicts typical of capitalist structures. Still, other conflicts in capitalist relations are secondary, even the universal conflict between the elite and the masses. Conflicts of lesser scope, such as those that occasionally emerge in ethnic and majority-minority relations, are more obviously secondary. Political and social conflicts arise out of struggles to establish democratic institutions, freedom, and human rights, or as a result of divergent ideological orientations and lifestyles, or different attitudes stemming from contrarieties induced by religious affiliations.
Question 2 The environmental message of the book
For Thoreau, an aesthetic interpretation of the landscape is not peripheral but central to understanding the physical transformation of post-industrial society. The failure to understand, acknowledge, and explain the fundamental significance of rapid and dramatic change, in both private and public physical spaces, has been a failure to interpret such change aesthetically. Thoreau writes: “There Nature has woven a natural selvage, and the eye rises by just gradations from the low shrubs of the shore to the highest trees. There are few traces of man’s hand to be seen. The water laves the shore as it did a thousand years ago” (Thoreau 2003). By this quote, I try to say that people cannot be false to their individual talents and find a true identity living in isolation from environment. Similarly, daily experience teaches us that the failure of mutuality is debilitating, just as the sustenance of it is rewarding. The assertion of a version of our place in the world that has us, or our group, in some status of exclusive privilege is bound to be undone in the test of human interaction. The interesting question is how we can translate this sort of learning to the level of a political process that will yield sensible policies that support human development. There would be support for the widest possible expression of views and the clearest possible accountability for public policy decisions. There is no absolute truth in identity analysis, but there are powerful probabilities that need to be allowed to rise to the surface of social consciousness. Thoreau admits: “When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the distant pine woods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from another” (2003). Using this quote as an example, I try to say that an individual is responsible for his actions and the world order around him; there would also be the presumption that in decisions affecting the whole community, what the larger portion of the community has agreed to should hold for all rather than the views of a lesser portion of the community. By this test, private centers of power would be required to give way to public forms of decision making in community decisions.
Question 3 Whether you agree with the message of the book?
I agree with the message of the book because it clearly and objectively describes relations between a man and nature. My personal opinion about nature relates to different landscapes, living accommodations, career possibilities, cultural environments, recreational opportunities, interpersonal relationships, degrees of privacy, and so forth. Personal options are an important part of the quality of an individual’s life even when they are not exercised — it pleases us to know we could live in the country, even though we may choose to live in cities. These options have value beyond the preferences of the majority of people in any given society. That the majority of citizens may prefer an urban environment is not sufficient reason to trans- form all living areas of the planet into urban environments – this is dictatorship of the majority. It is even reasonable to suppose that in human society, as in ecosystems, diversity on a small scale (individual choice) promotes stability on a large scale (society as a whole). Thoreau admits that as personal options are part of quality of life, the environment is a clear choice over the new relations. By stabilizing the environment and reducing the level of environmentally disruptive activities associated with throughput of resources, the economy would preserve remaining options; by focusing on services, it would create new ones. Other, more and less limited, rights to control objects of property not owned by the controllers are emerging as well: the public’s right to determine, through environmental groups and the media, whether an object is put to safe uses; unions’ rights to participate in the decision-making process affecting certain aspects of production; the rights of the entire hierarchy of public authorities in the territories where the owned object is located. The state has proclaimed its right of ultimate control, through which, as much as through the market, the eventual price-value of the object is determined.
Question 4 Whether or not the environmental issue is still relevant?
Environmental issues described by Thoreau are relevant today as they reflect the construction of modern life and interaction processes. The deterioration of the environment, both physically and aesthetically, is most apparent in our cities. The dehumanizing effects of life in the slums and ghettoes particularly, where there is little hope for improving conditions ave often been cited as causes contributing to urban rioting and disturbances. There seems to be abundant evidence that traditional cultural patterns break down in cities, and also that the high numbers of contacts with individuals not part of one’s circle of regular social acquaintances may lead to mental disturbance (defined here merely as behavior generally considered “disturbed” by the majority of the society). It is important to note that antisocial behavior and mental illness are found in all cultures, and that indeed the same disorders recognized by psychiatrists in the West are found even in primitive peoples. Therefore, we can be reasonably certain that lack of a “natural” environment (where “natural” refers to the sort of environment in which poeple evolved) is not the sole cause of such behavior. Nevertheless, that lack may well serve to aggravate the problems of people living in our most crowded, smoggy, and impersonal metropolises. The environmental deterioration of cities is most obvious to the poor who live in them. For them, “environmental deterioration” has nothing to do with the disappearance of fish and wildlife in national forests or litter in campgrounds. Their concern is “poor ecology including the wildlife in their homes–rats, mice, and cockroaches. Today, air pollution reaches its highest levels in city centers; here also are there most likely to be inadequate sewage and solid-waste disposal systems. Heat in winter is often insufficient, space is at a premium, crime rates and vandalism are high, food is often inadequate, medical care is poor at best, opportunities for recreation are virtually nil, schools are at their worst, and public transportation is expensive and inconvenient. In short, all the problems and disadvantages of cities are greatly intensified for the poor. If urban areas were planned and developed so that people could live near their places of employment, many problems related to transportation would be alleviated, including congestion and pollution from automobiles. Making the vicinities of factories pleasantly habitable would present some problems but would result in considerable pollution abatement. The humanity should look back and rethink its policies and attitudes towards nature and the Earth.