While reading Carolyn Merchant’s Introduction to Radical Ecology at the beginning of her book Radical Ecology, I was intrigued by the student’s analyzing the way their families have interacted with the environment. I ended up thinking about my own grandparents and what nature was to them. One of the things I got stuck on was a story that my dad once told me about how while he was growing up in the middle of Manhattan, my grandma would go outside and pick dandelion leaves for them to eat from any grassy area she could find in New York City. This used to embarrass my dad a lot because in the city everyone buys food from the store, but thinking about where my grandma came form it now makes a lot of sense why she did this.
My grandma grew up on a farm in the mountains in Greece where her and her family farmed the land and herded sheep. When she got older she ran away from their farm and tried to find jobs in a bigger city. This I used to think said a lot about how she thought because it showed she wanted to move away from rural and move to an urban setting where she would not have to work the land. When WWII came she was forced to move into a labor camp and I am sure must not have a good relationship with her environment there. When she was freed she came to New York City (suggesting that she did not want to be around a lot of plants anymore) yet my grandma ended up really appreciating nature despite this.
Despite living the rest of her life in a city, the place she picked to be buried surprised everyone last summer when we looked at her will and planned her funeral. After her funeral in the middle of Manhattan, we drove all the way to the foot of the Catskills where her coffin now looks out over the mountains. My grandma purposefully saved up her money to buy this incredibly expensive spot to be buried where her body could be in nature. After all the rest of her life in the city, and all the agricultural labor she had to do growing up, she was so intent on being buried in the Catskill mountains even though it took years of saving money and was a good ways from her home in Manhattan, it back with nature.
This realization kind of made me doubt how much class really does affect one’s ability to appreciate nature.