Steven Vogel is Professor of Philosophy at Denison University.
Environmentalism, in theory and practice, is concerned with protecting nature. But if we have now reached “the end of nature,” as Bill McKibben and other environmental thinkers have declared, what is there left to protect? In Thinking like a Mall, Steven Vogel argues that environmental thinking would be better off if it dropped the concept of “nature” altogether and spoke instead of the “environment”—that is, the world that actually surrounds us, which is always a built world, the only one that we inhabit. We need to think not so much like a mountain (as Aldo Leopold urged) as like a mall. Shopping malls, too, are part of the environment and deserve as much serious consideration from environmental thinkers as do mountains.
Vogel argues provocatively that environmental philosophy, in its ethics, should no longer draw a distinction between the natural and the artificial and, in its politics, should abandon the idea that something beyond human practices (such as “nature”) can serve as a standard determining what those practices ought to be. The appeal to nature distinct from the built environment, he contends, may be not merely unhelpful to environmental thinking but in itself harmful to that thinking. The question for environmental philosophy is not “how can we save nature?” but rather “what environment should we inhabit, and what practices should we engage in to help build it?”
Why do you switch from walking to running at a specific speed? Why do tall trees rarely blow over in high winds? And why does a spore ejected into air at seventy miles per hour travel only a fraction of an inch? Comparative Biomechanics is the first and only textbook that takes a comprehensive look at the mechanical aspects of life—covering animals and plants, structure and movement, and solids and fluids. An ideal entry point into the ways living creatures interact with their immediate physical world, this revised and updated edition examines how the forms and activities of animals and plants reflect the materials available to nature, considers rules for fluid flow and structural design, and explores how organisms contend with environmental forces.
Drawing on physics and mechanical engineering, Steven Vogel looks at how animals swim and fly, modes of terrestrial locomotion, organism responses to winds and water currents, circulatory and suspension-feeding systems, and the relationship between size and mechanical design. He also investigates links between the properties of biological materials—such as spider silk, jellyfish jelly, and muscle—and their structural and functional roles. Early chapters and appendices introduce relevant physical variables for quantification, and problem sets are provided at the end of each chapter. Comparative Biomechanics is useful for physical scientists and engineers seeking a guide to state-of-the-art biomechanics. For a wider audience, the textbook establishes the basic biological context for applied areas—including ergonomics, orthopedics, mechanical prosthetics, kinesiology, sports medicine, and biomimetics—and provides materials for exhibit designers at science museums.