Freiheit im Einklang mit der Natur
Social theories tend to present ecological awareness as a more or less contemporary phenomenon. Therefore, they paint a simplified picture of an opposition between an ecologically aware present to an ecologically ignorant past. The example of the French anarchist and geographer Elisée Reclus (1830–1905), however, shows that the destructive relationship between humans and nature was already critically discussed in the second half of the 19th century. In his work he departed from supposedly deeply rooted western ideas of an ontological separation between society and nature. By connecting Reclus’ scientific work to his political ideas and experiences, this article further identifies alternative conceptions of progress that were far from uncritically endorsing the linear narrative of industrial modernity. As a conclusion, this article argues for a politicization of the past that considers the present environmental change not as the result of ignorance, but as the consequence of multiple social and political conflicts over the way humans should connect with the natural environment.