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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Airplanes and Apprehension: Nature-Society Hybrids in Planetary Perspective

  • Author(s): Raycraft, Justin
  • et al.

This photo essay considers the question of what it means to see the world from above. Taking airplanes as my point of departure, I discuss the ways in which flying can both galvanize and dismantle binary conceptions of nature and society. I compare the humanist version of reality inside airplane cabins with the external world, as seen by passengers through plane windows. Viewed from the sky, the boundaries of urban landscapes appear porous, highlighting the fact that cities are embedded within a wider planetary context. Nature-society hybrids are visible from above, and yet require a particular form of attention to be recognized. Human symbolism inside the cabin’s social world distracts and disenchants passengers’ environmental perceptions. However, by looking out the window, we are reminded of the fact that we are all entangled within a wondrous network of life on earth. Though associated with power, class, and economics, perhaps airplane travel can foster a change in how we apprehend the planet, and our place within it.

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