The denials of dualism have defined the meaning of the human/nature relationship in the western tradition. As many writers on environmental ethics have noted, nature in the west is instrumentalised as a mere means to human ends via the application of a moral dualism that treats humans as the only proper objects of moral consideration and defines ‘the rest’ as part of the sphere of expediency. The natural world and the biosphere have been treated as a dump, as forming the unconsidered, instrumentalised and unimportant background to ‘civilised’ human life; they are merely the setting or stage on which what is really important, the drama of human life and culture, is played out. In the dominant view, the biosphere forms the taken-for-granted material substratum of human existence, always present, always functioning, always forgiving; its needs do not have to be considered, just as the needs of other species generally do not have to be considered, except as they occasionally impinge upon or threaten the satisfaction of our own. Systematic devaluation and denial are perceptually ingrained in backgrounding, involving systematic not noticing, not seeing. The way in which we background nature is

evident in our treatment of it in a range of areas; for example, it is backgrounded in standard treatments of human history. It is also backgrounded in standard economics where, notoriously, no value is given to anything natural or to resources as they stand before they acquire use-value or before human labour is applied, where no account is taken of natural limits and ecological factors are treated as ‘externalities’.1