“Umwelt” in German means “environment”. It is a word and a theory.
Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) was a German biologist who believed that even though we share the same space, we do not share it in the same way. He referred to this theory as Umwelt. To explain it, he used this example: «Every object becomes something completely different on entering a different Umwelt. A flower stem that in our Umwelt is a support for the flower, becomes a pipe full of liquid for the meadow spittlebug who sucks out the liquid to build its foamy nest».
We are the epicenter of our personal world. But our world is not limited to ourselves. Just as an earthquake can be felt far away from its center, our center, too, can be felt from a distance. So if you quake, then I quake. In other words, we are in this world together even though we are not together.
In the garden, lettuce needs shade whereas tomatoes need full sun. But this does not mean that the gardener has to choose between one or the other. It simply means that the gardener must learn how to arrange his garden in such a way that the needs of all can be met.
We create and modify our “umwelt” by interacting with our surroundings. That which surrounds you affects your behaviour. And your behaviour affects me (just try riding Bus 492 in Rome at 8 a.m. if you don’t believe me). The quality of our interaction will determine the quality of our life.
Ecofeminism is about umwelt, reciprocity and a mutual respect for one another’s needs. And, above all, ecofeminsim is about learning The Art of Interacting.
Fotos of our bougainvillea as an example of Umwelt — I pruned the plant, he painted the wall.