Georgetown Professor Patrick Deneen, objecting to the term "environment", on the grounds that it establishes an untenable dualism of man and the stuff of the physical world, which is then conceptualized as existing as the raw material of utilitarian pursuits, thereby begetting the political dualism according to which one is either for people or for the planet (or some part of it), writes:
It's worth reflecting on why we have so readily embraced the term "environment" but utterly eschew the word "nature." Nature, of course, is the "normative" term of Aristotelianism: it is a standard and represents a limitation. Humans are creatures of and in nature. We are subject to its laws and to its strictures. Nature is not separate from us; we are natural creatures (special ones - political animals - but animals nonetheless). To employ the word "nature" would mean a fundamental reconceptualization of the relationship of humans to the world with which we live. Rather than either extending human mastery over our "environment" or attempting to stamp out the contagion of humanity, to re-claim the language of nature would require us to change our fundamental conception of a proper way of living well. Living as conscious natural creatures in nature requires the careful negotiation between use and respect, alteration and recognition of limits to manipulation, and thus calls for the virtues of prudence and self-governance. Neither of these virtues are particularly valued in the "environmental" movement, whether that advanced by corporate America in the effort to continue our growth economy of itinerant vandals or the violent anti-humanism of radical environmentalists. Until we reacquaint ourselves with the language, and more importantly, the reality of nature, we will continue in our current condition of human-environmental dualism.
Or, in other words, let's have more Aquinas and less Bacon; more Aristotle and Augustine - even Maximos the Confessor - and less Locke. Let's talk more of the teleologies of persons, places, creatures, and things, and how these interact, and less about our desires and the means by which nature can be compelled and coerced into satisfying them. Man, after all, according to the scriptural telling, was placed in a garden, and instructed to name the creatures - which is to say, called to comprehend their natures and treat them accordingly. That is to say, man was called to cultivate the garden, which entails improving and rendering fit for human habitation, but called to do so as a steward, one who respects and preserves the creaturely integrity of these lesser natures.
All theological language aside, the dichotomy between the virulent misanthropy of some environmentalists and the pave-and-industrialize everything (or at least regard-the-prospect-with-sanguinity) mentality of some conservatives is not merely philosophically dubious, but politically unfeasible, quite apart from the possible (probable) wrongheadedness of certain contemporary environmental policy nostrums. Conservatives could attempt to orient these sensibilities in virtuous directions, or they could yield to inertia, allowing the corporatists and haters of mankind to define the debate.
I'll not be making any wagers. It is not without reason that the conservative persuasion has been deemed the stupid one.