The Nature/Society Divide

Our society has developed by excluding ourselves from nature. Although we may not be conscious of it, we hold a deeply rooted belief that nature and society are distinct. Everyday, we affirm this separation through our resources extraction policies, bulging cities and increasing levels of pollution. Such a disconnection from the natural world can have negative impacts on the environment, which, to spite our conviction that we are exempt from nature, can lead to detrimental consequences for social systems.

Mario Biagoli, speaker at the D. Lorne Gales Lectures on December 4th, provides interesting insight on how the nature/society divide emerges in the debate over intellectual property rights. Copyright law supports the distinction between humans and nature, attributing intellectual property rights to human ideas and works, but not those of nature. However, through imagery of the commons as a natural and productive meadow, the opponents of intellectual property rights apply the same logic of the nature/society divide to express their opinion that information and ideas should remain in the public domain. Mario Biagoli suggests that we must alter our perceptions of humanity and nature in order to clearly address the issue of intellectual property rights. After all, “a person is original because a person is nature.”

Perhaps, then, it follows that the path to solving to our wide-ranging problems, from ecological degradation to intellectual property rights begins with dissolving the barrier between nature and society and envisioning ourselves within the realm of the natural world. 

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