Cicada Quotes

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Uexke¼ll begins by carefully distinguishing the Umgebung, the objective space in which we see a living being moving, from the Umwelt, the environment-world that is constituted by a more or less broad series of elements that he calls 'carriers of significance' (Bedeutungstre¤ger) or of 'marks' (Merkmaltre¤ger), which are the only things that interest the animal. In reality, the Umgebung is our own Umwelt, to which Uexke¼ll does not attribute any particular privilege and which, as such, can also vary according to the point of view from which we observe it. There does not exist a forest as an objectively fixed environment: there exists a forest-forthe-park-ranger, a forest-for-the-hunter, a forest-for-the-botanist, a forest-for-the-wayfarer, a forest-for-the-nature-lover, a forest-forthe-carpenter, and finally a fable forest in which Little Red Riding Hood loses her way. Even a minimal detail-for example, the stem of a wildflower-when considered as a carrier of significance, constitutes a different element each time it is in a different environment, depending on whether, for example, it is observed in the environment of a girl picking flowers for a bouquet to pin to her corset, in that of an ant for whom it is an ideal way to reach its nourishment in the flower's calyx, in that of the larva of a cicada who pierces its medullary canal and uses it as a pump to construct the fluid parts of its elevated cocoon, or finally in that of the cow who simply chews and swallows it as food.

Giorgio Agamben
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